I went on a little break after the draft but now I'm back and ready for my first 2015 Rams offseason preview! This year should be fun, from the battles in training camp to the confetti flying after the Superbowl. Nice to see that Rams are finally at the point where cutting down the roster becomes tough and there are some young, talented players who we may not even have room for! Thanks to our youth,contract timing and some natural declines in contracts; we should be able to really add to this team next offseason without losing much. So now I'm going to go through these 2015 offseason preview starting with key changes, what our needs may be, and finally who we may target to fix those needs.
Key Roster Changes
Key Roster Changes
Obviously a lot can happen between now and 2015 but there are a few names I expect to no longer see on this roster. Some of the big ones are Austin Pettis, Isaiah Pead, JoLonn Dunbar, Scott Wells, and Kendall Langford. I believe Austin Pettis is the only one of these five who is set to hit free agency next season, while the rest are set to hit free agency in 2016. I know some fans may be upset to see a couple of these names, but if you want to keep our young, talented players you have to free up not only money, but roster space as well. Rams are becoming a good enough team that we need to move on from many of these average players. Langford is just a slightly above average DT, but most importantly, he is set to make $7M next year. That is a lot of money for a guy to play behind Donlad/Brockers. I like Dunbar, but I believe with one more year under his belt, Armstrong should be able to replace him. Remember that our 3rd LB will also see limited snaps compared to the other two. Pettis has hit his ceiling and Rams still need more at WR, so it'll be time to move on and find someone to take his spot if we haven't already. Wells is old, oft-injured, pricey, and we have a few guys behind him now (Barnes, Jones, Rhaney), at least one of whom should be ready to take his place. And Pead is Pead. The decline in the contracts of Long/Bradford/JL55, plus cap savings from moving on from these guys should put us in a decent financial position for next year, we should be able to add a nice piece or some decent back-ups in free agency next year.
Possible Positions of Need
Possible Positions of Need
Yeah I'm just going to get this one out of the way first. For the record, I am a believer of Bradford's skill and think he was put in an impossible situation. I beleive Bradford most certainly has the ability to be enough of what a defense/run first team needs. Like the 2006 Bears (REX GROSSMAN FOR CRYING OUT LOUD) or Seahawks in last year's Superbowl. Don't get me wrong, I love Russel Wilson (Sorry, I just like the kid), but Ryan Leaf could've been the QB in that game and they still would've won. Why? Because the defense takes over games and Lynch destroys the other team and opens up some easy pass play. Our defense is getting there, not as good as secondary, but we make up for it with the D-line. Stacy/Mason have the potential to eat up turf like Lynch. So we just need Bradford and company to strike when needed. And although they may not be the best WRs in the game, Tavon/Bailey/Cook/Givens might be enough to strike at the right moments, just like the Seahawks WR squad. Last year before going down Bradford was doing a good job of passing the ball without turning it over (14 TDs to 4 Ints I believe). Also I recall that at least 2 of those Ints were because the ball bounced our of the WRs hands. Bradford had virtually no run game at this point and a couple WRs in sophmore slumps and a couple WRs brand new to the NFL. SO personally, yes I believe he is enough. My concern is with his injuries and contract. Will Sam even hold up this season? WIll he want to resign with us? Will he want an outrageous contract? Will his injuries cause him to digress? These are real concerns that may put Rams on the QB market soon.
Wide Reciever/Tight End
I'm sure you all saw this coming. I remember watching the draft a couple years ago getting excited when the Rams came to the podium for the 33rd pick. "HERE COME ALSHON JEFFREY" I proclaimed. Well we got our WR, but it was Brian Quick instead. I also stomped my feet right into my Dominos pizza out of anger, so that has only added to my resentment towards that pick. Here we are today, Quick is very questionable and Jeffrey is already becoming a star and the big WR threat we desired. As I said earlier, we may not have a #1 WR, but maybe our squad of role players will be enough when combined with our run game and defense. But maybe not. It certainly wouldn't hurt to get Bradford that guy he can just chuck the ball up to. Not only does it make a QB's job easier when the WR actually goes to the ball, (Instead of how all our WR's need it exactly in their hands and will just sit there and wait for it) but it also can instill some confidence in your QB when his passes all off all game when suddenly your 6'5" WR goes up and pulls down some lame lollipop pass into the endzone. Maybe Quick will wake up or Britt will have a turn around. But that's a pretty big maybe. Also Cook has been inconsitant for such an exspensive TE and Kendricks will hit FA, so Rams may look to add to the pass game via TE instead.
Unless Greg Robinson turns into he who shall not be named 2.0, Rams should have their best offensive line in years. I think Coach B will give us our replacement for Wells, I still think Jones will be a very nice center. Our O-line could look like this going into 2015: Long, Robinson, Jones, Saffold, Barksdale. That's not too shabby, especially considering Long/Barksdale graded well and Saffold/Robinson could dominate the interior. However, Barks will be a free agent, Long is injury prone and aging, and Saffold is made of glass. If we decide to stick with the injury prone Sam and want a run game we can rely on, we need a good offensive line. Due to a departure, injury, or desire to start developing a future starter for our line, Rams may veery well be looking for more OL next year.
LOL - JUST KIDDING. Although, we may want to look for a 3rd DT next year, or a future replacement in Long, we are pretty set there.
