If there’s one clear positive that fans of the St. Louis Rams can hang their hat on from the past two offseasons, it’s the fact that the club has not been shy when it comes to opening up their wallet. This team has seen some massive upgrades on the always pricey free agent market in both 2012 and again in 2013. The only issue with this style of aggressive approach is that the salary cap does still exist and the Rams are currently right up against it. Some smart accounting moves will have to be made over the course of the next four weeks to provide enough room for the team to sign its upcoming rookie class which will in all likelihood feature two first round picks.
Beginning a year ago with the new regime of Jeff Fisher as head coach and Les Snead as general manager, the Rams made a concerted effort toward improving the team with massive amounts of cash. Despite the constraints of salary cap purgatory that lingered from years past, the team still made some sizable investments in players that they felt would greatly enhance their roster in one way or another.
The headliners from a year ago were Cortland Finnegan, Scott Wells, and Kendall Langford. Finnegan was a Fisher staple with the Tennessee Titans brought over to bring some attitude to a then benign defense. Langford provided depth along a defensive line rotation that turned into the top unit in the NFL in terms of sacks this past season. Wells unfortunately missed much of this past season due to injury, but his impact was quite noticeable when he was out on the field anchoring the offensive line.
This time around the names have changed, but the hope for potential impact is very much the same. Jared Cook signed on the first day of free agency and although he is listed as a tight end on the depth chart, he can do much more that the typical duties of an in-line tight end. Cook splits out quite regularly as a wide receiver and will provide quarterback Sam Bradford with a much needed dynamic threat on the outside in the passing game.
Speaking of helping out Bradford, clearly the addition of Jake Long was the biggest (both literally and figuratively) in that regard. Long will hold down the left side of the offensive line allowing Rodger Saffold to shift over to right tackle and immediately upgrade that position. With the aforementioned Wells hopefully fully healthy in 2013, the Rams’ offensive line could quickly change from a weakness to a strength.
All told, the Rams spent a potential $98 million on their acquisitions in 2012 and then another $87.65 million this offseason with possible escalators included in the contracts. Whether this turns out to be money well spent or not remains to be seen, but at least fans can’t say that owner Stan Kroenke is too cheap to put a winning team on the field.