Friday, January 7, 2011

Rams' possible free-agent targets

The Rams will face a clearly more difficult schedule in 2011. They will face Pittsburgh, Green Bay, and the New York Giants on the road; and they will also see Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New Orleans at home. It is a seemingly challenging schedule, but what should the Rams do about it? What can they do to construct a solid force that can keep up with those teams? The two glaring weaknesses on the team are 1) The Offense, and 2) Pass Coverage. 

The Rams are brutal on offense, and the most obvious hole on that side of the ball is at receiver. Also, Steven Jackson is getting to a point where he could certainly use a young/explosive runner to come in and give him some rest. They also need blocking for the run game, particularly at right-guard.

On top of that, they can't cover a lick. Many fans seem satisfied with the Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher duo at corner, but let's be realistic and admit that either corner position could use an upgrade. However, strong-safety is the most obvious weakness of the defense.
Here are several appealing free-agent prospects:

1) Sidney Rice: In General Manager Billy Devaney's mind, the ideal free-agent is a rising star who is still young. No one fits this bill better than the 25 year old Sidney Rice. Rice led Minnesota with over 1,300 receiving yards in 2009, but was haunted with injury in 2008 and 2010. At 6'4 and 202 pounds, Rice has the size and down field abilities that the Rams are drooling for.

2) Vincent Jackson: Jackson has been Phillip River's favorite wide-receiver is 2008 and 2009. He is 6'5 and 230 pounds, making him a massive down field threat. He is still in his prime at age 27, but he comes with some character concerns. A DUI forced the NFL to give Jackson a three game suspension, and he is one DUI away from a season long suspension. These circumstances may make Jackson a little too risky, especially when you consider the amount of money he will require. 

3) Braylon Edwards: The Jets will probably only be able to keep only one of their top two receivers (Edwards and Santonio Holmes), as they both will be free-agents after this season. Edwards will likely be the odd man out. Edwards has been somewhat of a disappointment throughout his career, but he has the size (6'3" and 214 pounds) and the experience that the Rams are looking for. He has also never had the luxury of a quality quarterback (and hell no, I don't consider Mark Sanchez a quality passer). In 2007 he had 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns with freaking Derek Anderson at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.

1) Eric Wright: The 25 year old Wright is a hard hitting corner-back, and he has been the keystone of Cleveland's secondary for the past three season. If the coaching staff insists on keeping Fletcher and Bartell on as starters, then Wright is certainly good enough to stick at strong-safety.

2) Richard Marshall: Marshall is only 26 years old, and he is possibly the best player on Carolina's defense. He is a heat-seeking missile in the run game, and he can also make plays in coverage. He has over 80 tackles in four out of his five seasons in the league.

1) Ahmad Bradshaw: The 24 year old running-back may have lost some value after losing the starting job towards the end of the season, but it's likely he will still require more than the Rams are willing to pay for a number two running-back. However, he is familiar with the "running-back by committee" approach (meaning he won't mind sharing with Steven Jackson), and he also has the Spagnuolo New York connection.

2) Mike Tolbert/Darren Sproles: Both of the San Diego running-backs will be free-agents. Tolbert (25) is a former full-back, but he proved to be a bruising presence in place of the injured Ryan Mathews. He rushed for over 700 yards, and an impressive 11 touchdowns for the Chargers. Sproles, on the other hand, isn't as impressive, but his speed would compliment Steven Jackson nicely, and he would also be able to relieve Danny Amendola of his kick returning duties, which would allow Amendola to focus on being a receiver.

Logan Mankins: The pro-bowl offensive-guard will be a free-agent, and New England has already made the negotiations bitter, as they have failed to extend him to a worthy contract. Mankins will not come cheap, but he would instantly make the Rams' offensive-line one of the best in the league.

Davin Joseph: Joseph would be a cheaper alternative to Mankins, but not by a lot. Joseph is the best offensive-lineman for Tampa Bay, and he would be a welcomed replacement for Adam Goldberg.

Barry Cofield: The Rams already snatched up his counterpart Fred Robbins, and like Robbins, Cofield has the Spagnuolo New York factor. The difference is that Cofield is younger (26), but he is also just as good as Robbins. If the Rams were to make this move, then they would have two out of the four starters that played on the Giant's notorious defensive-line the year they won the Super Bowl.

Mathias Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka, the defensive-end, has been struggling with injury this year for the Giants, which may reduce the 27 year old's price tag,  he would still be a great addition. He would likely split time with James Hall on the opposite side of Chris Long, with George Selvie also being available as an occasional member of the rotation.

Chad Greenway: Greenway has been leading the Minnesota line-backing core since 2007. Opposing teams would absolutely dread seeing Greenway and James Laurinaitis playing side-by-side. Greenway ended the 2010 season with a career high 144 tackles.

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