Every team has its collective fingers crossed heading into each offseason that the skilled players available in free agency or the NFL Draft will match up with where the most help is needed on the depth chart. The draft is much more of crapshoot due to the collegiate players never having played a down at the professional level yet, but free agency is another animal entirely with players available who have proven track records in the league. Perhaps that’s why the St. Louis Rams could try to dabble in free agent market once again this offseason and coax a big-name signing to the Gateway City.
With a proactive general manager like Les Snead who isn’t afraid to shell out some cash for quality and a coach like Jeff Fisher who’s notorious for standing up for his players and being a great guy to play for, the ingredients remain in place for the Rams to lure another big name to town this offseason. The primary need areas of safety, cornerback and pretty much anywhere along the offensive line could prove fruitful when it comes to landing a top level free agent.
Beginning in the secondary which is clearly the biggest roster deficiency in St. Louis, the Rams are likely to cut ties with Cortland Finnegan who is getting up there in age and has been injury-prone of late. His enormous cap number would free up more than enough money to pursue a potential gem on the free agent market. The main name at safety is Jairus Byrd, but he is unlikely to leave Buffalo and if he does it will be for a gargantuan payday that the Rams can’t afford. A lesser known commodity who could sneak onto the open market is T.J. Ward of the Cleveland Browns. He has been a solid performer since starting all 16 games as a rookie, and at just 27 years of age he would add yet another young star in the making to a secondary filled with youth.
Another lesser known option in the secondary at the corner spot is Walter Thurmond. He is a part of the “Legion of Boom” with the Seattle Seahawks currently so this addition would be beneficial in two ways by adding a big-time playmaker and taking one away from an NFC West rival. He’s just 26-years-old and would make a terrific addition to the cornerback duo of Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson already in place. Thurmond is far enough under the radar and perhaps a bit of a question mark given his suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy that the Rams could land him for a reasonable dollar amount as well.
Moving into the trenches, there are plenty of mid-level guys who could be of interest if the Rams turn the page on players like Scott Wells at center, Harvey Dahl and Chris Williams at guard, and potentially Rodger Saffold at tackle given that he too is a free agent. Saffold’s versatility makes him the top of the list for priorities along the offensive line, but he may be too pricey for the Rams to hang on to.
One guy who could be had for a reasonable number is Geoff Schwartz of the Kansas City Chiefs who is just 27 and has been a consistent performer at guard throughout his career. The Chiefs will likely look to keep him around, but if he ventured just a bit eastward he could land comfortably in St. Louis.
At center, Fernando Velasco stepped in admirably for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Maurkice Pouncey’s absence this past season to play at a Pro Bowl level. He will be 29 this offseason, but he has familiarity with coach Fisher from his Tennessee Titans days and is still playing at a high level. A two or three-year deal with him at a moderate salary after cutting Wells could actually upgrade the position while saving money.
It may not be quite as eventful of an offseason as the last two with additions like Jared Cook and Jake Long or Finnegan and Wells hard to afford, but the Rams can still really improve their roster with some bargain shopping this time around. Look for a more conservative and strategic approach to rule the day in St. Louis this offseason.