A glaring need for the St. Louis Rams is outside linebacker. The Rams have addressed the position in consecutive seasons with free agency and hangers on from busted regimes; which to everyone’s dismay, hasn’t worked out as expected. Other free agent positions demand more money, namely the offensive line and wide receiver. The organization will look at the deep free agent linebacker pool for those who won’t demand as much cold hard cash.
The Carolina Panthers drafted Dan Connor in the 3rd round of the 2008 NFL draft. The Pennsylvania native attended Penn State, one of college football’s linebacker factories. A prototypical linebacker, Connor stands 6’2" and weighs in at 231 lbs. His college career was nothing less than astounding; having set the school’s career tackles record at 419, and winning the Chuck Bednarik Award. In 2008, he ranked number 23 on Sports Illustrated’s top 25 NFL Draft Candidates list. During the NFL Combine in 2008, he ran a 4.63 40 yard dash, and is strong, showing his strength by bench-pressing 225lbs - 22 times.
Dan’s NFL career has been slow to develop, mostly due to Carolina’s depth at the linebacker position. 2008 saw Connor’s play interrupted by a torn ACL in week 3. Fully recovered at the start of 2009, Dan went on to have just 22 tackles in 16 games played as a backup. In 2010 with Na’il Diggs being released in the off season and going to the St. Louis Rams, Connor came on strong, having 47 tackles in just 8 games played. The injury bug would strike again, this time with a fractured hip halting his season. Making a miraculous turn around in 2011, Connor started 11 games and played in 15, racking up 75 total tackles and a forced fumble. Carolina’s defense only allowed conversions on 3rd down 42.8 percent of the time.
The news out of Carolina is they are letting Connor walk this off season. Connor’s 2012 salary is set to be $555,000. Having signed an initial rookie deal of only $2,494,000 for 4 years, and considering his injury history, Connor would be a cheap pickup for the Rams. Although he has been the "mike-backer" for most of his career, he has the athleticism and stature to move over to the outside. While wanting a starting position at his new destination, Connor may have to settle for a degree of uncertainty. With Gregg Williams and the host of other new defensive minds around Rams Park this off season, St. Louis may well be at the top of the list of destinations for those who have yet to prove their defensive talents.