Options, Options, Options: Rams Free Agency Preview

Joe Robbins

The kitchen is about to heat up, but do the Rams have the cash to play with the big boys yet again?

Jeff Fisher and Les Snead came to the Rams with a pretty comfortable amount of cap space. Upon arrival, they stole Stan Kroenke's Centurion Card and went out spending as they saw fit.

As a result, the Rams sit pretty close to the newly decided on salary cap. Sure, releasing Cortland Finnegan saved up to seven million, but even then, I don't see them flashing stacks any time soon. Even with that fiscal responsibility in mind, the Rams still have a few things to do next week. Here they are, broken down:

Ink Rodger Saffold to a new Deal

It's not a matter of can they afford him at this point. Getting Saffold to stay in St. Louis should be priority one for the Rams. Jake Long, Scott Wells and Harvey Dahl all have financial and age related concerns. They aren't the future - but Saffold and Joe Barksdale could be.

Saffold took over as the RG in Week 10. Immediately, there was a noticeable difference not only in his pass protection, but his run blocking vastly improved. Before taking over inside, he didn't have a single net positive game as a run blocker, as per Pro Football Focus' metrics. After the switch? Four out of six games saw him post a positive grade.

The same can be said for Barksdale, who had his best stretch of the season after Saffold moved inside. It's not so much that Saffold is a great player - his greatest strength is clearly versatility - but the young offensive line tandem of him and Barksdale actually worked last year. That's something that the Rams should hold on to because they haven't seen that in awhile.

Rams Let Go of Failed Projects

Business is business. It's hard sometimes as fans to see that, but such was the case with Cortland Finnegan. The Rams need money, and they need to win. I wouldn't expect the Rams to go on a cutting spree, but they have a lot of young players and a lot of draft picks. Something is going to have to give.

On the veteran side of things, I'd expect Harvey Dahl to be cut. That saves the team 4 million dollars, but more so, there is no reason for the team to soak up so much money in right guards. It might be cruel, but the team could only be keeping him around as a bargaining chip for Saffold.

Other players that could see the ax? Isaiah Pead, for starters. Cutting Pead would save the team a paltry 412k, but he's seemingly been phased out of the game by the staff. Another possible target? Chris Givens. After being given (no pun intended) the reigns to the wide receiver position on the merit of an impressive rookie campaign, he bombed in his starting debut and could be out of a job. He'd save the team only 445k, but a few little moves could add up to...

Sign a Free Safety

The Rams are in a good position to draft a safety. Of that, I will not argue. But if there is any position that could do with a veteran presence, it'd be the last line of defense. The Rams secondary is talented, but very raw. Adding a rookie safety would likely do nothing to change that. With a few cuts and some restructurings, the Rams would likely have just enough money to sign one expensive free agent after Saffold.

That's where safety comes in - the free agency market is loaded with them. I don't know if the Rams have the cash to target prized free agent Jarius Byrd, but if the bean counters sign off, the Rams would be licking their chops if they could sign him. T.J. Ward also could be a factor (but doesn't exactly fit the mold of rangy-coverage guy), but don't be surprised if you hear a dark horse name being thrown around in Miami's Chris Clemons. The Rams need a coverage safety and Clemons excelled in that area last year.

Figure Out Sam Bradford

Ah yes, that one final elephant. I'm not going to go into whether or not the team should draft a QB or keep Bradford - that's up to them. But if they decide to stick with him, and for all intents and purposes, it looks like they will, they need to go all in.

Yes, that means Sammy Watkins (or Mike Evans). Yes, that means drafting a offensive lineman high up (Zach Martin is a personal favorite of mine at 13, but trading down or selecting a guard in the second round are both completely possible). The best thing the Rams could do for this team is improving the offense. Keeping the defense off the field, adding weapons that will keep the Rams from stalling - these should be the priorities. So Jeff Fisher needs to swallow some pride and make it happen.

The Rams moved the ball effectively in 2013 but it was sporadic and had a tendency to flame out at the end. Turning 3's into 7's should be the team goal of 2014, and it's up to the team to put the personnel in place to do it. The window is closing - Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona are all on the rise. If St. Louis wants to play with the big boys, they've got to be able to keep up on offense. Doing so will pay dividends for the other units of the team.

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