Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
The St. Louis Rams could have a pair of new safeties in the secondary next season.
Safety has been an area of concern for the St. Louis Rams since the start of training camp, before that really. It continues to be an issue for an otherwise much improved secondary. Next year, it may not be as pressing of an issue, as reports are the team will most likely have two new starters back there.
Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch dropped this little nugget in his weekly chat with fans:
I'll just say this. From what I understand, it would not be shocking to see the Rams with one or two new safeties next season.
The addition of former Eagles safety Quintin Mikell was supposed to be a difference maker for the Rams in 2011, the season the Rams won a total of two games. He never really got a fair shake that season, after signing a four-year, $27 million deal, with the team forced to rely on fifth- and sixth-string cormerbacks.
This year, Mikell has been doing more work at strong safety. He's having a better year too getting back to his roots in the box. Pro Football Focus has him with a 1.3 grade, marginally neutral and a long way from the 21.8 he posted as PFF's top safety in 2010. He struggles when asked to do more deep work, and when his game is off, it's really off. Take for instance four missed tackles against the Seahawks or getting owned by the Patriots.
Dahl has done most of the free safety work, though the two are essentially interchangable for the Rams. He's been a more efficient tackler against the passing game than his counterpart. Coverage is where Dahl has improved the most. He's not giving up YAC like he did last season, and he's not also not being targeted as much. Dahl infuriates Rams fans, but his play has noticeably improved this season to league average.
Better play at safety would help the Rams in more ways than the most obvious. More reliable safeties would allow the defense to use James Laurinaitis less as an extra safety and more like a sideline-to-sideline linebacker. Another change would be to get a safety that makes plays on the ball, something the Rams current starters are not handy with.
Mikell is due $6 million in salary next year, certainly too high for the return on investment. Dahl is scheduled to be a free agent.
Speaking of free agent safeties, there are a couple names that could be on the market next year. Falcons safety William Moore is a name to keep an eye on, especially with Les Snead's connection to the Falcons. Dashon Goldson of the 49ers is also scheduled for free agency, as is Jairus Byrd of the Bills. All three players would command a premium contract, not top cornerback-level, but expensive for safeties.
Of course, there is also the draft, and Fisher has shown a knack for finding defensive backs there.