The Rams aren't done in free agency. The Rams still have holes to fill, particularly at S, OLB, WR, RB, G, and CB. During Jake Long's introductory press conference Jeff Fisher mentioned there was still a lot of talent available on the free agent market, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and particularly at S and CB. Fisher said it would be "ideal" if the Rams could find more help in free agency. Fisher also mentioned that there are more moves coming in the form of further cuts or contract restructuring as necessary. Fisher stated that it was unfortunate that they had to cut "... Q and Mully and such...," but that, "There are still some players out there, role players for us that could help us." While it is clear that the Rams are finished with the heavy lifting portion of the 2013 free agency period, Fisher's comments make it clear that they are by no means done adding free agents they think can come in and help the team.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, JL and Finnegan both have "miscellaneous" bonuses due to them this year. Those bonuses count 100% toward the cap in 2013. But, if the Rams were to switch all or a portion of JL's or Finnegan's "miscellaneous" bonus into a signing bonus, they could then prorate the bonus over the remaining years of their contracts. For example, if the Rams were to convert JL's $11 million "misc. bonus" to a signing bonus and prorate it over the 2013-2017 seasons, it would free up $8.8 million this year. It will add about $2.2 million to the cap number next year and going forward, but it gives the Rams the space they need to sign their rookie class and any UDFA's this year. They can do a similar move with Finnegan. If they convert his $5 million "misc. bonus" to a signing bonus and prorate it over the 2013-2016 seasons they free up $3.75 million this year, and add $1.25 million to the 2014, 2015, and 2016 cap number. Both JL and Finnegan get 100% of their money this year no matter what, the "restructuring" just allows the Rams to spread out the cap hit.
Of course they can just cut more players. That serves the immediate goal of creating cap space while conserving the cap hit for next season at the same time. In a previous, pre free agency post I recommended cutting Hunter, Mikell, Mulligan, and H. Dahl. So far, Hunter, Mikell, and Mulligan are gone. Will Dahl be next? I also recommended restructuring JL and Finnegan, which has yet to happen, but I think that is the route the Rams will look to take to free up more space under the cap. Whether the Rams choose to make any more cuts will be interesting to follow, as I think Dahl is the next guy on the chopping block if they do.
So who might they target among the available free agents? There are a couple of variables that come into play when trying to answer this question. First, they're not looking to spend big money. They're not looking for high-priced guys, they're looking for a bargain. Second, and related to the first point, as Fisher said, he's looking for role players that can come in and help the team. Rotational D-lineman, nickel CB's, power RB's, and such. They are looking to add rotational players that fit a specific role and can bring something to the team in that role. Third, they are probably going to look to players that have previous experience with someone on the coaching staff. Bringing in a player that one or more of the coaches are familiar with is a common occurrence in the NFL. Last, but not least, I think it is safe to assume they are going to focus on positions of need, those being OLB, S, G, CB, and WR. I will also add DT to the list, as there are a couple of intriguing possibilities out there that the Rams could bring in to bolster their depth along the D-line, and as an attempt to quell the furor caused by the latest mock by Todd McShay that sent DT Sylvester Williams to the Rams with the 22nd pick. With all that being said, on to the list of potential free agent OLB's, S's, G's, CB's, WR's and DT's the Rams may be interested in bringing to the team.
There really aren't too many 4-3 OLB's that draw your attention when looking over the list of available players. The two that caught my eye are both recovering from knee injuries that cost them their 2012 seasons, which raises concerns about how well they will recover but also makes them cheap to sign.
The first is WLB Gerald McRath, formerly of the Titans. Fisher drafted him and coached him, so he knows the player and the player knows Fisher's defense. He's only 26, and is lanky, fast, and athletic, and hustles on every play. He would make for good depth behind Dunbar and will be very inexpensive to sign.
The second is SLB Thomas Howard, formerly of the Bengals. He has good size, strength, and athleticism coupled with really good instincts. He reads and reacts quickly defending the run and pass. He can be an impact player for the Rams, if the knee is sound. He is pushing 30, but he would be an upgrade over anything the Rams have had at SLB for a long time, can be a short term bridge to a younger player, and he will not cost a lot to sign.
1) Mikell is the guy the Rams would prefer to bring back on the cheap. I don't know if he's willing to return or not.
2) Rhodes played great for the Cardinals last year, and can be had cheap. He's a couple years younger than Mikell and way better in coverage.
3) Former Cowboy Sensabaugh is the youngest of the three, at 29, and is a very versatile player with good range in coverage and can fill run lanes quickly in run support. He will be the costliest of the three, but is also the better of the three at this stage of their careers.
The Guard position is very deep as there are still many available. I've targeted a few who offer the versatility that the now departed Robert Turner brought to the team. I've also included one pure Guard.
1) Brandon Moore is the best Guard still available, and some had him as the best Guard available in free agency, period. He will be 33 in June, so he is not a long-term answer, and will not command big money. But, as a guy who can give you one or two years as a solid starter or at the very least provide veteran depth behind some unproven players, the consistent and durable Moore is an option to look at. He is also familiar with Schotty's offense from his years with the Jets.