With all the additions to the secondary, on top of competent coaching and an increased pass rush, LB may be the weakest positional unit of our defense. I love JL55 but he is exspensive, aging, and his play has decreased as of late. Rams may be in the market for his future replacement next year, someone to add some consitency to balence out the wild play of Ogletree.
I plan on writing a seperate article about our secondary but I'll say this. I'll be extremely disapointed if we need to add a high-pick secondary player in the draft next year. With actual defensive coaching, increased pass rush (A consitent interior pass rush that benefits the secondary was greatly lacking), and all the new talent added to our secondary, I don't expect this to be a big need. We added Joyner, Reid, Gaines, Roberson, Alexander, and Bryant to our squad. If anything is a need here next year, I could maybe see Free Safety if our safeties still fail to cover, but I doubt it, especially considering what I've heard about William's defense, a traditional free safety isn't what he uses.
Who to Keep an Eye On
Who to Keep an Eye On
Well now we covered what our biggest areas of need may be next year. I am personally going to guess that starter wise we will be looking for a big WR. Then I think we will be looking to add to our offensive line and get someone learning behind or replacing JL55. I don't think we will be looking for a QB or DBs, but it's possible of course. It is hard to say who will be the big draft talents for next year this early, but here are some of the guys you may want to keep a lookout for leading up to next year's draft.
Quarterbacks: M Mariota, B Hundley, J Winston
If Rams do move on from Bradford then these will be the big names you likly here being linked to us. All three of these guys can make stuff happen on their feet while also making the big throws. Like Russell Wilson, they may be able to keep plays alive long enough to get a WR open and make the throw. All three are still raw, but have tons of potential. Unless we crash and burn this season we would likely have to sell the farm to move up and get one, but it may be worth it if we already have all the pieces around the QB.
Wide Recievers: Dorial Green-Beckham, J Strong, A Cooper, D Funchess, N O'Leary
I expect WR to be the most likely position we attack next year. There are a few interesting names for free agency next year, but I am not going to get into that too much. Hard to predict what kind of money we will be spending next year and which players won't resign with their team, never the less be interested in us as well. DGB has all the tools to be the next big star WR. But he still needs work and is always in trouble. This could cause him to fall to the Rams as opposed to being a Top 10 pick like he'd normally be. Like Janoris Jenkins he will be playing at a smaller school next year to gain back some value before the draft. Strong is a tall wide reciever who could be what Quick hasn't been (LOL Quick and Strong...). Cooper doesn't have the height, but there are many who believe him and DGB could be a much better WR porspect duo then Watkins/Evans were. Rams would likely have to trade up quite a ways for Cooper, but may be able to grab Strong in the middle of the first. Funchess could be the big recieving TE Cook was suppose to be if he is too inconsitent again. O'Leary isn't as big of a TE, but will be competing with Funchess for the top TE spot.
Offensive Line: A Peat, C Ogbuhei, B Scherff, C Erving, J Collins, T Jackson, C Robinson, D Humphries, L Tomlison
Maybe Bradford will stay healthy and Quick will be who we need him to be. If so, Rams could look to really turn offensive line into a stregnth by adding to the offensive line in the 1st again. After all, we did almost trade back into the 1st to get Zach Martin in this last draft. Even if we don't go OL in the 1st, it may be a good idea to grab another OL on Day 2. The first five guys will likely go on Day 1, but the last four may be available on Day 2. Rams however may just choose to add to the offensive line via free agency next year.
Linebacker: D Perryman, J Jenkins, B McKinney, S Thompson
Linebacker will be the last position I cover here as it is the last one I could really see warranting much attention next offseason. I think we should be good on the outside with Ogletree and eventually Armstrong, but we may want to add some dpeth there. Maybe someone that could play behind Ogletree/Armstrong/JL55 for a year, and then man JL's spot after his departure. Also Rams could look to add an edge rusher to the team, just to add to the likelyhood that opposing QB's never get a pass off. These guys I listed are traditional LB's likely to be available in the mid-to-late 1st and 2nd. If Rams look for an edge rushing LB there look to be a lot of interesting names for Day/2 next year. Rushing OLB could be one of the biggest positions in next years draft.
Luckily for the Rams, next years draft looks to have a lot of offensive talent early and we also will have decent money to add nice depth via free agency. Rams really have a good oppurtunity next year to add talent to this team while not really losing much. As of now, my way to early 2015 Rams prediction/desire would be:
Add some OL/DT depth via free agency (Maybe resign Carrington?)
Draft DGB or Strong (WR) in the 1st.
Draft a LB like Perryman or McKinney in the 2nd. Or maybe some OLB/DE who could eventually take over for Long.
I'm really looking forward to the 2015 season with you guys and the possibility of our Rams killing it this year, which means these players could be the cherry on top! I hope you enjoyed the article and aren't to harsh on my errors as my laptop is broke so I'm borrowing one I hate typeing on. Also it is 3 AM so I'm in zombie mode and won't be proofreading. I alos plan on addressing the secondary more in an article later this week as well as taking my own stab at our depth chart for this year. If you aren't following my sports account on Twitter already be sure to do so soon! (@Rams_Bulls_News) Thanks for reading!