We're a little more than a week out from the Super Bowl. The Senior Bowl is in full swing. With all of that going on, it's a good opportunity to gauge the free agent listings and begin thinking about where the Rams might be headed.
Of course, money's tight right now. The Rams have to be considering the release of a couple players to free up some moneys, a point well laid out by Ramfan 1313 a month ago. No, the Rams haven't converted free agency signings into workable products, outside of Jo-Lonn Dunbar's 2012 season, but they're still going to have to fill the roster out. It may not involve any of the big ticket items we've seen in seasons past, but it's worth looking at in advance in any case.
Rotoworld dropped a great update this week with positional rankings of all free agents to use as a primer.
Let's get at it.
The Rams won't be in the market here for starting-caliber work. And if you scan the options, that's a good thing. Outside of Michael Vick, it's a glut of backups. The question then is if the Rams want to pull a low-buy move here to supplement a potential draft option. Given the draft options the Rams have, there are three paths they could follow: taking a QB in the 1st, taking a QB anywhere else or not taking one at all.
I guess if they pursue options one or two, keeping Kellen Clemens around as a de facto position coach who's familiar as anyone with Brian Schottenheimer would make sense. If they don't use a draft pick on a QB though, I could see the Rams going after someone with a bit more upside than Clemens to work behind Sam in 2014. And with Clemens ranked ninth in the Rotoworld rankings, it's not hard to see where there could be better football to be had here.
Josh McCown had a bit of a late-career renaissance this season, but one would think the Bears were pleased with his spot duties and try to retain him. Matt Flynn is locked in as a career backup at this point, but a serviceable one. Josh Freeman's value is as low as it's been in his career, so that might be a buy-low option. Tim Tebow's still alive.
There are tons of great options here, as we're firmly in the "dime a dozen RB" era of the NFL. Depending on how much weigh you put into the current P-D style of covering the Rams (read: everyone's coming back and everything will be fine), the Rams may run with a Stacy-Richardson-Pead-Cunningham quartet again. But between the draft and free agency, I wouldn't be surprised if a new partner for Zac Stacy hits the Rams in 2014.
Who knows. Maybe Brian Leonard's primed for a breakout season in a return to the Rams...no, no he's not.
I'm with Miklasz that the Rams' top need is a physical WR. While the draft offers the prime young prospects to fill that need in guys like Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin, perhaps the Rams find themselves attached to a free agent option here. Hakeem Nicks and Anquan Boldin would be the obvious big name fits here to go along with some of the cheaper veteran offerings.
Lance Kendricks is going into a contract year, and Jared Cook's not going anywhere. Anything off Rotoworld's top 30 here would be roster fills/special team buys.
This is where I think the Rams would rationally spend some cash. Between Jeff Fisher's "1st round offensive linemen are for suckers" history and the lack of overwhelming talent here, there's room to buy here. We'll have to see who hits the market with sincerity, but certainly there are enticing options here. Assuming the releases of Scott Wells and Harvey Dahl to open up $8.5m collectively, this becomes the obvious focus on the offensive side in regards to free agency.
Long and Quinn are set for a while, Jadeveon Clowney talk aside. Spending anything here would have to be near the lowest likelihoods of any position. Tackle-wise, the question may revolve around Kendall Langford who would free up $4m upon his release; of course, he's been an integral part of the Rams' best unit, so it'd be a risky ploy to go after free agency there. The draft looms as the likelier path to replacing him if he's cut. Otherwise, you'd have to think the money would be better spent elsewhere.
James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree are the only roster locks here, so expect plenty of OLB plays in mock drafts in the months ahead. Does Dunbar have a spot on this team next year? If the draft class doesn't provide depth here, there are plenty of low buys to be had.
Certainly, the Rams will have their eyes on both college prospects and current NFL free agents to supplement the Rams' young cornerback corps which would get younger with the near-certain release of Cortland Finnegan, the fourth-highest paid CB in the league, who would put $7m back in the Rams' coffers. As Finnegan demonstrated though, cornerback fits are tricky things.
Nnamdi Asomugha went from one of the best corners in the league to a huge FA bust in Philadelphia. Darrelle Revis certainly didn't provide the returns you'd expect from someone of his production history as the most expensive corner in the league...although if you don't put some of that down to Greg Schiano's travesty of a 2013 season, you're mistaken.
Still, the Rams have to entertain the market at a minimum here. I'd be shocked if the Alterraun Verner storyline doesn't warm up soon after the Super Bowl. Reuniting Jeff Fisher with his former draft pick makes for easy content filler.
Ss (yup. Ss.)
In addition to O-line and cornerback, safety fills out the top tier of the likeliest positions the Rams make a splash at for me. Outside of T.J. McDonald, I don't know that any of the current safeties are on the roster two years from now, leaving the door open for someone to pair with the former USC standout (with the door open for the obvious pairing through the 2015 draft with his brother, Tevin...).
Skipping past the draft, there's a ton to love from the list of free agent safeties. This might be the easiest plug through the market.
What names on the rankings pops out to you? Any significant gripes with the rankings themselves? Any position you think cries out for a free agent supplement?