NFL News A Look At The St. Louis Rams Needs For The 2013 Off Season
2012 Record: 7-8-1
Available Salary Cap Space: 6 Million Dollars
Coaches: Head Coach: Jeff Fisher Offensive Coordinator: Brian Schottenheimer Defensive Coordinator: Tim Walton
Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Key Free Agents: Stephen Jackson Running Back, Danny Amendola Wide Receiver, Rocky McIntosh Linebacker, Barry Richardson Offensive Tackle, Craig Dahl Safety, Mario Haggan Linebacker
2013 Draft Picks (Round, Position): 1(16), 1(22), 2(14), 3(16), 4(16), 5(16), 6(16), 7(16)
Team Offense: 23rd
Rushing Offense: 19th
Passing Offense: 18th
Scoring Offense: 25th (18.7 pts./game)
Team Defense: 14th
Rushing Defense: 15th
Passing Defense: 15th
Scoring Defense: 14th (21.8 pts./game)
Capsule Summary: There is a reason that Jeff Fisher was one of the most highly sought after coaches in 2012. Fisher inherited a team coming off of a 2-14 season, with very little top end talent and turned it into a 7-8-1 team with very little top end talent in one short year. Under Fisher, the Rams went an impressive 4-1-1 in the rugged NFC West and did not lose in either of their games against the vaunted 49ers. The Ram Offense is a long way from reminding anyone of the Greatest Show on Turf days of the late 1990’s/early 2000’s and will likely be losing two of the only viable weapons it has in Running Back Steven Jackson and Wide Receiver Danny Amendola. The Defense is the definition of middle of the road and has 3 players (Defensive End Chris Long, Middle Linebacker James Laurinaitis and Cornerback Cortland Finnegan) who are good but not great and set to make a combined 40 Mil in 2013. There is not a huge cache of cap space to spend on Free Agency unless some contracts are terminated or restructured so most of the improvement will have to come from the draft and the current roster. St. Louis is the only team in the NFL with 2 first round draft choices in 2013. General Manager Les Snead seems to have a plan that is based on the long haul as he has structured some of his biggest contracts to have their biggest hit in 2013 and fall back to more reasonable levels in the ensuing years. So far, Snead’s plan does not include the acquisition of big ticket skill position players through Free Agency. If such an acquisition is in the cards for 2013, he has done a good job keeping it a secret. As we head into 2013, it looks like it’s going to be more of the same things we saw in 2012. Sam Bradford is firmly entrenched as the face of the franchise at Quarterback and still thanking his lucky stars for being the last of the pre-collective bargaining agreement bonus babies who got huge money right off the bat. Someday, Les Snead is going to have to provide Bradford with some actual weapons so that we can see what kind of talent the former Oklahoma Sooner actually has.
Here are 5 specific areas that General Manager Les Snead and Head Coach Jeff Fisher will have to address in 2013 if the Rams are going to see improvement in 2013.
1. Wide Receiver: The Rams receiving corps in 2012 consisted of one very good slot receiver and a bunch of #3s and #4s. Everyone knows Unrestricted Free Agent Danny Amendola but who outside of St. Louis knows who Chris Givens, Brandon Gibson, Austin Pettis and Brian Quick are? The good news for Rams fans is that Givens and Gibson were fairly productive with 698 and 691 receiving yards each. Quick is a 2012 second rounder who has a high ceiling with his speed and excellent size at 6’3” and 220 lbs. That group of four looks to be the future core of Sam Bradford’s arsenal, assuming Unrestricted Free Agent Gibson is brought back and Amendola is not. This group will come cheap and if they continue to develop, Snead and Fisher are going to look like the smartest guys in the room. With a major move in the Free Agent market being unlikely, the Rams will have an opportunity to use one of their two first round draft picks to find a legitimate playmaker at the Receiver position. The best fit looks to be West Virginia’s Tavon Austin who can slide right into Amendola’s slot Receiver position and inject his electrifying speed and quickness into the mix while giving Sam Bradford a real weapon.
2. Running Back: I’ve always felt kind of bad for Steven Jackson. The guy is an absolute stud who can gain 1,000 yards in his sleep and has been forced to endure regime after regime of losing football. It seems clear now that Jackson is going to test his fortunes in the Free Agent market so that he can find a way to make a Super Bowl run before the cummulative effects of the beating he has taken render him unable to play anymore. With Jackson on his his way out the door, the Rams appear to be ready to go with a tandem of 2012 2nd rounder Isaiah Pead and 2012 7th rounder Darryl Richardson, who are both under 200 lbs. Les Snead may choose to find a bigger back to provide a contrast to Pead and Richardson such as Kansas City Free Agent Peyton Hillis or give that role to Terrance Ganaway, a 240 pounder. In the draft, a couple names to remember for St. Louis are Arkansas’ Knile Davis and Texas A&M’s Christine Michael.
3. Safety: Quintin Mikell had an outstanding season in 2012 and many felt that he should have been a lock to go to the Pro Bowl. The conflict with Mikell is in regards to the 9 Mil cap hit that he is going to bring to the payroll in 2013. There aren’t many targets for payroll reduction on the St. Louis roster and Mikell could be one of them. If Mikell is released, the Rams will likely be starting 2013 with two brand new Safeties. Last year’s starter opposite Mikell was Unrestricted Free Agent Craig Dahl and the Rams are not going to offer him a new deal. This is a good year for Safeties in the draft so the Rams may see a release of Mikell a good way to save on payroll and development young talent. A more conservative approach would be to release Mikell, sign a mid level Free Agent like Miami’s Chris Clemons and fill the other spot with a rookie. Some of the rookies to look for as possibilities to come to St. Louis are LSU’s Eric Reid, Florida’s Abram Elam, Oklahoma’s Tony Jefferson and FIU’s Jonathan Cyprien.
4. Offensive Tackle: The Rams seem to be set with Roger Saffold at the Left Tackle spot. Saffold was solid if unspectacular in 2012 and the Rams feel that his best days are ahead of him. At the Right Tackle spot, Unrestricted Free Agent Barry Richardson played well in 2012 but may be leaving for greener pastures in Free Agency. If Les Snead does not re-sign Richardson, Wayne Hunter will move into the spot, much to the chagrin of Rams fans. If the Rams can find a better solution to Hunter through the draft or Free Agency, his 4 Mil salary will be off the books in a flash.
5. Linebacker: The Rams are set at the Middle Linebacker spot with James Laurinaitis and Weak Side Backer JoLonn Dunbar. One of the marching orders for Les Snead is to find a starter on the Strong Side to replace Unrestricted Free Agent Rocky McIntosh. With two picks in the first round, this position could be an early target with possibilities including but not limited to Kansas State’s Arthur Brown, Georgia’s Alec Ogletree, Rutgers’ Khaseem Green and Texas A&Ms Sean Porter.