It’s been widely assumed all offseason that the St. Louis Rams would do the smart thing and release cornerback Cortland Finnegan this offseason prior to his $3 million roster bonus being due on Mar. 13. News broke on Thursday that the team will in fact have head coach Jeff Fisher own up to the mistake of inking Finnegan to that massive contract two years ago and release the punk cover guy. This move will save the Rams beaucoup bucks against the salary cap, but it will also leave the team somewhat short on bodies at the corner spot. Could this transaction just be a precursor to a larger move to come?
Connecting the dots is always enjoyable this time of year, and it seems like the picture being created by this particular puzzle is upcoming free agent Alterraun Verner of the Tennessee Titans potentially landing with the Rams. Obviously this narrative sounds familiar as the Rams have basically become the franchise where the Titans’ free agents go to get their big paydays. Coach Fisher’s connection to the organization led to the aforementioned signing of Finnegan back in 2012 as well as the deal with tight end Jared Cook just last offseason. Verner could give the Rams a trifecta of former Titans, and a deal for him would be the smartest move of all.
Now clearly that’s easy to say with hindsight being 20-20, but Verner at just 25 years of age seems like a terrific investment for St. Louis at what is arguably the weakest position on their entire roster. Especially now that Finnegan is gone, the Rams are quite thin at corner with Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and Brandon McGee representing the only three with any sort of experience on the current roster. Verner is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance and will likely be looking for a deal similar to the four-year, $32 million pact the Miami Dolphins signed their in-house standout cover guy Brent Grimes to earlier this week.
At 5-foot-10, 187-pounds, Verner certainly isn’t an intimidating physical force like the league currently covets. What he does offer are terrific instincts with a nose for the football as evidenced by his five interceptions and 22 pass breakups in 2013. The fact that this great season for Verner transpired with now Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in Tennessee as a consultant is yet another dot to connect for his path to the Gateway City.
The fact that Fisher left the door open for a potential return of Finnegan to St. Louis at a reduced rate shouldn’t come as a shock, but signing Verner would be like a two for one deal. He learned from Finnegan after being selected in Round 4 of the 2010 NFL Draft during Fisher’s last year in Tennessee, and many of the hard-nosed tactics Finnegan employed are clearly exhibited in his game.
It might seem to obvious to be true, but the Rams pursuing Verner could very well be a deal to look out for when NFL Free Agency opens on Mar. 11. The team clearly has a need at the position, and the picture is starting to come into focus for just what the Rams’ intentions may be this offseason.