The St. Louis Rams don't have a long list of pricey players breaking for free agency this year. However, the list of guys scheduled for free agency this year will have an impact on two units where the team already had question marks. Let's take a look at the list.
Free agency officially starts on March 11 this year. Teams will have a three-day "tampering" window, where they can dance around with representatives from free agents on other teams. And general managers can always re-sign or franchise tag their own players in the weeks ahead of that date too.
Rodger Saffold, OL
Chris Williams, OL
Will Witherspoon, LB
Kellen Clemens, QB
Jo-Lonn Dunbar, OLB
Brady Quinn, QB
Mike McNeil, TE (RFA)
Shelley Smith, OG
Tim Barnes, C (exclusive rights FA)
Quinton Pointer, CB (exclusive rights)
Justin Veltung, WR (exclusive rights)
We'll obviously be getting into the free agent situation a lot more, but there are few things that jump out at you right off the bat.
We've talked endlessly about what to do with Saffold, but the Rams are set to lose three of the four players who worked the two guard positions this season. That's an issue for a team that likes to run the ball. The only guy set to come back is Harvey Dahl, aging, injured and with a sizable cap hit that makes him a prime target for a cut. So the Rams could be going into the offseason needing all new guards.
Oh, and then there's the tackle situation. Jake Long tore his ACL. He might or might not be ready for Week 1. Even if he is, losing Saffold means losing a third offensive tackle.
Yeah, I'm not going to get too far into this one because it the QB issue divides Rams fans like no other. At any rate, no matter where you fall on the Bradford question, we can all agree that the team has to do something about its backup quarterback job.
Clemens did fine in a run-first approach this year. He's a backup with limitations, but that's why most backups and holding the clipboard come Week 1 and not starting. The idea fix might be drafting a guy in the second or third round, signing a low-cost veteran like Clemens and going forward in 2014.
This was probably the team's biggest weakness heading into the season. And contrary to the optimism of August, nobody stepped up and gave the Rams a viable option at deep safety.
So it probably doesn't hurt to lose Stewart and Giordano, except, it leaves the Rams thin at the position. They go from having one viable starter (McDonald) and some depth guys to one viable starter and nobody. Do you keep one of these two (they'd be cheap)? Or do you use limited cap space or draft picks to fill the void?
This is a free agent list devoid of stars, but heavy on starters and depth. With scant space under the cap and one more year of an extra first-round pick, the Rams can't afford missteps if they want to be competitive in 2014.