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Rams Special Teams Get More Special, Will Matt Turk Be There, Though?

The recent spate of Rams signings have added depth to the defense, whether or not it's all quality depth is still being debated, especially with the Rumph signing earlier this week.

Besides adding depth, what the Rams have really done is make a concerted effort to beef up their special teams units with reasonably priced players.

Safety Todd Johnson was a special teams specialist with the Bears. He's fast and a good tackler. He's obviously good depth to have in the backfield, but his real value to the Rams is on he special teams unit.

The Rams newest LB, Chris Draft, will either replace Kacyvenski or complement him on the ST unit. Quality depth at LB was the reason for signing Draft, but don't be surprised if he becomes a regualr on the ST unit as well. He's quick enough to play ST and can avoid being blocked enough to make tackles.

Travis Minor was a depth guy in Miami, and was even called a spare part at the beginning of the season. Still, he saw some work as a third down guy when Ronnie Brown sat out with an injury. His used to return kicks, where his quick feet and an ability to change direction well made him a useful role player. Another guy Linehan coached in Miami, Minor, at this point, is first in line to return kicks for the Rams, and represents a slightly better option than last year's array of struggling returners who got lucky to find the twenty yard line. Minor's hardly a lock to make to team this summer, but he is a decent enough pick up as a role player on special teams.

Ditto on the whole might not make the team out of camp thing for Rumph too. Still, he's a guy looking to shake off that deadly early career hype out of the spotlight somewhere. Eventhough he was pretty consistently burned by the Rams (see the movie below for one notorious example) he just might prove useful as on special teams with his physical style of play and decent speed. Never one for the zone defense, Rumph is prone to mental lapses, which he'd have to overcome or minimize to play on the special teams units.

So, with the exception of James Hall, the Rams FA signings on defense - and one notable ball carrier - have the added intention of bolstering a special teams that allowed opponents an average of 25 yards with every kick off, 5th worst in the league. On the return side, the Rams averaged just 21.3 yards per return, among the league's worst as well. Each situation left the Rams defense and offense with poor field position and lots of extra work that helped expose a weak run defense more than it needed to be exposed.

Improved special teams play will go along way to making the Rams better on both sides of the ball. It doesn't put to rest the headscratching fans are doing over the lack of a DT signing, but the moves do help and, hopefully, signal better things to come.

This news, on the other hand, does not bode well for the Rams special teams, nor does it speak well of the Rams management. Matt Turk was the lone gunman on an otherwise pretty weak group of special teams units. Management, reading between the lines of the PD story linked above, the Rams must be holding firm to the league minimum for a guy in Turk's situation, which is a $810K, or somewhere pretty close to that number. Here's the money quote:

"If there was any flexibility on the part of the Rams, I would be flexible as well. But (the Rams) just really haven't budged at all. It was more or less a stance of: 'This is our offer, take it or leave it.'"
He makes his case by stating that, as one of the league's top 10 punters, he should be paid accordingly. In defense of the Rams, a punter can be replaced with relative ease, and Turk is 37 with a history of groin problems. Potential replacements may not be a guy of Turk's caliber, but between the draft and the myriad of free agents I'm sure there's an acceptable solution out there.

The situation is a sure sign that, to be really cliched about it, "the times are a changin'." On one hand you've got the new economic realities of baseball's "Moneyball" era seeping into the business side of the NFL; on the other hand, you've got the notion of rewarding a guy who came through for your team. It becomes a tough call.

Personally, with the Rams so tantalizingly close to being a legit contender, I would probably just go ahead and sign the guy, and take care of one important, if unglamorous, team need.

Unless of course, there's a big DT signing in the works, making every penny count, that we don't know about...but I doubt it.