The Rams have been the youngest team in the NFL for the past 3 years. Save for possibly the secondary, no area on the team shows that more than the 'play-makers' do. In the second part of my free agency series, we'll look at the options Fisher and Snead have for augmenting these youngsters.
In addition to being one of the youngest groups of Rams, these players have been more in flux than other position groups. Zac Stacy is still somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle, and will likely stay there given Tre Mason's emergence. The real Brian Quick finally stood up, but then injuries derailed a promising campaign. Silver lining of that was Stedman Bailey's emergence as a solid target for Rams QBs. And we all know the Sam Bradford story... no need to rehash that here - not yet at least.
The 2015 Rams play-makers - for better or worse - will likely look a lot like the 2014 group.
Sam Bradford is the only QB currently under contract, but that's not to say that the team will have a drastic set of QBs heading into next year. Shaun Hill has been offered a contract and negotiations are ongoing (sigh). Also, Austin Davis was tendered this morning, meaning that he will be paid just over $1.5M next year.
With Jeff Fisher saying that a QB 'not in the building now' will compete with Bradford, the position figures to be crowded in camp. Potential options in Free Agency will have to come on the cheap, and having starting experience will be a must. Potential fits are Brian Hoyer, Mark Sanchez, Jason Campbell, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, and Michael Vick.
This position is pretty cut and dry as far as Free Agency is concerned. Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham, Trey Watts, and Zac Stacy are all under contract and Special Teams standout Chase Reynolds was tendered as well, so he is likely back for 2015. Corey Harkey often fills in at H-Back or FB and was tendered at $1.5M as well so the Rams backfield looks pretty well set for next season.
There is a little more uncertainty wit the TE group, but still not much. Jared Cook will be back. As will Harkey after being tendered. Lance Kendricks, however, is likely to earn a bigger payday from another team - and deservedly so. The reason I say it's not a huge concern is because the Rams have Justice Cunningham waiting in the wings. Cunningham has looked good when given the opportunity and will likely be given the 1st opportunity to lock down the final TE roster spot in camp.
That said, is an intriguing option in Free Agency if the Rams decide to address the position there. Jermaine Gresham is a similar 'swiss army knife' type of TE and could fill Kendricks shoes nicely, but would likely be too expensive.
In theory, the Rams have everything they could need at the position. They have two big bodies in Brian Quick and Kenny Britt, a supremely explosive Tavon Austin, a possession guy with reliable hands in Stedman Bailey, and a deep threat in Chris Givens.
That's a perfect world though. The reality is that all of those players have big question marks. Can Quick regain his form? Will Britt re-sign with the team? Can Tavon find THIS in the NFL? Can Bailey continue to develop? Did Givens peak as a rookie? The questions go on and on with this group.
The biggest question is in regards to a 'true' #1 WR. The Rams failure to find a dominant #1 WR has been well documented. As noted above, Quick showed that he CAN be that guy, but a serious arm injury has some questioning whether he can return to that level. Britt is a free agent, but is more of a complementary piece in my opinion. Unless you believe Quick is that guy (I do... but not everyone agrees), the Rams need help here.
At the beginning of the offseason, I didn't believe that the Rams needed to add a WR. But, as I delved further into what's there as far as a proven commodity, I found myself wanting help at the position. Due to the price of a #1 WR in Free Agency, I think that this need is best addressed via the Draft, but there are a few options in the free agent pool.
With players like Dez Bryant and Demarius Thomas locked up with the franchise tag, the top options left are Randall Cobb and Jeremy Maclin. Unless the Rams can find a lot of cap space, neither is likely an option. I'm not a fan of Torrey Smith but the same could likely be said about him.
A name that jumps out at me here is Michael Crabtree. Much like Kenny Britt last year, he would be a reclamation project. A talented player who has fallen out of favor with his current team. Despite being dubbed 'mediocre' by the best CB in the NFL, Crabtree is only 27 still has most of his prime ahead of him. To me, he'd be worth a flier on a one year 'prove-it' deal with a team option for 2016.
For those of you that missed the first part of the series, the OL holds the keys to ANY free agent signing. Or more accurately, Scott Wells and Jake Long do. The core of the Rams will remain largely in tact next season, but there are opportunities to add talent to the group if Snisher chooses to do so. Despite those opportunities, I'm not sure many moves will be made in this area.