Earlier in the week, I had promised a look at the soon-to-be available free agents that could provide immediate help to the Rams defensive line, but the realities of work and life interfered. Excuses aside, this is what should be the first of several discussions and posts TST will have over the course of this offseason about the direction for the Rams in the 2007 season.
No doubt about it, the D line needs help. The Rams poor rushing defense and a pass rush that consisted of Leonard Little and (crickets chirp) Leonard Little. The free agent market offers a number of solid options that could go a long way toward plugging the holes in that key part of our game that cost us more than one loss this season. The following list of free agent defensive linemen comes from the web site Football's Future. Let's take a look at who's available and how they might help the Rams.
Dwight Freeney, UFA, Indianapolis Colts
Freeney's a top notch pass rusher and he's likely to be one of the more sought after defensive ends on the FA market. Indianapolis' defense suffered the same problem the Rams defense did. In the game against the Chiefs last week and several times throughout the season Freeney got burned by running backs more than a few times. In his defense, he was playing injured this season that kept him from making any sacks and just five tackles. His value is in the pass rush though, which could make him attractive to Haslett who favors the rush.
Jared Allen, RFA KC
He might be the best on the market, and the Chiefs will try hard to keep him. He's young and is loaded with talent and speed. Would look good in a Rams uni, but we'll still desperately need a big nose guard or tackle to anchor the run defense.
Vonnie Holliday, UFA, Miami Dolphins
Spidey sense tells me that this could be the man we're looking for. He's got the size and track record of being a good run blocker, and is arguable the best free agent defensive tackle on the market. Linehan's familiarity with Miami may help too. He gets the TST stamp of approval!
Terdell Sands UFA Oakland Raiders
For the 2-14 season and Art Shell's incompetence, the Raiders still had a decent defense, and Terdell (did his mom really name him that?) Sands was part of that, even in a part time role through stretches of the season. He might be itching to get out of Oakland too, seeing the writing on the wall. He's 6'7" and 335 lbs and has the potential to be the unsung hero of the Rams run defense. If he wants more playing time, I know the team that can give it to him.
Justin Smith, UFA, Bengals
Another top-flight DE that will be in high demand. Would clearly help the Rams by giving them a double edged sword on the pass rush. However, the Rams defense needs two things: an anchor on the line to stop the run and another good defensive end to complement Leonard Little. Depending on who the Rams can draft in the 13th spot this spring - a blue chip DE or DL - they're likely to pursue the other in free agency.
Edward Jasper, UFA, Philadelphia Eagles
He's 33 years old, and had 24 tackles in 15 games this season. Definitely not among the top tier of DL free agents; he's more of a complimentary guy is the Rams already had an anchor on the D line.
Chad Lavalais, RFA, Atlanta Falcons
Was released by the Falcons in September. Pass.
Cory Redding, UFA, Detroit Lions
Was a big part of those Texas teams in '02 and '03 as a DE. He converted to DT with the Lions, and while the fact that he played for the Lions might make him less than appealing, consider this. As the Lions DT, he had 48 tackles, 8 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He's a smart player that fits well into lots of defenses. Hmmm, sounds like he might be a good fit. Give him the TST stamp of approval.
Hollis Thomas, UFA, New Orleans Saints
Got into some trouble this season for his asthma medication and a complication with the steroid test, but has been a big part of the Saints resurgence. He sat for the last four games of the season. This DT is long in tooth, but still managed 35 tackles and 3.5 sacks through 12 games this season.
Robaire Smith, UFA, Tennessee Titans
This DT was cut by the Texans and signed by the Titans in September. Part of a Titans defense that helped the Titans win 6 of their last 7 games.
Bryan Thomas, UFA, New York Jets
The Jets' first round pick in 2002. The DE had 77 tackles and 8.5 sacks this season for a resurgent Jets. And pundits thought it was all because of Chad Pennington. Might be a good pick up for the second DE spot.
Michael Myers, UFA, Denver Broncos
The Donkeys had a pretty good defense, no question about it, and DT Myers' 57 tackles played a big part of their running defense that limited opponents to just over 113 yards per game. At 6'2", 300 lbs he's got the size.
Those are the big names out there on the free agent market, many of them could bolster a beleaguered Rams defensive line. Let the debate begin.