By Christopher Daniel
Cortland Finnegan’s pending release from the St. Louis Rams is a major statement by head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead.
First of all, this move creates $4 million dollars of cap space, in addition to the $10 million league wide increase. That will allow the Rams’ front office to resign Roger Saffold if they see fit. The boost in funds may also save potential cap casualties such as guard Harvey Dahl and center Scott Wells, though I still expect at least one of them to receive their walking papers.
Secondly, St. Louis becomes a relevant location after the new league year begins on March 11.The Rams, once poised to be the proverbial wallflower at the free agency party, will now have the capital to make a major splash in free agency. With several holes still remaining on the roster, the Rams now at least have the opportunity to address some of those needs prior to the draft.
Third, Jeff Fisher is not playing favorites. If anyone at Rams Park expected to receive a mulligan, it’s Finnegan. Finnegan is (or was) the premier "Fisher guy" on the roster. In 2012, Finnegan notched career highs in tackles with 101. He also caused four turnovers, including one pick six. The 2013 campaign was a dreadful year for Finnegan, starting in training camp where he reportedly lost a step. That transitioned into a terrible 2013 regular season where Finnegan was injured almost as often as he was burned by opposing receivers.
Finally, Courtland Finnegan’s release proves that fans should never trust what coaches, general managers, and players say during the offseason (as if we needed any more evidence). The Rams front office stated mere weeks ago at the NFL Scouting Combine that Finnegan "would be part of their offseason." Maybe they had their fingers crossed or coughed "bullshit" right after they stated he would return.
Perhaps the Rams front office has a trick up their sleeve. Finnegan was due a $3 million bonus two days after the new league year begins. Fisher stated that there is interest in bringing Finnegan back at a reduced rate. There has been a previous example of the Fisher-Snead regime releasing a player and quickly resigning him in order to cut financial corners.
The Rams released outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar just prior to the beginning of the 2013 season. Several people suspected the release was entirely due to Dunbar’s violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. There is no doubt that Dunbar’s suspension played a major role in giving the Rams front office the opportunity to release him. However, a deeper look revealed that Dunbar’s release actually gave the Rams some much needed cap relief.
All in all, Finnegan was a valuable pick up for the Rams. He provided much needed leadership and attitude for a young defense. Finnegan, a known film rat, also instilled the importance of scouting opponent tendencies to the young defensive backs. These were very valuable contributions indeed. They just weren’t worth $50 million and $26.5 million guaranteed.