Alright, here we go again. This is going to be a full off-season plan. I put a lot of time and effort into this one and I hope y'all enjoy it. Some of my numbers are a direct result of Ramfan1313's articles. With the current salary cap projected to be at $132 million or more, the Rams will have at least $6.5 million in salary cap space available. Refer to this article by Ramfan1313 to understand what I'm writing when I mention his name: St. Louis Rams: Individual Cap Hits And Available Cap Space: February 27 - The Calm Before The Storm
Harvey Dahl – A simple cap casualty. The guy needs to be cut. $4 million in savings.
Scott Wells – One of the highest paid centers in the league. You don't pay someone that kind of money to miss as many games as he did due to injury. Besides, when he was on the field, his performance didn't deserve his contract. $4.5 million in savings.
Cortland Finnegan – Like many have said, there's no reason to cut Finnegan and create that dead money on our books when we could just restructure his contract. Finnegan still has talent, although he may be just a shell of his former self. Regardless, we'll see what Finnegan can do when he's healthy. I think they restructure his contract to $5 million per year. $5 million in savings.
James Laurinaitis – Honestly, I'm not quite sure how restructuring his contract would work. However, based on Ramfan1313's amazing article, it states that we can turn Laurinaitis's contract into a prorated bonus and save some money for 2014. However it works, I'm all for it. $4.5 million in savings.
** The cuts and restructures have resulted in a total of $18 million in savings. Add that to the (minimum) $6.5 million in cap space we already have, and we are looking at $24.5 million.
SIGNING FREE AGENTS
Alterraun Verner, CB – Everyone knows why this guy is a perfect fit for us on all levels. Fisher drafted him, so obviously there had to be interest there. Gregg Williams turned him into a pro bowler last year, so obviously Verner gains much from signing with us. He's still young at the age of 25. I definitely think we will pursue him and I also think there is interest from both parties involved. How much money will he demand? Hopefully he comes to us at a slight discount due to familiarity and knowing we can bring out his talent better than anyone has in the past and will in the future. 4 year, $28 million.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar, OLB – Same that applied with Verner applies with Dunbar as well. He's too familiar with Williams and Fisher to want to leave. Also, who knows what kind of interest, or lack thereof, he will receive on the open market due to his suspension for drug use. It's better that he remains with us. Fisher and Williams can bring the best out of him and, frankly, we probably have the most interest in him than any other team. 2 year, $6 million.
Quintin Mikell, SS – Here's a name y'all haven't heard in a while. Mikell performed well after he left us to sign with the Panthers. However, the Panthers want to move towards a younger option, which could result in Mikell (who is a free agent) being shown the door. I'm all for bringing him back as a backup to T.J. McDonald, who hasn't shown he can stay healthy quite yet. Mikell performed well under Fisher's first year as head coach for the Rams. At a ripe old age of 34, he won't come with a high price tag either. 1 year, $2 million.
Tim Barnes, C – He performed well for us when Wells was injured late in the season. I want to see what he can do as a starter and he won't be demanding much money. It's a general consensus on TST that we should bring him back and I'm on this bandwagon as well. 2 year, $2 million.
Shelley Smith, G – Another player we should retain he performed well enough to be a backup. He won't cost much and has familiarity with the offense. 2 year, $2 million.
** These free agents will cost us a total of $14 million in 2014 (if they are taken at face value and none of the contracts are back-loaded), leaving us with a leftover cap space of $10.5 million. This falls right in line with what Ramfan1313 states in his article that is needed to "cover the net cost of signing the incoming rookie class, create and adequate reserve for contingencies during the regular season, pay the practice squad, and provide a cushion for salary cap adjustments...made by the league."
** The Rams trade their first round pick (#2) for the Raiders' first, second, and third round picks (#5, #36, #67). This may not be what everyone was hoping for and I'm sure you all would like more than this. However, I'm trying to make this as realistic as possible and I decided to go with a modest approach to what we can get rather than attempt an outlandish trade that might not happen.
** The Rams trade their sixth and 2 seventh round picks for the Browns' fifth round pick (#5 in the fifth round).
** The Rams are projected to have a sixth round pick and 3 seventh round picks as compensatory picks.
#5 - Greg Robinson, OT
I think it's pretty clear why we should draft Robinson. He's a safety valve if Long can't start the season or has future injury woes, can play guard better than any other OT in the draft, and he's a mauler with a nasty streak as a run blocker. Some concerns many have is his capability as a pass protector, but when you have one of the best OL coaches in the league, that won't be an issue. I wouldn't mind Jake Matthews at this spot either, but Robinson is my preference.
#13 - Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, FS
Dix is the best free safety in this draft. My love for Pryor not withstanding, Dix is more of what we lack even though Pryor fits what Williams likes in a safety. You can't argue with what Dix brings to the table. His coverage skills is next to none in this draft and he would be an immense upgrade over Rodney McLeod.
