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Rams approach free agent decisions

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Free agency madness starts Friday. Rams fans trying to read the tea leaves for some idea about what the Rams plans are this season need look no further than this quote from the team's new personnel guru, Billy Devaney, that appeared in a USA Today story yesterday.

"There were non-starters that got the franchise tender this year. That's because the pool (of free agent) is so small this year. There's going to be a small amount of players who are going to get ridiculous money and people are going to say, 'You've got to be kidding me.'

"People are looking and saying, 'We're not going to spend a lot of money on other team's free agents. We don't have to compete with other teams.' I think all the moves are great, teams can tie up their guys, using the franchise tag."

"If you can supplement a little bit by getting a starter, maybe a backup, some depth, that's the most you can hope for. You're not going to build your team in free agency."

I wouldn't be surprised if the team were just a little gun shy after handing out a big free agent contract to Drew Bennett last season. Plus, with the second overall pick in the draft likely to command a deal in the $30 million neighborhood, the Rams can't tie up too much cap money for a free agent.

Still, I think we can expect them to make a few moves on the free agent market to find some depth or maybe even a starter at a position that wouldn't immediately be impacted through the draft.

We've talked a lot about trying to sign Steelers G Alan Faneca to beef up the interior line. Obviously, Faneca would make a huge impact; however, he'll cost big bucks, enough money that it would divert resources from addressing other team needs. Take a look at the so called "Valued Seven" on the USA Today article featuring the Devaney quotes. There are two guards and a center listed among those seven players.

Titans left guard Jacob Bell is an interesting option. He's only 26, and the Titans thought highly enough of him last year to tender him at the first round level. The Titans had a good rushing game last year, fifth in the league with 131 yards per game on average. According to Football Outsiders, they had an adjusted line yards number of 4.44 for the middle/guard direction, 8th best in the league.

Miami guard Rex Hadnot is also available. Like Bell, he's 26, and even though he played for the hard luck Dolphins this season he's a solid starter that can also play center, something the Rams might be interested in to replace an aging Andy McCollum. Another thing in Hadnot's favor, he played for Linehan, something we know dramtically increases a player's chances of getting attention from the Rams. The Dolphins, it's rumored, plan to target Faneca in free agency making Hadnot dispensable and an added expense they can't afford given their first overall pick and stated desire to make some splash via free agency.

If the Rams could sign either one of those guys, it would be a great move that makes them younger on the line and adds skill. Saints center Jeff Faine's also an interesting option depending on what they do with McCollum.

On defense, Titans 26-year-old DE Antwan Odom might be an interesting option for the Rams, depending on what they do about a DE with their first pick in the draft. Odom had a breakthrough 8 sack season with the Titans and is looking for a multi-year deal with about $15 million in guaranteed money. Tennessee ran a stifling 3-4 defense last season that had a league best -13.5% DVOA to go with their league best DVOA of 19.2% against the pass last season. Leonard Little likely figures into this equation as well, whether or not the Rams cut him loose or rework his contract and make him a LB in the 3-4 will have a lot to do with their plans this offseason.

Having said that, here's a question: is it realistic to expect the Rams to rework deals with both Isaac Bruce and Leonard Little? They're both due $9 million in roster bonuses this week ($7m to Little), which would make Leonard's cap value this season almost $10 million. It's tough part of the business in the NFL. We'll know more by the weekend as to their plans. Little might be easier to replace with an impact player this season, via either the draft or bringing in a FA like Odom.