What a week. NFL free agency took the world by storm. Teams, buoyed by a decade of labor and economic stability, flung hundreds of millions of dollars at a bumper crop of unrestricted free agents. The St. Louis Rams did their part to employ free agents and fill holes in their roster, and they aren't finished.
Let's review the Rams free agent moves so far, with an eye on how each action impacts the team for 2011.
Signed S Quintin Mikell, 31
Contract: Four-years, $27 million with $14 million guaranteed
Reaction: Devaney struck fast on this one, getting one of the best, if not the best, safeties on the market. The Rams also got the deal done before Eric Weddle's gigantic contract inflated safety prices. Mikell has long been a favorite of fans and pundits, making the match since Oshiomogho Atogwe was cut loose.
Impact: Four stars. Mikell improves a big weak spot in the Rams defense versus play actions and other pesky mid-field routes that made 3rd-and-long less intimidating than it should have been for opponents last year.
Signed OG Harvery Dahl, 30
Contract: Four-years, amount unknown
Reaction: I'll admit it, I wasn't one who really thought the Rams needed to spend money on a guard, but damn am I glad they did. For fans, this signing whipped up more excitement than any of the others.
Impact: Five stars. The Rams offensive line oozes skill; what they need is a mean streak, something they haven't had since Richie Incognito's long-dead pet told him to take all those dumb penalties. Exposing Jason Smith and the rest of the line to that killer mentality should be a real help. In terms of schematics, Dahl improves the running game, and Steven Jackson should be really happy. Think this team is going to be running a ton of play actions and options? Let's hope.
Signed LB Zach Diles, 26
Contract: One-year, amount unknown
Reaction: The Rams needed to get someone with sound fundamentals and an eye for the game on the weakside, and Diles gives them that potential. I love the one-year deal too; it puts the onus on Diles to succeed.
Impact: Two stars. In case you hadn't noticed, Spagnuolo and defensive coordinator Ken Flajole value scheme and smarts above all else from their linebackers. Diles may not see much action on third downs, but he doesn't need to. The Rams bring out a school bus full of defensive backs in those packages. Outside runs killed the Rams last year, and with a more speed in the front four and a linebacker like Diles on the weakside, that should be much improved in 2011.
Signed WR Mike Sims-Walker, 26
Contract: One-year, $3.7 million, no guaranteed money
Reaction: It was an interesting move to add MSW, one few fans saw coming. However, with a prove-it deal and a QB like Sam Bradford, the man could make himself some real money next year. If things don't work out, well, no loss.
Impact: Three stars. MSW might not make the final roster at a crowded position. Then again, he could really catch on, giving Bradford a big route-runner. MSW is the most complete package of athleticism on the field, though not as fast as Avery in terms of pure speed.
Signed DT Justin Bannan, 32
Contract: Three-years, amount unknown
Reaction: Gap stuffing defensive tackles don't light the world on fire with excitement, but role players make the team whole.
Impact: Three stars. Bannan's presence solidifies the middle of the Rams line. Gary Gibson was adequate, but lacked the strength in world where big, strong guards get paid offensive tackle money. Not only will Bannan beef up the run defense, by sticking to blockers, he'll make it easier for the Rams to generate a pass rush with their front four, something they struggled with last year against better offensive lines.
Signed CB Al Harris, 36
Contract: One-year, amount unknown
Reaction: A veteran addition...again, potential depth, leadership guys don't always provide the excitement, and that's not what they're there for.
Impact: Two stars. If Harris has anything left, he could be a useful contributor in nickel and dime packages. More than anything, coaches like to have veterans on the roster that they know, a security blanket of sorts. Harris might not make it out of camp.
Signed DT Daniel Muir, 28
Contract: One-year, $1.85 million
Reaction: Depth is important, not for the sake of headlines either.
Impact: Muir isn't the kind of player that good teams start, but he can play a role as depth. More than anything, I suspect he's in camp to give youngsters Jermelle Cudjo and Darell Scott some competition.
A note on the ages, for Muir and Mikell, I used the age they'll be at the end of September rather than their current age.
So far, it's been a solid all around free agent period for the Rams. Now, they need to finish strong adding a good backup running back and more depth at linebacker.