With the Rams' football season officially concluded, their off-season now begins in earnest. This will be an intriguing, difficult off-season for the St. Louis Rams. There will be tough decisions to make regarding pending free agents. Potential issues with the quarterback position and offensive line will command the Rams' attention. Ultimately, the team will be looking to put the final pieces in place for a playoff run in 2015.
The Rams currently have 70 players under contract:
- The 53 players who ended the season on the 53-man active roster.
- The 7 players who ended the season on Injured Reserve: Sam Bradford, Demetrius Rhaney, Jake Long, Brian Quick, Isaiah Pead, Mason Brodine and Brandon McGee.
- The 7 players who were signed from the practice squad to reserve/futures contracts after the season ended: OT Steven Baker, G Travis Bond, WR Emory Blake, WR Devon Wylie, DT Doug Worthington, FS Christian Bryant and LB Marshall McFadden. Practice squad player DT Matt Conrath was not offered a reserve/futures contract.
- WR Damian Williams was signed to the off-season roster last Friday.
- P Michael Palardy and TE Brad Smelley were signed to the off-season roster on Monday.
Rams sign WR Damian Williams to their offseason roster. He was with team for 4 games this season, appearing in 2 games w/no receiving stats.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) January 2, 2015
Rams sign TE Brad Smelley and P Michael Palardy to their offseason roster.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) January 5, 2015
Reserve/futures contracts are only available to players who were not on any NFL team's active roster at the end of the regular season. Players who were on practice squads or out of football entirely at the end of a season can be signed to this type of contract. The contract is for the 2015 season, and doesn't count against the salary cap until the new league year begins in March.
14 Rams players are eligible for free agency on March 10, 2015. Player contracts run concurrently with the league year. The Rams may re-sign any of the 14 players before that date:
Position Player FA Status C Tim Barnes RFA G Davin Joseph UFA RT Joe Barksdale UFA OL Brandon Washington ERFA OL Mike Person UFA WR Kenny Britt UFA TE Lance Kendricks UFA TE Cory Harkey ERFA RB Chase Reynolds ERFA QB Shaun Hill UFA QB Austin Davis RFA LB Will Herring UFA DT Alex Carrington UFA S Rodney McLeod RFA
The accompanying chart presents the Rams' projected roster on March 10, if none of their eligible free agents are re-signed before that date (March 10 is the beginning of the new league year, and the opening day of free agency):
|C||Scott Wells||Demetrius Rhaney|
|LG||Barrett Jones||Travis Bond|
|RT||Jake Long||Steven Baker|
|TE||Alex Bayer||Justice Cunningham||Brad Smelley|
|TE||Jared Cook||Mason Brodine|
|WR||Brian Quick||Chris Givens||Devon Wylie||Damian Williams|
|WR||Tavon Austin||Stedman Bailey||Emory Blake|
|RB||Tre Mason||Trey Watts|
|RB||Benny Cunningham||Zac Stacy||Isaiah Pead|
|P||John Hekker||Michael Palardy|
|DT||Aaron Donald||Kendall Langford|
|DT||Michael Brockers||Doug Worthington|
|DE||Chris Long||William Hayes|
|DE||Robert Quinn||Eugene Sims||Ethan Westbrooks|
|MLB||James Laurinaitis||Daren Bates|
|OLB||Alec Ogletree||Korey Toomer|
|OLB||Jo-Lonn Dunbar||Marshall McFadden|
|CB||Janoris Jenkins||Marcus Roberson||Brandon McGee|
|CB||Trumaine Johnson||E.J. Gaines||Lamarcus Joyner|
|SS||Mark Barron||Maurice Alexander|
|FS||T.J. McDonald||Cody Davis||Christian Bryant|
Five offensive linemen are eligible for free agency in March. In addition, Jake Long and Scott Wells are potential salary cap casualties. The offensive line remains the Rams' most critical area of need heading into the off-season.
Sam Bradford is the only quarterback on the roster contractually obligated to the Rams beyond 2014. Shaun Hill and Austin Davis are eligible for free agency in March.
Depth at linebacker is an ongoing concern for the Rams. The Rams were fortunate in 2014, insomuch as the unit didn't sustain any injuries of note during the season.
Heading into the off-season, the Rams' offensive units will come under far greater scrutiny than their defensive counterparts. The defense will only need minor tweaking in the off-season. Conversely, the offense will need an infusion of talent at many positions. The offense will likely undergo a fair amount of turnover. Of the Rams' 14 eligible free agents, 11 of them are offensive players.
March 10 is a key date for all 32 NFL teams. They have until that date to re-sign any of their own eligible free agents. All 14 of the Rams' eligible free agents' 2014 contracts expire at 4:00 p.m., New York time. In addition, teams cannot sign free agents from other clubs until their contracts expire on March 10.
I'll be updating the Rams' salary cap situation in the next few days. The salary cap will hold the key to how the Rams' off-season will unfold.
St. Louis Rams Off-Season Primer Series
Rams Beyond 2014: Salary Cap, Roster & Free Agents
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2015 NFL Mock Draft: St. Louis Rams - 7 Rounds
2015 NFL Draft: St. Louis Rams' Team Needs?
St. Louis Rams: Keep, Release, Sign & Draft