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2011 free agents: Should the Rams take another run at Darren Sproles?

The name Darren Sproles should be marginally familiar to St. Louis Rams fans, from an armchair GM standpoint.

Last year, the Chargers floated the idea that they would not retain the restricted free agent. Billy Devaney pounced. A visit scheduled with the bantam-class running back got scuttled when the Chargers extended the highest possible tender to Sproles.

Sproles is scheduled for free agency this year (CBA pending), and it might be difficult for San Diego to hang on to him given how many free agents they have as well as having Ryan Mathews on the roster and Mike Tolbert ticketed for restricted free agency. ESPN's AFC West reporter Bill Williamson doesn't see Sproles in the plans.

This free agent is a luxury player. Because Mathews and Tolbert are a big part of the Chargers' plans, I could see a situation where Sproles is allowed to leave in free agency...Sproles, who'll be 28 in June, was paid nearly a total of $14 million by San Diego over the past two seasons. With other needs and the emergence of the other two backs, I don't see Sproles getting nearly the amount of money he has received the past two seasons.

Sproles can return kicks and fits the profile of a speedy outside runner who catches passes out of the backfield, the perfect complement to Steven Jackson.

Here's the catch. San Diego could easily let Sproles go thinking that they can pick up a similar, newer model in the draft, someone like Derrick Locke or Kendall Hunter. Then again, so could the Rams...and for a lot less money than a free agent with some wear on his tires. St. Louis has already shown some interest in those players at the Senior Bowl last week, an indication of what kind of runner they're looking for to pair with Steven Jackson.

On the other hand, Sproles is a known commodity, not the case with a rookie. There are those who think Sproles has lost a step. He had 5 catches for 48 yards against the Rams last year and another 115 yards on 5 kick returns. He didn't look like he'd lost a step to me, but I didn't watch many Chargers games last year (the NFC West was more than enough for me). Pros and cons either way...definitely something to consider.