With the acquisitions part of the NFL offseason all but completed, I thought I’d attempt to rank the top five offseason moves the Rams have made in 2014. It’s fairly comprehensive, as the team made some big headlines via the draft, free agency, contract extensions and some surprise internal hires. Let’s get started:
5. Drafting Michael Sam
The Rams made international headlines in the final round of the recently completed draft by selecting Sam, the first openly gay player to be selected into the NFL. As a seventh-round pick, Sam has his work cut out for him in regards to making the team’s final roster. However, his collegiate credentials shouldn’t go underestimated. The co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year racked up 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for a loss in his senior season at MIssouri.
4. The Saffold Fiasco
In the time leading up to the start of free agency, the Rams’ ability to re-sign guard/tackle Rodger Saffold was widely considered to be the key to the rest of the 2014 offseason. As it turned out, his return to the team wasn’t as big a guarantee as many assumed. Saffold accepted a five year, $42.5 million deal with the Raiders, and all of the sudden the interior of the Rams’ offensive line was a very major question mark. However, perhaps after realizing the huge amount of money they were pegged to invest, the Raiders opted out of the deal after failing Saffold’s physical, citing concerns over his shoulder. He’d then return to the Rams on a five-year, $31 million deal in one of the more confusing free agent ordeals of recent memory.
3. Rams Stand Pat in First Round
With two first round picks in their back pocket (thanks, Washington!), the direction the Rams would take with each was a subject of mass conjecture for the entirety of the offseason leading up to the draft. Some wanted South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, some (me) wanted Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, and others wanted the Rams to continue their trend of trading back and collecting picks. However, the smart pick was always going to be staying at 2 and selecting Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, and the Rams did just that. The surprise came with their second first-round pick, no. 13 overall, where they took Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald’s addition could (should) make this defensive line the best in the league.
2. Hiring Gregg Williams
Whether you loved former defensive coordinator Tim Walton or hated him, his sacking in February certainly surprised many. What was even more surprising was the man head coach Jeff Fisher pegged to replace him, Gregg Williams. As you’ll remember, Williams was booted from NFL sidelines after his involvement in the Saints “Bountygate” scandal after being brought in by Fisher in his first year on the job. After serving his suspension and working in a consultant role with the Tennessee Titans, Williams was swiftly brought back into the fold out of the blue. His aggressive style combined with the talent available on the Rams’ defense should make it an exciting unit to watch in 2014.
1. Rams Option Quinn
One of the subtler events in an offseason full of headlines, the team picking up the 2015 option on defensive end Robert Quinn is number one on our list of the most important events of the Rams’ offseason at this point. Quinn is emerging as one of (if not the) best defensive players in the league, and he is only beginning to enter his prime. The PFWA Defensive Player of the Year will surely command a truckload of money when his rookie contract is up, and for the Rams to be able to keep him for one more year guaranteed at a price well below what he’s worth was an easy decision for team brass. The Rams defensive line single-handedly kept the team in games at times last season, and it now looks to be just as loaded for the next two years at least.