It's a well known fact that the Rams were loaded with draft picks from the RG-III trade in 2012. The team used those picks to build a team that was young, talented, and most of all cheap - thanks to the new rookie wage scale. They then used that financial flexibility to take a few major swings in Free Agency.
While the first part of that strategy allowed the Rams to build one of the most promising rosters in the NFL, the latter part blew up in the team's face. While they have had some success with the smaller contracts, their big swings haven't worked out. Cortland Finnegan, Scott Wells, and Jake Long are all no longer with the team. Jared Cook is the lone big-money free agent catch still on the roster... and his production hasn't warranted the contract he was given.
In my opinion, those Free Agent flameouts are one of the main reasons that the Rams haven't ascended out of the NFC West basement. Obviously the Sam Bradford injuries didn't help, but these big names were meant to bridge the gap for Fisher and Snead. The player's failure to do that was a large part in the regressions that happened in 2013 and 2014.
No matter. That period of this regime has passed. The 2012 draft class - save for 1st round pick Michael Brockers - will be free agents after the 2015 season. The Rams no longer need to overpay free agents to play for them. Their objective now is to evaluate, prioritize, and retain the best talents that are currently on the roster. That's going to prove as quite the task as the Rams have 17 potential free agents.
While those players are listed by position, the man on top, Nick Foles, is the top priority for the Rams. Foles has impressed the Rams so much that they may have already decided whether he's worth a long term extension. The AP has gone as far as saying the Rams 'know' that they want Foles long term.
While Foles draws all of the contract headlines, he's far from the only priority at Rams camp. Counting Foles, the team has at least 10 significant players that will be free agents. This snippet from a Nick Wagoner article both soothes and scares me a little.
While the Rams will take a wait-and-see approach with many of the aforementioned players, they've already reached out to the representatives of most of their potential free agents. They've also identified at least a handful of guys that they would like to have as part of the core moving forward. In addition to Foles and Brockers, the Rams have seemed to prioritize Jenkins, Harkey, and McLeod.
It's encouraging that the team has dialogue going with most of the potential free agents. But a wait-and-see approach could very well bite them in the ass. Could some of these players play their way into big contracts - and out of the Rams comfort range financially?
That being said, the Rams have some wiggle room next year. I'm no Dubs, but Over the Cap has the Rams current 2016 payroll at just over $116M. With the salary cap potential reaching $160M, the Rams could have $40M+ to sign a bunch of these guys.
There is a lot of work to be done to keep this team together and moving in the right direction. Hopefully Snead and Demoff are better at retaining talent than they are at bringing in outside Free Agents.