5 St. Louis Rams Who Shouldn’t be Back in 2014
5 St. Louis Rams Who Should be Replaced Next Year
As the St. Louis Rams head into offseason mode, they’re going to have to start making decisions on how the players from their 2013 squad fit into their 2014 plans. Though this phrase is beginning to sound like a broken record, 2014 is the year that the Rams truly expect to take it to the next level, and with recent draft picks like Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, Alec Ogletree and Tavon Austin now ready to play to their potential, the team needs to have a good supporting cast in place if they want to compete with the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and even the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC West title.
St. Louis will have plenty of chances to upgrade their talent in the 2014 NFL Draft, where they are currently the owners of two first round picks. More than just with the draft, though, the Rams need to weed out some of the players who under-performed in 2013 and could realistically be replaced by younger, similar players. With only five players over the age of 30 who were part of the team during 2013, this wouldn’t seem to be much of an issue, but a surprisingly high amount of the Rams’ troubles were rooted within this small group.
Offensive linemen Scott Wells and Harvey Dahl both dealt with significant injuries during the season, so in the end, quarterback Kellen Clemens, backup linebacker Will Witherspoon and safety Matt Giordano were the only 30-plus players to stay healthy throughout the regular season. Adding in the fact that linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar dealt with a drug suspension at the beginning of the year, it wasn’t the best of times for the Rams’ older players.
It would be wise for the Rams to try to get even younger and more talented next season, and they can do so by parting ways with any of the following players.
5. Cortland Finnegan, CB
The 29-year-old Finnegan is somewhat of a wild card on this list. He was the second-worst rated corner in the league by Pro Football Focus in 2013, and he only played in seven games due to injuries. Due to the fact that the guaranteed money on Finnegan’s contract is now paid in full and he’s scheduled to make $6 million with a $3 million roster bonus next year, it would be very surprising if he wasn’t released this offseason. However, since Finnegan has a good relationship with the coaching staff and the Rams have no other cornerbacks with more than two years of experience, it wouldn’t be surprising for the team to try to bring him back as a backup on a cheaper contract. With that said, Finnegan will have to prove that he’s healed from an eye socket injury that affected him throughout the season.
4. Harvey Dahl, G
The Rams’ plans for Dahl next year would seem to be highly contingent on whether they’re able to re-sign free agent lineman Rodger Saffold, who started six games at right guard over the second half of the year. If Saffold is brought back, he’d likely take over Dahl’s right guard spot on a full time basis. While it’s conceivable that the Rams could pay Dahl his $500,000 roster bonus and move him to left guard, it would seem more likely for them to go cheaper at the position. It was pretty telling that the Rams listed Dahl as a healthy inactive in Week 17 and instead started longtime backup Shelley Smith at right guard while Saffold replaced the injured Jake Long at left tackle. Then again, if Saffold elects to leave as a free agent, Dahl would be a logical choice to come back and fill the gap.
3. Scott Wells, C
Wells might be the safest cut for the Rams to make this offseason. The 33-year-old, who is scheduled to make $5.5 million next year but has already gotten his guaranteed money, struggled with injuries during 2013 and was the 23rd ranked center in the league by Pro Football Focus over the 13 games that he played. Twenty-five-year-old Tim Barnes, who replaced Wells after his injury, actually graded out better than Wells, and 2013 fourth-rounder Barrett Jones would also be a logical candidate to take over the position.
2. Will Witherspoon, OLB
Despite the fact that the 33-year-old Witherspoon has long-standing ties with both Jeff Fisher and the Rams' organization, it doesn’t make sense for him to be on the 2014 roster. He helped out the team by coming in to replace Jo-Lonn Dunbar after he was suspended, but he barely saw the field from scrimmage once Dunbar returned. Since either Dunbar or a younger player is expected to start at the position next year, it doesn’t make sense to keep Witherspoon around just as a special teams player. With a year of experience, linebackers Ray Ray Armstrong and Daren Bates can now be relied upon to play from scrimmage if needed and also are better special teams players, meaning there’s no longer a need for Witherspoon.
1. Darian Stewart, S
Darian Stewart once again let the Rams down by getting injured during training camp and forcing core special teamer Rodney McLeod into action at free safety. Stewart did not supplant McLeod after he returned, and though he started a few games in place of strong safety T.J. McDonald, he didn’t do anything to distinguish himself as an impact player. Now four years into his career, Stewart has never played all 16 games of a season, and it would be surprising if the Rams didn’t find an upgrade for him in 2014.