Is there anything as exciting in Pro Football as punters?
Yes, lots of things, but we can't talk about the D-line everyday, can we? For the Rams, whose improved defense remains somewhat questionable, the punter's role is actually a little more important than it would normally be. Matt Turk's long punts gave a very mediocre defense good field position. Last year last year for punts inside the 20 (percentage) Turk was second best in the NFC at 36.1 and his average of 43.5 yards per punt was squarely in the middle of the league.
Given that at last report the Rams were "at a stalemate" with Turk, we can assume that no news is bad news, and the Turk will likely be playing somewhere else next season. There are some other punter available, all restricted free agents.
Derrick Frost - Redskins Averaged 42.9 yards per punt, and his inside the 20 percentage was 33.3.
Donnie Jones - Dolphins 42.8 yards per punt, and 32.9 inside the 20 percentage.
Kyle Larson - Bengals 44.5 yards per punt (2nd best in the AFC), and 33.8 inside the 20 percentage. [signed a 1 year contract with CIN worth $1.3 million]
Being that they're each restricted free agents, that means signing one costs a draft pick. Larson would have cost a 2nd round pick. Donnie Jones is solid punter with two full seasons of the job under his belt. As a RFA, he would cost a 7th round pick. He played with Linehan in Miami in 2005, when he punted for an average 43.5 yards a punt. Hmmm, Linehan seems to really like former Dolphins players, so there's reason to believe the Rams might at least be interested. Of course, RFAs don't get a lot of action in the market, just 4 RFAs switched teams last year. And with a late round pick, the Rams could probably grab a decent punter, albeit one lacking NFL experience. Here's a look at some of the better punters available in the 2007 draft.
Todd Sauerbrun - banned substance user - is also available, with NE retaining the first right of refusal. The Donkeys of Denver made him an incentive laden offer this week, but there's no word whether or not he's accepted it.
I suppose you saw this PD story today in which Linehan notes that's "optimistic" about the defense, noting that they expect some players to improve this year. He's correct in stating that the Rams need a starter at nose tackle and not one of the available backups; however, one might make the case that a good backup would greatly improve the rotation in down-specific situations. One player targeted for improvement is none other than whipping boy Jimmy Kennedy. Here's Linehan's money quote:
I'm as guilty as I think a lot of Rams fans are about overlooking Kennedy's injury, and that should help him. However, I've also seen him play for the past few years, so I don't think our criticism is completely wrong-headed. Time will tell.