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Rams free agents to watch in 2012

St. Louis Rams receiver Donnie Avery needs a big year to get his career on the right track.
St. Louis Rams receiver Donnie Avery needs a big year to get his career on the right track.

So New England Patriots offensive guard Logan Mankins got the franchise tag today. No surprise. That may or may not be meaningful with the unresolved CBA. Typically, teams use the tag to keep their best players on the roster for another year, usually to work out a new contract. It also thins out the potential free agent market, frustrating the tagged players and armchair GMs alike. Whether or not other teams start applying the franchise tag to potential free agents remains to be seen; they have until Feb. 23. 

Using the franchise tag won't be an issue for St. Louis Rams GM Billy Devaney as the  Rams have a pretty thin group of free agents. Some of the players on that list are valuable enough to keep around, like WR Mark Clayton and OL Adam Goldberg, but not with the franchise tag's accompanying salary that makes a player one of the 5 highest paid at his position. 

Hopefully, all this CBA nonsense is gone away by this time next year, and when it is we can settle into our armchair GM'ing without having to put that caveat next to everything. And what about potential franchise tagees for the Rams in 2012? It's not as prominent of a group as the 2013 bunch which includes Chris Long and James Laurinaitis, but there are a couple of players who should at least make free agency and the franchise tag interesting for the Rams next year. 

P Donnie Jones - Repeatedly snubbed for the Pro Bowl, Jones has been a savior for the Rams, since joining the Rams in 2007. His leg has singlehandedly prevented some really nasty blow outs. This year, with a more competitive team, he was still a huge help. He'll be 32 in 2012, but in punter years that's like 28. Franchising a punter is probably a little extravagant, though he wouldn't make what a receiver or cornerback would with the tag. The Rams might re-sign him or find a punter elsewhere in free agency or late in the draft. Either way, it's kind of odd to think about a situation in which the Rams might not have Donnie Jones anymore. 

WR Donnie Avery - This is by far the most interesting player storyline setting up for 2011, and if there's anyone that needs for there to be football this year it's Donnie Avery. He had a solid rookie year in spite of a mostly ineffective offense. His sophomore season, in my opinion, should be a mulligan given just how bad the Rams were and their inability to find a decent QB despite trying three of them. He really, really needed the opportunity to reboot things with Sam Bradford at the helm this year. Unfortunately, Avery never made it to the regular season. He's rehabbed and ready to go this year, one in which he has to make people forget, or at least make the fact less memorable, that he was drafted before noted anti-bully advocate DeSean Jackson