I am pretty sure I know what the Rams should do this off-season. No, scratch that; I am certain of it. I have done considerable research—although not comprehensive—and think that the following proposal will satisfy even the stingiest of you TST curmudgeons, while also being realistic in terms of expectations, even if the economics of it all might be proven a bit flimsy. For your consideration…
First things first, let’s trim some proverbial, and literal, fat from the roster. There is no rationale I can think of for keeping the Jasons on the team. The Jasons are due to make a combined $15 million in 2012. Let me repeat that, in the unlikely case any of you need to be reminded: $15 million! In the case of Smith, he is concussion-prone and well, just not very good. In the case of Brown, he was benched in favor of Wragge, who was making 10% of his salary. Now, I will admit to having only slightly more knowledge of NFL finances and cap implications than my 3 year old niece. However, I don’t think it takes a genius to see that the salary-to-benefit ratio of the Jasons is more than a bit skewed.
These next two suggestions hurt a bit. Considering his injury and 2012 salary, it is hard to justify keeping Bartell on the roster. He has been a very good player for the team, but $8.2 million is hard to swallow. Another casualty is Robbins. He was great in 2010, but the age-related decline many were fearing was realized in 2011. Considering he is due to make only a bit less than Barry Cofield—sigh—it seems to be in the best interest of the team to move on.
The last major release is James Butler. He is due to make $3.5 million in 2012. I don’t think I need to say any more. Cut them, and free up space to sign free agents who can contribute.
This is where my aforementioned ignorance might affect my argument. I have read multiple times that after cutting Smith, the Rams would be $19 million under the cap. This may or may not be true, but I will move forward under the assumption that it is. Another assumption I will make is that cutting Brown will result in a similar cap hit to Smith: $1 million. The cap-details of a Bartell release are fuzzy to me, but let’s say it is in the $3 million neighborhood. Add in the other cuts, and that is, as someone once said, a lot of cheddar. What will the team do with all that money?
First, free agency. Releasing Bartell and Robbins will require the team to address those positions, and I think they are best filled in FA. As it is reasonable to expect that Fisher will continue the tradition of new coaches bringing in players with whom they are familiar, Jason Jones and Cortland Finnegan make lots of sense. They will command a lot of money, but their presences will be felt. They know Fisher, and the brand of football he likes to play.
Next up is guard. I love the idea of acquiring Carl Nicks. LOVE the idea. But he will assumingly want the same amount of money paid to teammate Jahri Evans—7 years/$57 million—and I can’t see that number fitting. Ben Grubbs would likely cost half of that amount, and it is hard to see Nicks being twice as good as Grubbs.
As for WR, the team needs to get the Amendola signing out of the way. Yeah he got hurt, but he has Sam’s trust and everyone likes him. As for another FA WR, I like the idea of kicking the tires on a big-name FA, but I don’t like the cost-benefit ratio of the players available. I have already suggested signing Finnegan and Grubbs, two of the biggest names on the market at their respective positions, and signing a top WR would be unlikely in this scenario. For that reason, I would look at signing a 2nd-tier player, like Mario Manningham, Robert Meachem, or Pierre Garcon. All 3 are still young, and have proven themselves, to some degree, in the NFL. Whether or not the Rams would have the money to sign one of them remains to be seen, but I like the idea of adding one of them to the roster. If I had to choose one, I guess it would be Garcon.
Last would be an OLB. I would love 2, but there is also the draft to consider. As such, I think the Rams should target one of the following: Rocky McIntosh, Manny Lawson, D’Qwell Jackson, or Erin Henderson. None are tops at the position, but each could come in and instantly become a starter and make the team better. I would even be open to the idea of Stephen Tulloch, if he could make the transition to the outside. In any case, my preference would be Lawson, as he played well for Cincinnati this past season as a SLB, and my plan would include targeting a WLB in the draft.
With those FA signings already in place, it is time to turn the gaze upon the draft. I wrote a FanPost on the Cleveland Browns SBNation blog in order to understand interest in the idea of the Browns trading up for RGIII. In short, they were not overly enthused at the idea, and suggested repeatedly that it would be out of character for their front office. The most they could imagine being offered would be the 2 1st round picks and maybe a 4th for good measure. And definitely no 2013 picks. A peek at two posts on the Redskins SBNation blog tells a different story from Redskins fans.
Redskins fans are willing to see the team give up the proverbial farm for RGIII. As one might expect, they have had enough of John Beck and Rex Grossman. There was obviously no consensus on what an offer should be—some even believe a backroom deal is already in place—but one comment really got me thinking. It seems that they are willing to give up picks, and players, and a haul of their 2012 1st and 2nd, 2013 1st, and Santana Moss is in line with their limit. Now, some of you may not be fans of Santana Moss, but I suggest that he is every bit as good as Lloyd. He is due to make $4.8 million in 2012, and $6 million in 2013, after which he will be a FA. This might even be cheaper than what Lloyd will want, and again, I think he is just as good. This trade would solidify the WR corps, and with the other FAs, the draft would be easier to project.
Based on the FA signings and trade, my idea for a good draft would be as follows:
1st- Riley Reiff, OT
2nd- Zach Brown, OLB; Fletcher Cox, DT
3rd- Isaiah Pead, RB
4th- Mike Brewster, C
6th- Asa Jackson, CB
7th- Tank Carder, OLB; Chris Rainey, RB/KR
2012 Rams Starting Lineup:
O-Line: Reiff, Grubbs, Brewster/Wragge, Dahl, Saffold
WRs: Moss, Garcon, Amendola, Salas
RBs: S-Jax, Pead, Rainey
D-Line: Long, Cox, Jones, Quinn
LBs: Lawson, JL, Brown
CBs: Finnegan, Fletcher, Murphy, Jackson
S: Mikell, Stewart
We, the fans, are the engine that keeps the team running. Without us watching games, buying jerseys, drinking $9 beers, etc., there would be no NFL. It is with that acknowledgment and the respect it engenders that I ask you all what you would think if the Rams off-season unfolded as I have suggested. You will obviously not all agree with everything, but is it completely off-base? I love discussion here on TST and I can’t wait to read any and all comments. Thanks for reading!