COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Rams have some interesting free agents heading into the offseason, and there's no way they can retain them all.
For being the youngest team in the league two years running and not having a ton of superstars, the Rams have an awful lot of their money tied up. Sure, they could make some cuts to reduce the cap (Harvey Dahl is a prime candidate), but because they're up against it, they probably won't be able to do a whole lot in free agency.
Here's a list of the Rams' free agents:
Mike McNeil, TE (RFA)
Tim Barnes, C
Quinton Pointer, CB
Justin Veltung, WR
The exclusive rights guys make minimal money, so they'll be back. If they aren't, they won't likely be missed. McNeil is a restricted free agent who probably won't draw much interest on the market. The interesting names are the unrestricted free agents.
The biggest name is Saffold. A former second-round pick, Saffold struggled as the Rams' left tackle, then as the Rams' right tackle. He seemed to flourish when he moved inside to guard, and he'd be the No. 1 guy I want to see the Rams retain.
However, there's always a need for tackles, and it's a more "glamorous" position than guard. There's likely a team out there that will pay Saffold like a tackle, which is more than what the Rams would pay him to be a guard.
Stewart is an underrated player in my eyes. He had a solid 2011 season, as he recorded 84 tackles, three sacks and 11 passes defensed. He was hampered by injuries a little in 2012 and 2013, but with the Rams' safety depth being almost non-existent, Stewart should absolutely be re-signed. If he were paired with, say, a first-round pick like Alabama's Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, that deep secondary could be solid.
Both the Rams' backup quarterbacks are free agents. Clemens played about as expected, that's to say, not good. It seems the Rams could do better in that department, and it might have to come from the draft as to not tie up significant money in a backup QB (unless said backup is primed to replace Sam Bradford).
While some would argue having a veteran backup quarterback is a smart thing, unless that backup is a guy like Matt Hasselback or Kyle Orton, it's wasted money. A team, especially one like the Rams, would be better served having a young backup who could develop when Bradford inevitably gets hurt again.
The Rams are set at two of the three linebacker positions with James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree. The strong-side linebacker spot is an area of concern. Dunbar would be nice to have back as a full-season guy (he missed time this season while being suspended), and Witherspoon is a versatile 'backer who can handle all three spots.
If Saffold doesn't return, retaining guys like Smith and Williams would be imperative. Smith is a local product out of Missouri and is merely depth -- but valuable depth. Williams, a former first-round selection of the Chicago Bears, played decently in his time this season. With the Rams having offensive line issues, it's good to have quality backups. Williams doesn't profile as much more than that, but there could be a team that (foolishly) pays him starter money. If that's the case, he's gone.
So, the five Ram free agents I'd like to see back are Dunbar, Smith, Stewart, Williams and Witherspoon. If the Rams could bring those guys back, they could focus on other positions in the rest of free agency and the draft.
And if the Rams don't bring back these five guys, it isn't the end of the world (far from it). It's just nice to keep quality players in house because the coaching staff already knows what these guys can do and have developed relationships with them.
Then again, it's always intriguing to spend on free agents. But the Rams don't have a ton of money to spend (at present). We'll see what general manager Les Snead has planned for what could be his most crucial offseason to date.
Dustin Nosler has followed the Dodgers from Northern California all his life. He's the founder of Feelin' Kinda Blue, a Los Angeles Dodgers' blog. He also co-hosts "Dugout Blues," a weekly Dodger podcast and writes about the St. Louis Rams for the Yahoo Contributor Network. Find him on Twitter @FeelinKindaBlue.
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- St. Louis Rams
- Rodger Saffold
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