As of today, you can add my city of residence, Springfield, MO, to this list of most miserable cities. We're iced in. No power since 9:30 p.m. last night. The office never felt so welcoming. I could bitch all day about this, but I'll cut it off...for your sake as much as mine.
I'm going to start with the tight ends.
Randy McMichael looked like an expensive luxury for a 3-13 team. Considering the oft-cited list of reasons why the Rams offense didn't work, it's no surprise that McMichael had his worst season in terms of yardage and receptions.
With Al Saunders taking over the offense, though, bigger expectations for last season's second most expensive free agent signing should be in the cards. If you'll recall, Saunders' offense in Kansas City featured TE Tony Gonzalez pretty prominently. Of course, the one caveat to that is that Gonzalez has been the Chiefs' best receiver for a few seasons. Still, McMichael owns a career yards after catch average of 4.7. Even with the receivers the Rams have, McMichael should figure heavily into the "new" offense that ought to take more advantage of those skills over the middle.
Remember, Saunders cut his coaching chops under the legendary Don Coryell in San Diego. His offenses have embraced much of the "Air Coryell" and West Coast approaches, that have made considerable use of tight end routes in their playbooks. McMichael's cap value next season is $3.9 million and in 2009, his last year under contract, it's $4.6 million. He'll only be 29 next season. Expect a rebound.
Maybe Saunders' experience as a receivers coach can help Joe Klopfenstein realize his potential. Remember, when Klop was drafted his hands and size (6'5", 262 lbs)were going to give the Rams a consistent red zone threat and a guy with the ability to stretch the field. Unfortunately, Klop became a Ram as the team entered a the current rough period. He caught 20 passes for 226 yards in 2006, but ultimately suffered in Linehan's offense.
With McMichael on the team, Klop isn't going to get 40 catches. However, we would like to see the second round pick develop his offensive ability, but more important to the Rams in the short term, we'd like to see him take a great leap in terms of his blocking ability. Hopfeully, tight ends coach Judd Garrett works closely with Saunders and the Rams new assistant head coach and blocking expert Art Valero to get Klop up to speed.
It would certainly be to Klop's advantage. His initial contract with the Rams expires after the 2009 season, same as McMichael. His cap value in 2008 is $770K and $855K in '09. If the Rams part ways with McMichael, who'll likely command more money after his contract expires, they may want to resign Klop, their second round pick from 2006, to fill the void. Now we'll see if that other quality Klop was drafted for - his character and willingness to improve - was spot on or not.
As for our current third tight end Dominique Byrd, there's just no way the Rams keep this guy is there? His attitude is trouble in locker room by all accounts, and that hasn't improved in two seasons. He's signed through this season, with a $600K cap value.
Some other quick notes:
- I'm directing your attention (again) to this diary from AmpLee for a review/preview of the defensive line. We'll come back to it again as the draft and prospect events get closer.
- Don't underestimate the coaching and front office changes the Rams have made this season. Check out this column from Bernie at the PD today.
- The Rams are on the hook for $1.63 million in 2008 and $1.8 million in 2009 for the services of one Jeff Wilkins. It would be hard to imagine the Rams without their all time leading scorer, but considering the cap space he commands and a declining leg he showed this season, moving on may be the best thing for both parties. Is Justin Medlock the replacement we're looking for?