As day two of the free agency period begins, the majority of the top players at Rams’ positions of need are off the board and have landed elsewhere around the league.
The Rams’ major team-related move on day one was the departure of guard/tackle Rodger Saffold to Oakland, a move that had been rumored over the weekend but became official with yesterday’s opening of the new league year. Saffold’s re-signing had long been considered a key benchmark in how the Rams’ offseason would shake out, but it’s hard to fault their reluctance to pay the injury-prone fifth-year man $8.5 million per year as the Raiders were willing to do.
The Rams’ stayed true to the conservative approach to free agency that they’d hinted at since season’s end.
Their rumored interest in former Tennessee cornerback Alterraun Verner never came to fruition, and the former Jeff Fisher draft pick wound up in Tampa Bay for $6.5 million per year, a deal that seemed like an affordable one for the Rams. Additionally, the two top safeties on the market, Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward, also found new homes. Byrd, a St. Louis Native, surprised most when he visited and signed with New Orleans yesterday, while Ward became one of a handful of top free agent defenders to head to Denver.
The Rams never hinted at adding any free agent help along an aging offensive line, as the re-signing of Saffold was always the one glaring priority. However, Saffold is gone and along with him is guard Harvey Dahl, who was released to create cap space. With guards Chris Williams and Shelley Smith garnering outside interest as well, the Rams may be faced with very serious depth concerns should those two depart as well in the coming days. The Rams missed out on the top free agent interior line players as well, as Kansas City’s Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah found new teams (The Giants and Falcons, respectively) as did Denver’s Zane Beadles (Jacksonville).
The Rams’ NFC West counterparts were all more active than the Rams yesterday, to an extent. The Cardinals snagged former Oakland offensive tackle Jared Veldheer for five years and $37.5 million to bolster what was one of the worst units in the league last season. The Seahawks re-signed defensive end Michael Bennett and tight end Anthony McCoy, and have a visit lined up with tight end Jermichael Finley. The 49ers were big shakers on day one as well, landing safety Antoine Bethea from the Colts and trading a sixth-round pick for former top-ten pick quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
So what does the Rams’ conservative approach to free agency mean?
Just because they weren’t active on day one doesn’t mean they don’t plan to make any moves at all. It just means that they won’t be making any splashy ones. There are still a handful of free agent players that can be added to the secondary for a lesser fee, but they aren’t necessarily long-term impact options. The names Champ Bailey and Antonio Cromartie come to mind, but they’d both represent stopgap solutions, as would the majority of the remaining pool. Safety Thomas DeCoud, who was released by Atlanta yesterday, might be someone to keep an eye on if only for the fact that he was a five-year starter for general manager Les Snead’s former employer.
Only one thing is really certain as day two kicks off: Any moves the Rams make at this point, outside of re-signing Williams and Smith, will be one that few (if any) of us saw coming.