2) Leroy Harris, formerly of the Titans, is comparable to Robert Turner. Some have him rated much higher. Regardless, he's a versatile player who can play G or C. He was drafted by and played for Fisher in Tennessee, so there is familiarity there. The 28 year old is coming off an ACL injury, so he would have to be cleared by team doctors.
3) Mike Pollak, formerly of the Panthers, is another versatile player that can line up at either G or C. The 28 year old is a bit undersized, but he's smart, technically sound and plays with high effort and intensity. Sounds a lot like Turner, no?
4) Chris Spencer, formerly of the Bears, is another versatile veteran guy that can play G and C. The 31 year old is athletic, strong, and grades out excellent in both run and pass blocking. He's the second highest rated interior lineman still available. UPDATE - Just signed with the Titans.
The CB position, as Fisher alluded to, is very deep and as such it is a buyers market. There are a few interesting players to be had as the Rams look to add a fifth CB to the roster.
1) Jacob Lacey is a 25 year old CB that played under Rams new DC Tim Walton in Detroit. He's a very athletic, fluid, and quick CB with a good closing burst.
2) Ryan Mouton is a 26 year old CB that was drafted by and played for Fisher in Tennessee, so he knows Fisher's defense and Fisher knows him. He's a quick and agile nickelback who is at his best lining up over the slot receiver.
3) Pat Lee is a 29 year old CB that also has experience playing for Tim Walton while in Detroit. He's a rotational player with good size, strength and athleticism. He has good range and is a physical tackler.
5) Mike Jenkins is 28 years old and was a three year starter for the Cowboys. He's got excellent cover skills, has good range and is solid in run support. He would be more expensive than the first four, but also is more of a proven entity.
6) Rashean Mathis (32), Joselio Hansen (31), and Stanford Routt (29), are some veteran options to be explored. Mathis and Routt are best suited to press coverage. Mathis is clearly in decline. Hansen has excellent quickness and agility and is a career nickleback that is best suited to playing over the slot receiver.
Another position group that doesn't exactly get the excitement flowing. There are a few decent rotational guys to be had though.
1) Mohamed Massaquoi. The former Brown is only 26 and is a big, physical WR with good hands that is considered an excellent route runner and blocker.
2) David Nelson. The former Bill is also only 26, big, physical, has good hands and is a good run blocker. His size creates real match-up problems in the red zone. He's coming of an ACL injury, so as usual the injury both drives down his price and raises concerns about his recovery.
3) Early Doucet. The 28 year old never quite broke through with the Cardinals. He's basically a career back-up with good size, good hands, and good route-running skills.
4) Julian Edelman. He's only 26, and is no more than a rotational player that can handle return duties and contribute on special teams.
Many feel the Rams have a glaring hole at RB. The debate has centered on what round in the upcoming draft the Rams should take a RB. What if they feel they can fill the role of "power" back via free agency?
1) Javon Ringer was drafted by and played for Fisher at Tennessee. He's only 26, powerful, and is pretty much a one speed back with good quickness to the hole that is a good finisher on his runs.
2) Peyton Hillis. He's only 27, and was a 1200 yard RB just a couple of years ago. He's powerful with quick feet and a good burst through the hole. He has the strength to move the pile and gain tough yards at the goal line and in short yardage situations. He's also a good receiver out of the backfield and an excellent blocker.
3) Rashad Jennings is a 28 year old former Jaguar with decent speed and acceleration through the hole. He has strong legs, good balance, breaks tackles and gains yards after contact. Most effective between the Tackles.
4) Jackie Battle is a 29 year old RB best suited to be a goal line and short yardage runner. He's a "cut and go" runner that hits the hole with power and effort and gains yards after contact. Another guy that's strictly a between the Tackles runner.
There are actually several quality DT's still available. Depth along the D-line helps, and Snead has made several comments along those lines recently. With guys like Wilson and Kaepernick out there, it becomes extra important to keep those big guys fresh in the trenches.
1) Sen'Derrick Marks was drafted and played for Fisher in Tennessee. He's only 26 and is a solid 3 technique DT that is very quick off the ball and has excellent agility and does a pretty good job of hitting gaps and seams to cause problems in the backfield. UPDATE - Just signed with Jaguars.
2) Alan Branch. The former Seahawk, 28, would probably love to get a crack at his former team. Pretty much exclusively a run-stuffer, he can be had for the veteran minimum. UPDATE - Just signed with Bills.
3) Tony McDaniel is a DT with great length (he's 6' 7") and is a powerful guy. He's been a really good rotational player for the Dolphins over the years, and at 28 should have a few good years left. UPDATE - Signed with Seahawks.
4) Amobi Okoye. Believe it or not Okoye is only 25 years old. He's a quick, penetrating DT that runs well with good range in pursuit. Can be very disruptive as a situational interior pass rusher.
5) Trevor Laws. The Rams could always bring back the 27 year old. He spent 2012 on IR.
6) Andre Fluellen. The 28 year old former Lion should have some familiarity with the defense the Rams run. A career back-up with good size, strength, and above average athleticism. Considered to be on par with Jermelle Cudjo ability-wise.
Well, there's my list. Any players you think should be added? Any you definitely wouldn't want to see in a Rams jersey this Fall?