Projected Lineups: St Louis Rams
If the Rams lost all of their unrestricted free agents, didn’t re-sign anyone and didn’t draft anyone, their roster really wouldn’t look significantly different than the 2013 season outside of having Sam Bradford healthy. The Rams have built their roster with recent high round draft picks who will ideally continue to improve mixed with a few veteran offensive free agents that have panned out.
In a worst case scenario a lot of these young players don’t pan out and St. Louis has another losing season. In a best case the Rams make the right moves this offseason and can help keep the NFC West the best division in football.
– Player markers are colored per class on a five-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
– Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
– Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
– Red player names suggest injury risks.
– Click on the image to enlarge.
– The Rams have one of the least diverse rosters when it comes to talent. This is due to the fact that 18 of 24 players are in the average to below average starter category which is tied for the most in the league. This makes them as a team a largely unknown because nearly every projected starter is someone who hasn’t lived up to their draft pick yet but has the potential to improve.
– By far the best position group is the defensive line. Only three players on the roster are an above average starter or better, and two are their defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long. The two defensive tackles, Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford, are also among the best players on the roster.
– Over the last three years the Rams have spent five early draft picks on receivers, and to this point none have developed into anything more than role players. While we list these three players as the likely starters, until someone steps up we will likely continue to see a five-man rotation.
– One of the most interesting positions to keep an eye on this offseason is the interior offensive line. Most of the Rams’ notable free agents are guards including Shelly Smith and Rodger Saffold who both played well as part-time players last year. Regardless of who is or isn’t brought back, look for St. Louis to spend one or more draft picks on offensive linemen. Of the 10 linemen currently under contact, only one was drafted by the Rams.
– The biggest need is slot cornerback where Cortland Finnegan hasn’t lived up to his reputation. It wasn’t ideal to move safety Rodney McLeod to the slot when Finnegan was hurt and it wouldn’t be surprising if next year’s slot corner isn’t currently on the roster.
2014 Cap Situation
At the moment the Rams have very little money to spend on free agents and draft picks, only having roughly $600,000 of cap room per overthecap.com. A lot of this is due to Sam Bradford, Chris Long, James Laurinaitis and Cortland Finnegan having a combined 2014 cap hit of over $50 million. Luckily with high draft picks and few 2013 players as free agents, they aren’t as bad off as other teams with that little cap space.
By far the biggest question is at quarterback, where Sam Bradford is an average player and not playing nearly up to his salary. Cutting him would allow the Rams to draft a quarterback early and use the money gained to build around him. Keeping him would mean not re-signing some of their better free agents and continuing to build around him with the draft.
At cornerback, Finnegan’s contract isn’t the most friendly to be cut as it would lead to a lot of dead money, but with his age and production it would make sense to let him go.
The other two possibilities that would save a few million each are linemen Harvey Dahl and Scott Wells. Both were well-paid free agents who have played decently but not up to expectations. Letting them go would give them cap space to re-sign some of their free agent offensive linemen, and also give them opportunities to be full-time starters. Releasing Finnegan as well as these two linemen would effectively make Chris Long, who is currently 28, the oldest player on the roster.
Opportunities from the Roster
It wasn’t until Week 9 that third-round rookie Stedman Bailey worked his way into the wide receiver rotation. His playing time went up as the season went on to the point where he was playing in 40 or more snaps in each of the last two games. His PFF pass rating of +1.9 was the best out of the Rams’ wide receivers, and he could earn himself a starting job next year.
Cory Harkey mostly lines up at fullback, but at times plays tight end or goes out to play like a wide receiver. His receiving numbers on a small sample size looked very good especially late in the season, so he could gain more receiving opportunities in 2014.
Projected lineups by team:
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