The cornerbacks are all set, at least the top three. Elsewhere in the secondary the St. Louis Rams are expected to make some changes, bringing in two new faces to anchor the safety positions in Jeff Fisher and now Rob Ryan's defense.
Craig Dahl and Quintin Mikell held the starting safety jobs last season for the Rams, acquitting themselves fairly well, but looking mostly like a stopgap solution for the defensive backfield. Dahl is ticketed for unrestricted free agency, and Mikell carries a cap hit of roughly $9 million. Jim Thomas at the Post-Dispatch notes the likely fate of the two safetiesfor 2013:
So it's possible - some might say likely - that the Rams will have two new starting safeties in 2013.
It's not a huge surprise. Safety was the missing link for the Rams defense last season, a group that struggled with coverage, while playing better against the run. Mikell added another dimension as a pass rusher when the Rams blitzed, and was one of Pro Football Focus' highest graded safeties last season.
Thomas' piece notes several safety prospects in this year's draft, including Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. The former Longhorn is widely expected to be the top safety picked in the draft, and one scout in the article cites the possibility of the Detroit Lions picking him with the fifth overall pick.
There are also a few free agents on the market this year that could be had from prices ranging from luxury to practical upgrade.
Darius Byrd and Dashon Goldson lead the way, and can be expected to command the biggest contracts of any safety on the market this year, if their teams let them get away in free agency. Ed Reed is another option, a brand name option, but at 34, he's definitely on the downhill side of his career. Reed would offer some team a player capable of doing some damage via the turnover, something the Rams defense thrived on last year.
Kenny Phillips of the Giants is an interesting name. He missed a chunk of time with a knee injury this season. While he was out, the Giants found a pleasant surprise in Stevie Brown, a restricted free agent that will be affordable to keep. New York has stated a desire to get younger, and moving beyond Phillips. He has a history of knee injuries, but could be an interesting candidate for a 'prove-it' deal in 2013.
St. Louis does have a pair of younger players on the roster at safety. Matt Daniels, a UDFA last year, had a nice season on special teams. Darian Stewart showed some potential in 2011. Injuries put him behind the curve under Jeff Fisher, and he never saw much time on the field even when healthy. That ought to tell you about his future with the Rams. Leaving the secondary in the hands of two unproven, undrafted players probably isn't the kind of change the Rams are looking for in the long run.