#36 - Gabe Jackson, OG
Greg Robinson isn't enough if both Saffold and Dahl are gone, which is the situation in this mock. Jackson grades out as a great run-blocking guard who is capable of holding his own in pass protection. He ranks as the #1 guard on my board.
#44 - Jordan Matthews, WR
There are definitely better wide receivers in this draft, but I don't feel any of them fit better than Matthews. Our wide receivers dropped passes left and right last year, and Matthews has the best hands in the draft. Matthews is projected to be a possession receiver in the NFL; that's something we need. He's one of the best route runners coming out of this draft as well. He's a good red zone target with size and he's great at blocking. The biggest knock on him was his speed and he quieted the naysayers at the combine. There may be more talented wide receivers in this draft, but you cannot find one that fits better on this team than Matthews.
#67 - Kyle Van Noy, OLB
This might be a reach as I'm not sure Van Noy will fall to this spot. I think he might because of all the hype being built around so many other prospects that there is no room for Van Noy. His name has been absent from several talks since even before the combine and I'm hoping he falls to us. He fits a very similar style to Dunbar, yet he's more talented as a pass rusher. I think he could be a valuable starter in his second or third year and, in the meantime, he could become part of the rotation. If there is anyone who could bring the most talent out of a pass rushing prospect, it's Gregg Williams.
#75 - Zack Mettenberger, QB
The guy can play. No doubt about it. If it wasn't for his injury, I would go as far to say that he would be a sure-fire first round pick. Oh, how the mighty can fall. I would love to get Mettenberger here, and since he didn't perform at the combine and he possibly might not participate in the pro day either, he could easily fall to this pick. You can't ask for a better QB to be our backup at this stage of the draft, capable of stepping in if Bradford gets hurt and the potential is there for so much more.
#106 - Will Sutton, DT
I get it. The guy is fat, slow, and undersized. However, in the 2013 draft, he would have been a first round pick. The guy is ridiculously talented and his coaches pushed him to put on weight. Well, he did...the bad kind. It cost him his speed and talent. Now, he's struggling to get back in shape. If he gets back in shape at the NFL level, we've just gotten first round value with a fourth round pick.
5th round (from Cleveland Browns) - De'Anthony Thomas, RB
Speed. That's the reason for this pick. Pure and utter speed. Thomas can be effective for us in a variety of ways. he can help on special teams and contribute as a change-of-pace back for Stacy who can receive out of the backfield. You spend late picks on potential and Thomas is flooded with it. Question is if he can make the most of it.
5th round - Cassius Marsh, DE
Another one of those prospects where the hype of others has caused him to fall. Marsh performed with mixed results at the East-West Shrine game. He has done nothing since and that's not his fault but it is the problem. Others have their stock rise while he has his stock falling. I would like to grab him here as he so much potential. Like I said, if there is anyone who can get the most out of a pass rusher, it's Gregg Williams.
6th round (compensatory) - Trey Millard, FB
I know you guys here at TST don't like the idea of drafting a fullback. Frankly, I like Harkey as much as the next guy, but for any of you who put any value in PFF's ranking of players, Harkey receives negative marks for his performance on the field. Plus, with a late round pick, what would it hurt to draft a fullback? You can't tell me there are many players with more potential at this draft position. Millard is also capable of being more than a fullback, as he has been utilized effectively all along the offense. He is very similar to Marcel Reece in his talents, and you can't turn down that kind of prospect this late.
7th round (compensatory) - Spencer Long, OG
Long is capable of doing well at the next level, but injury caused his stock to free-fall. I expect him to go this late, and I'm hoping the Rams pick him because everyone knows we need the depth.
7th round (compensatory) - Cornelius Lucas, OT
He is a behemoth. Imagine this guy coming down the field at you. Better yet, imagine you trying to break through this barrier to get to the QB. I wouldn't want to do it, but the defensive line of any NFL team is more talented than I could ever dream. regardless, he has serious potential, and i wouldn't mind him at all at this pick.
7th round (compensatory) - Andrew Jackson, ILB
We've always needed someone to back up the unbreakable James 'Itis. Even though 'Itis has never missed a game, there could come a day where we need to rely on someone. I wish we had the room to spend a higher pick on an ILB, but for now, Jackson will have to do.
2014 ST. LOUIS RAMS ROSTER
QB – Sam Bradford, Zach Mettenberger
LT – Jake Long, Greg Robinson
RT – Joe Barksdale, Cornelius Lucas
LG – Gabe Jackson, Shelley Smith
RG – Greg Robinson, Spencer Long
C – Tim Barnes, Barrett Jones
WR – Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey
WR – Jordan Matthews, Brian Cook
DT – Kendall Langford, Will Sutton
OLB – Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Kyle Van Noy
OLB – Alec Ogletree, Ray-Ray Armstrong
ILB – James Laurinaitis, Andrew Jackson
CB – Alterraun Verner, Cortland Finnegan, Brandon McGee
FS – Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Rodney McLeod
SS – T.J. McDonald, Quintin Mikell
What do y'all think?