One reason the St. Louis Rams have such a rosy cap picture in 2013 is that they have a number of contracts going off the books that year. Much of that $30 million or so in cap space will be needed to tend to holes in the roster. Another name to watch when the next offseason rolls around is cornerback Bradley Fletcher.
Fletcher's rookie deal runs out after this season. Through four years in St. Louis, Fletcher has tantalized fans with his outstanding play only to see his season ended with an injury, usually an ACL tear.
The Rams lost Fletcher in Week 4 last year. Opposing passers completed just eight of 17 attempts on him through those four games, but those numbers do not account for teams targeting other players in the secondary and running through a leaky defense with whatever running back they had available.
When the Rams let Ron Bartell walk and signed Cortland Finnegan in free agency, it seemed like Fletcher was the odds on favorite to start opposite the newest addition. Instead, the job is rookie Janoris Jenkins' to lose, and by all accounts that seems unlikely.
Because Finnegan is so effective in the slot, Fletcher could still see plenty of playing time as third corner. That will depend on how far along he is in recovery from his second ACL tear. Jerome Murphy, Josh Gordy and even rookie Trumaine Johnson could all challenge for the third corner role.
Fletcher's value as a free agent will depend on how much playing time he gets this season, which is closely tied to his recovery. Ideally, the Rams could hang to Fletcher for a reasonable price, keeping quality depth at an essential position. Much will depend on the current coaching staff's evaluation of Fletcher. He is good as a press man, which does not make him a square peg for a round hole under Jeff Fisher. However, with Steve Spagnuolo the defensive coordinator in New Orleans, Fletcher could be an attractive value target there.