Injuries, drug suspensions, and poor depth left the Rams secondary among the team's weakest spots last season. The starters that form the core of the Rams secondary should all return next season, and if they can keep themselves out of trouble (looking at you Fakhir Brown) the team should at least have a solid foundation in Tye Hill and Brown as the starting corners and OJ Atogwe and Corey Chavous as the starting free safety and strong safety, respectively.
Atogwe, however, is a restricted free agent this season. The Rams are expected to tender the 2005 third round pick at the highest level which would net them a first round pick in compensation. They're also trying to work out a long term deal with the 26-year-old, part of what we hope is a sincere effort to reverse the talent bleeding that has plagued the team for so long. If they can't work out a deal, expect the 2007 NFC leader in INTs to become a marquee free agent in 2009. Some would disagree with Atogwe's ability. Thoughts on that?
Strong safety is another area of concern for the Rams. Corey Chavous, valued greatly for his leadership of the unit, had his worst season in a long, long time, dealing with a torn pectoral muscle that made him the team's worst tackler in terms of broken tackles and tackling percentage. He's 32 and heading into his 11th season. His cap value this season is $3.8 million, $2.8 million for '09 and $3.05 million for '10. It's a safe bet that the Rams will have to either restructure his contract before then, if not outright cut him. Finding a replacement strong safety to play a role in the run defense and use as an extra rusher, in the 3-4 or 4-3.
I'm inclined to say that taking a safety in the draft should be a priority, but with age creeping up on a number of the offense's skilled players, finding replacements (i.e. a WR) probably gets the priority this year. Depending on what's available in the second day picks. Safety could easily be a first round need for the team in next year's draft though.
Signing a safety via the free agent market should be a priority for the team this offseason. With the team's other needs, getting one of the pricier safeties probably isn't realistic. Adding a solid backup and a guy who could play special teams, someone like J.R. Reed or Bryan Scott, would give the Rams some good depth along with Todd Johnson.