The St. Louis Rams roster will get a thorough evaluation from the coaches and front office staff, as well as the fans. But there's one player that deserves special consideration. One player that's been, in many ways, symbolic of recent struggling Rams teams, who have struggled both in spite of and because of him...the one and only Alex Barron.
Since joining the league as the Rams first round draft pick in 2005, he's been a fixture on the Rams offensive line. The same offensive line that effectively ended Marc Bulger's career by allowing a historic number of sacks. However, Barron can't be blamed for all of the trouble the line caused Bulger because it has been consistently decimated with injuries during that time span, while Barron has proven to be incredibly durable.
The injury bug may not have been a factor in Barron's career, but penalties have been a constant. He found himself benched twice this season, mostly ceremonial because of the Rams injuries at OT, because of the mental lapses that plague his game. For a while there it looked like the first benching might work, but alas, he led the NFL in penalties this season with 14, swapping out some of the false start flags he usually draws with some holding penalties, the price of moving to the left side I suppose. If the Rams were a better team, the penalties might not have been such a glaring offense, but when something pushes this offense back five yards, you might as well send in Donnie Jones.
Penalties aside, Barron's a so-so offensive tackle. Pass rushers have been easily able to manhandle him at times, but he does have enough athleticism that he's hardly among the worst tackles in the league.
I'm not the only Rams fan who has at time fumed at the site of Barron drawing another penalty and insisted upon his total banishment, regardless of the consequences. Maybe it's the offseason, maybe it's the practical-mindedness that comes with fatherhood, but I'm reconsidering my desire to see the guy playing OT for the Browns. Hear me out before you click away. The Rams have lots of team needs as they head into this offseason, and a finite number of draft picks and what will be a likely thin free agent market because of the CBA situation for the Rams to fill those needs. Obviously Billy Devaney, despite his touch with personnel, won't be able to address all of those needs this spring. Therefore, I think it's worth considering that the Rams bring back Barron for 2010.
Why? Depth, first and foremost. The team will need offensive tackles and they'd have the ability to retain Barron rather cheaply because he'll be a restricted free agent this offseason in the almost guaranteed circumstance of the cap not being in place. Don't create another need to address this offseason when you can wait a year. That does not mean I think Barron should automatically be penciled in as the starting RT. Bring him back as depth, something we've seen time and time again that the Rams ALWAYS need up front. The coaches can make him compete for the RT job in camp, or at least operate under that illusion. I'd probably lean toward starting Goldberg at RT at this point or bringing in a cheap option to put into the mix. At the very least maybe the Rams could trade him, depending on whether or not the return would be enough to justify losing an affordable OT.
I never thought I'd be advocating to keep Barron in a Rams uniform for one more season at the very point when the Rams have the opportunity to end the relationship. But the league being what it is and this upcoming capless season making the environment for roster rebuilding more difficult, it's an idea that merits consideration.