Arguing about the dates aside, there should be enough progress in the NFL labor negotiations to signal that the end of the lockout is certain. When that does happen, the St. Louis Rams, whether they play the August 7 Hall of Fame Game or not, will have a long list of things to do prior to their season opener with the Philadelphia Eagles.
One of the first priorities will be making some decisions about their own free agents, who to keep and who to drop. I want to kick off our Rams to-do list series with a look at which free agents they should try and keep. Operating under the assumption that FA returns to the four-year rules, here's the list of free agents.
Unrestricted: WR Mark Clayton, RB Kenneth Darby, TE Daniel Fells*, DT Gary Gibson*, OT Adam Goldberg, S Michael Lewis, WR Laurent Robinson*, DT Clifton Ryan
Restricted: LB Chris Chamberlain*, OT Renardo Foster*, LB Larry Grant*, OG John Greco*, CB Justin King*, LB David Vobora*
After the jump, my thoughts on the keepers and what that asterisk means.
The asterisk are the players that received RFA tenders prior to the lockout. You'll notice that several players received those offers who will most likely be free agents once the league gets back to business. Tendering those players was a precautionary measure taken amid the uncertainty over the lockout; it's not a guarantee that those players will be back. However, in some cases it is telling, e.g. the team prefers Gibson over Ryan at DT.
These players should be re-signed.
WR Mark Clayton - The case is pretty clear for keeping Clayton. He and Bradford developed a strong connection last year, and he has the potential to be a useful role player in McDaniels' offense. The Rams and Clayton were close to a deal before the lockout.
DT Gary Gibson - Not that you want a world where Gibson is the starter from day one, but he gives the Rams solid depth at a position where they're already thin.
OL Adam Goldberg - I know, I know...but hear me out. Goldberg can play four of five positions on the offensive line. I think he's better on the outside than the inside, but the fact remains that he is a solid sixth offensive lineman. Given his starting experience, he could probably find more playing time and more money elsewhere.
TE Daniel Fells - After drafting Lance Kendricks, Fells is a long shot to earn a spot. He may choose to look for starting work elsewhere. Still, he would be good depth for a system that will prioritize tight ends this year.
WR Laurent Robinson - Again, hear me out. McDaniels has turned around other sub-par receivers, so at least get Robinson back into camp and see what he does with another shot and a new OC.
As for the restricted free agents, keep them all on the low tenders. Some will provide depth, some should compete for starting jobs (Greco) and none are guaranteed a roster spot come September 8.
Making decisions on their own free agents, fortunately, won't command too much time since the Rams don't have a long list and nobody demanding a serious contract negotiation.
It should be noted that King actually re-signed with the Rams already.