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Brown, Butler and Bartell: Rams free agent open thread, Saturday 2/28

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[Note by VanRam, 02/28/09 2:26 PM EST ] Uh oh. Talks with SS James Butler aren't going quite as smoothly as hoped. Butler has a visit with the Browns scheduled for tomorrow, and his agent says that Butler and the Rams are "still a bit apart." Argh. This would be a loss for the Rams. Butler would really give them a ready-to-roll building block for the defense. Of course, it's not over yet, but it doesn't seem quite as imminent as the Brown deal did yesterday.

[Note by VanRam, 02/28/09 6:01 PM EST ] Butler has left the building...without a contract. Come on, St. Louis is totally a better place to play than Cleveland.

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It's a done deal. The Rams and C Jason Brown agreed to a five-year, $37.5 million deal with $20 million in guaranteed money. For those of you keeping score at home, that's a bigger deal than last season's o-line free agent acquisition, Jacob Bell (six-years, $36 million, $13 guaranteed) and slightly smaller than the deal the Jets gave G Alan Faneca in last year's free agent market (five-year, $40 million, $21 guaranteed).

However, Brown's not even 26, heading into the prime of his career. He's big, he's tough, he's exactly what the Rams need up front to make this offense work again. In 2008, Baltimore's offensive line had an overall adjusted line yards (ALY) number of 4.28, 9th best in the league, versus 3.99 RB yards per rushing play, meaning that Baltimore's o-line was a bigger factor in their running game than the actual back. On runs through the Mid/Guard spot, where the Ravens sent 54% of their runs, the o-line pounded out 4.40 ALY, 10th best in the league. That helped the Ravens own a 5.9% DVOA for their rushing game, 9th best in the NFL. Now, extrapolate those numbers to the Rams with Steven Jackson as the featured back... pretty exciting to think about the possibilities, no?

I'm also pretty geeked up about the seemingly likely possibility that the Rams are going to sign SS James Butler. Among other problems, our defense struggled with gap and assignment problems throughout the season. Butler's a guy who can really help with that, quarterbacking the defense. That's the reputation he earned playing for Spagnuolo in NY, and reuniting the two seems like a great match for a defense looking to rebuild its shattered identity.

Finally, keep your fingers crossed that the Rams work something out with CB Ron Bartell, who's visiting the Crescent City as you read this. It sounds like negotiations with the Rams and Bartell are progressing, but all it takes to torpedo that is one fat offer from another team, a very real possibility.

Stay tuned, we'll keep on top of the free agent news as it happens. And feel free to use this as an open thread for the free agent feeding frenzy. Besides what's happening with the Rams, there's lots to talk about.