Tired of hearing about the offensive line? Good, 'cause an interesting tidbit appeared in the Post-Dispatch today that gives us a nice segue for trying to map out the shape of the Rams o-line next season.
From Jim Thomas:
Adam Goldberg appeared to take all the snaps at right tackle with the starters Friday, although Haslett said Alex Barron was fine.
Interim head coach Jim Haslett kicked off a quiet evaluation period for the Rams younger players when the team's slim hopes faded after the week 9 loss to the Cardinals. Having that as context, you can't help but wonder about Barron, who defines missed potential, and his future with the Rams.
It's a safe bet the Rams will spend a high draft pick for an offensive tackle this year, a replacement for aging Pro Bowler Orlando Pace. A free agent LT is also a possibility, but too slim of one to count on. Whichever route they choose, it'll be an expensive one, and that's a lot of money to have sitting on the bench, likely signaling the end of Barron or Pace's time with the Rams.
Pace? Yes, don't discount the possibility of the Rams parting ways with Pace after this season. Pace is under contract through 2011 and hasn't played a full season since 2005. However, I think cutting Pace is the less likely scenario. The team will endure a much smaller cap hit if they wait and cut Pace prior to the 2010 season. Getting rid of Barron opens up the right side for a new guy who can move to the left side if/when Pace misses time. If this yet-to-be-determined tackle does move left, the Rams can use Adam Goldberg on the right side. Goldberg is not a long-term starter up front, but he's a good quick fix in that scenario.
What about the rest of the line and the linemen? The Rams have options in the middle, but let's start with the surest thing. This year's free agent addition, LG Jacob Bell, is going to be a Ram next season; get used to the idea. Though he hasn't played to the level of his paycheck, if he adds weight - he's playing at least 15 lbs light this season - I remain confident he can meet expectations.
The uncertainty centers on the center...so to speak. Brett Romberg's played well after stepping in for Nick Leckey, but he's not good enough to be a 16 game starter at this level. The Rams can either sign a free agent or draft a center. Their current starter at RG, Richie Incognito, is an unrestricted free agent this season, so he could be that free agent signing. He has played well this season, though his empty head has done little to win fans over. The team could slide him over to center and install John Greco, who's played well in his recent audition, on the right. If they opt to say goodbye to Incognito, they could find another center and still make Greco the starting RG. I really think the odds favor Greco starting next season. As far as Incognito, this franchise finds itself in its current state because they've been too casual in letting talented players fly away; they probably ought to keep Incognito, opinions on how to cheer aside.
We can really expand the menu if we consider the possibility of Greco playing right tackle. Why not? The rookie played tackle at Toledo, and Haslett praised his work in pass protection. If he gets better at G and really catches on in run blocking - he was praised for that in draft scouting reports - sliding over to RT isn't at all far fetched. Then the Rams could resign Incognito for RG and find a bona-fide snapper through another route.
What's the best course?
They've got options in terms of personnel, but the need to get better on the offensive line is not up for discussion.