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St. Louis Rams: Loss of Robert Turner in Free Agency Could Be A Understated Loss to the Team

The Rams have lost a few big name players to free agency this year. While the loss of Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola caused their fans to lament, Robert Turner's departure to the Tennessee Titans could have huge overtones this season...

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In 2012, the Rams offensive line was a patchwork mess for most of the season. Big money free agent Scott Wells, the Pro Bowl center from Green Bay, was out most of the year recovering from injuries. Robert Turner was signed to a one year contract, and the former New York Jets offensive guard/center became a proverbial trouble shooter for the Rams. His 2012 stats weren't what has me wondering why the Rams decided not to re-sign him. While I respect what Pro Football Focus is trying to do by reducing a players contribution to numbers, it really doesn't tell the tale of what Turner meant to the shaky Rams line.

Here's the take by Pro Football Focus:

...Another team Twitter account broke a signing as the Titans announced that Robert Turner will be joining the squad. He graded at -1.7 for the Rams last season while playing 651 snaps at center and 432 at left guard. He should be in the mix at right guard next season, as 2012 starters Leroy Harris and Deuce Lutui remain in unrestricted free agency. Turner is also an insurance policy if restricted free agent Fernando Velasco ends up elsewhere. The Titans have made the offensive line a priority with the signing of LG Andy Levitre and Turner adds another versatile option.

Turner came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent, landing on a Jets team in constant "Rex-ian" turmoil. When Brian Schottenheimer was shown the door at the end of the 2011 season, and then signed on to be the St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator under Jeff Fisher, Turner was one of the player who tagged along. Few Rams fans knew much about him, and still don't to this day. Quiet off the field, but down right nasty on it, he helped stem the tide of Sam Bradford being brutalized by opposing defenses. Take a peek at his 2007 pre-draft analysis:

CBS Sports has this take on the class of 2007 lineman out of the University of New Mexico: of the premier run blockers in the Mountain West Conference, paving the way for a 1,000-yard rusher all 4 years of his career, and has improved his pass protection each year as well … a very personable and mature young man off the field, but is an intimidating, fiery competitor between the lines … is the Lobos' enforcer on offense who is one of the most physical linemen ever to come through the program …

He played so well for offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, that I actually submitted his name for consideration in the Rams MVP balloting held here at Turf Show Times. Don't roll your eyes, Turner is one of the players I really love to watch. While many think of him as a journeyman lineman who are readily found, I truly think Jeff Fisher let a home-run pitch go by him. The signing of Miami offensive tackle Jake Long was super, but they took a step backward by letting Turner slip out of town. I'm sure most will agree with me that the middle of the offensive line is a key component, especially when you consider the All-Pro linebackers the division boasts. I'm not really sure Rokevious Watkins is up to stopping Patrick Willis on a blitz, are you? The NFC West is turning into the land of "Berzerker" defenses, and the OG/C/OG part of the line is what will separate winners from losers in the NFC West. Yes, the Rams have some high draft picks to address the needs they have, but I'm not sure anyone can count on a rookie to step into the offensive guard spot in the NFL and succeed out the gate. Alabama's Chance Warmack may be one hell of a player, but even he'll need time to learn the ropes of the NFL game.

The Tennessee Titans scored a free agency win when they signed Robert Turner, and the Rams can put a check mark in the loss column. Yes, I know the economic practicalities of the NFL make signing every one of a team's free agents untenable, but every so often I'd like to see the unsung guys like Turner receive their due. I wonder what goes through Sam Bradford's mind when he goes from cheering the Jake Long signing, to trying to imagine who the Rams will find to play left guard, or center if Wells doesn't last the season? While we as fans bounce along the free agency roller coaster, I think we forget the upheaval felt by the players on the team. I guess it's time to close our eyes, and just hold on. Oh, and make sure DC isn't in the roller coaster car ahead of you. He has a titchy stomach...