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Looking ahead to the St. Louis Rams offseason needs in 2012

Quarterback Sam Bradford is part of the St. Louis Rams championship nucleus. What needs will the team have to fill in 2012 to compete for a championship?
Quarterback Sam Bradford is part of the St. Louis Rams championship nucleus. What needs will the team have to fill in 2012 to compete for a championship?

Seeing the recent crop of 2012 NFL mock drafts got me thinking. The St. Louis Rams came into this year's draft will a long list of needs, still trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild a roster after years of neglect. GM Billy Devaney managed to address some of those needs (DL, WR, S), while question marks loom as to the others (RB, OG, OLB). Maybe free agency will happen this year and the Rams can address those needs, at least with a stopgap. Maybe not. Whatever happens, they're likely to have a whole new set of needs by the time 2012 arrives. 

So what will be, or might be, the Rams' biggest needs next year?

Running back - Barring some wild, unforeseen occurrence, the Rams will not find a replacement for Steven Jackson this year. A decent backup is still possible, maybe even a complement, but not an answer. I talked about Jackson's contract structure the other day. Due $7 million in 2012 and 2014, the Rams will have to ask themselves very serious about Jackson's future with the team. 

Defensive tackle 3k noted in his statement piece after the draft, that Spagnuolo's Rams don't see interior defensive linemen as important enough to justify high picks or big dollars over other needs. Yes, they had Corey Liuget high on their draft board as well as Terrell McClain, but they ultimately passed on both, notably so in the case of taking a TE over McClain. Look at Spagnuolo's time in NY. Barry Cofield was a fourth round pick, and Fred Robbins was a cast off from the Vikings. Both grew into solid players until Spags, but his Giants had their resources tied up on the edges of the DL. First round, fourth round or free agency, the Rams will have to add a DT for the 2012 season...unless they have a move planned for this offseason still (looking at you Barry Cofield). 

Center - Centers last a long time in this league, but if concerns about Jason Brown's ability show up this season, the Rams will most certainly have to find a fix next year. 

Wide receiver - McDaniels has it nailed down on quantity after drafting two last weekend, but will 2012 be the time for the Rams to find one of those so-called No. 1 wide receivers? Is this the year they get their Julio Jones or a free agent equivalent? Should it be?

Cornerback - 2012 is the last year on Ron Bartell's contract after the Rams re-signed him in 2009, luring him away from a potential new home with the eventual Super Bowl champion Saints. Injuries rendered him ineffective in 2009, but he had a good year last year. If injuries become a concern this year or his play declines, the Rams will have to start thinking about who to pair with Bradley Fletcher. Is Jerome Murphy his eventual replacement? If he is, they'll still need to find another talented press corner to throw into the mix. 

The good news about this list is that you can see just how well-positioned the Rams are with so much young talent on the roster. Now, there will be some contract concerns that start popping up around that time, for instance 2012 is the last year of Chris Long's contract. But at QB, OT, DE, MLB, the Rams have the young players to form a solid foundation for a winning franchise for a long, long time. 

Expectations around the 2012 offseason will be stratospheric. That offseason should be when the Rams become a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Winning the NFC West won't be enough in 2012.