With the NFL Draft a mere month away, let’s take one last look in the rear view mirror to analyze the Rams’ activity in free agency.
Chris Williams: The Bills signed Williams to a four-year, $13.5 million contract with $5.5 million guaranteed. Williams was widely regarded as a backup masquerading as a starter. The Rams had interest in retaining Williams as a reserve for depth purposes due to his versatility and durability. More power to Williams for finding a team willing to overpay for his services and give him an opportunity to be a starter.
Harvey Dahl: The Rams decided to cut ties with veteran guard Harvey Dahl "due to a failed physical." Dahl’s age and recent injury history resulted in him becoming a cap casualty. Coach Fisher has expressed interest in bringing Dahl back if the right opportunity presented itself.
Cortland Finnegan: General manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher gave corner back Cortland Finnegan his pink slip after two disappointing seasons. Finnegan’s decline in play and hefty five-year, $50 million contract sealed his fate as former Ram.
Kellen Clemens: After a career year, quarterback Kellen Clemens cashed in on a more lucrative offer from the San Diego Chargers. The two-year, $3 million deal was much more than the Rams where willing to offer Clemens. His departure left the Rams with practically no NFL experience under center behind Sam Bradford.
Tim Walton: After plenty of mid-season speculation, Tim Walton saw his tenure as defensive coordinator end after only one year of service. Walton was the former defensive backs coach for the Detroit Lions. He also had third down defensive package responsibilities under Jim Schwartz. Fisher hired Walton to improve those specific areas. Third down efficiency on defense did improve from 20th in 2012 to 14th in 2013 but the secondary, and defense as a whole regressed.
Resignings and Additions
Rodger Saffold: The circus staring the Oakland Raiders and Rodger Saffold has been well documented. Long story short, The Rams were able to resign Saffold to a five-year, $31.7 million contract with $19.5 million guaranteed. That signing allowed St. Louis to keep the offensive line in relatively good standing. It also opens up more possibilities in the upcoming draft, while at the same time, limiting the amount of holes on the roster. Saffold gives the Rams a potential All-Pro guard while also providing depth at left tackle if needed.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: The resigning of linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar was a greatly underrated roster move. The Rams signed Dunbar to a two-year contract that can max out at $3.5 million. Dunbar’s experience under Gregg Williams and his impact as a starter are key examples on why this signing is a steal. The veteran was second on the team in tackles in 2012 and is a major contributor against the run. With Ogletree, Laurinaitis, and Dunbar holding down the starting roles and Ray Ray Armstrong waiting in the wing, the Rams linebacker core is extremely formidable.
Alex Carrington: The Rams waited until late March to make their first outside free agent pick up of a player with NFL experience. That player turned out to be former Buffalo Bills defensive end Alex Carrington, who signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract. Carrington is viewed as a versatile defensive lineman, which will be vital in order for him to make a successful conversion from a 3-4 defensive end to a 4-3 defensive tackle. Luckily, St. Louis has a proven track record of aiding in such a transition. Kendall Langford was a 3-4 defensive end for the Miami Dolphins and ended up having career year in 2013 as a 4-3 defensive tackle for the Rams.
Shaun Hill: A veteran quarterback was a major hole on the roster. Shaun Hill was one of the best backups available on the market. The former Detroit Lions quarterback has completed 61.9 percent of his passes with a passer rating of 85.9 and 41 touchdowns to only 23 interceptions over his career. His great deal of actual game experience includes 26 starts and a record of 13-13 as a starter. Hill signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract with escalators and incentives that can max out at $2.25 million.
Kenny Britt: The signing of Kenny Britt represents the Rams’ free agency philosophy in a nutshell. Snead and Fisher went for low risk, high reward signings. Britt signed a one-year, $1.4 million contract, with escalators and incentives that can reach a maximum value of $2.9 million. Britt has shown flashes of explosive play-making ability. Unfortunately, he has not proven to be a consistent play maker. Part of that is due to injuries, including a torn ACL and MCL in 2011. If Britt has overcome his knee injuries and off the field issues, this could be another free agency steal.
Gregg Williams: One of my personal favorite signings of the offseason was Gregg Williams filling the role of defensive coordinator. Williams will replace last year’s soft coverage defense with a much more aggressive approach. It will be very interesting to see how Williams (who is usually a blitz happy coordinator), calls the defense with a line that is more than capable of consistently harassing the quarterback without additional pressure. I’m sure he will see that as a good problem to have.
Former Undrafted Free Agents: The Rams also signed former New York Giants linebacker Etienne Sabino and former Florida State cornerback and returner Greg Reid.
Sabino went undrafted out of Ohio State in 2013. The Giants signed him to their practice squad for the 2013 season. He is expected to add depth at linebacker and contribute on special teams.
Greg Reid also went undrafted in 2013, in large part due to off the field concerns and two ACL tears in the same knee in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Reid was signed to the roster after shining at Florida State’s pro day and a private workout held by head coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher was impressed with Reid’s movement and football IQ. Reid will be expected to compete for the nickel corner position and contribute on special teams. Reid is a legitimate play maker but he must clean up his off the field issues if he wants a shot to prove he can ball on the NFL level. Reid was recently released from Lowndes County Jail after being arrested last week for probation violation.
The Rams stayed relatively low key during free agency. Do you think that was the right strategy? Do you think the roster was upgraded? Let me know you thoughts.