In the first installment of State of the Franchise, RookieBlitz.com will scout the worst teams in the NFL and find out what they need to get back to the top of the standings. Our first team is the St. Louis Rams of the NFC West.
Foundation: Coach Steve Spagnuolo has a pretty solid foundation to work with in his re-building process. Monster running back Steven Jackson is locked up to a long-term deal and he is and will be the focal point of this offense. The Rams have a nice young receiving corps led by Donnie Avery, though I feel they lack a true number one receiver. Left tackle Jason Smith was the 2nd overall pick in the draft in 2009 and has played solid as a rookie. He should and will be the anchor of the offensive line for years to come. Center Jason Brown was a great addition to this team this past off-season and he hasn’t disappointed.
Defensive end Chris Long is a great talent, but he can’t do it on his own on the line. They need to improve upon that defensive line if they want to properly utilize Chris Long and his talents. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis proved to be a steal in the second round of the draft as he is a great leader and a great talent. Safety O.J. Atogwe is a true ball hawk whom the Rams need to sign to a long-term deal this upcoming off-season. It would be a devastating blow if they couldn’t re-sign Atogwe, but there is no reason to believe they won’t. Usually when a team is re-building, they focus on six key positions to build from. A franchise quarterback, one offensive playmaker, a dominate left tackle, a disruptive pass rusher, a leader at middle linebacker, and a play-making safety. The Rams have all of those except for the franchise quarterback which is the most important. That is what leads me to believe that quarterback is the Rams greatest area of concern in the upcoming off-season.
Off-season Needs: QB, WR, TE, RT, G, DE, DT, OLB, CB, S
Quarterback: Current Status - Marc Bulger is under contract through 2013, but he is not the answer at quarterback for the re-building Rams. I’d let him walk with his guaranteed $27 million, or I would keep him another year as a mentor/backup. Kyle Boller’s contract runs out at the end of the season and he is as good as gone, as he will never be a starting quarterback in the NFL, he should try the UFL like J.P. Losman.
Possible Future – As it currently stands now, the Rams would be picking 1st overall in the draft. They seem to be locked in to selecting a quarterback with that pick. I’d go with Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame with that pick. Clausen appears to be the most polished of the top quarterbacks coming out. Sam Bradford would be a major risk with the 1st overall pick due to his shoulder injury and because of the fact he doesn’t play under center. Jake Locker is another option, but he doesn’t play under center and is not a proven winner.
Current NFL Quarterbacks who might be considered and should available next off-season include: Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson, Brodie Croyle, Kyle Orton, Tarvaris Jackson, David Carr, Michael Vick and Jason Campbell. The most likely candidate from that list would be Brady Quinn, but the fact that they would have to trade for him, leads me to believe they won’t go with any players currently in the league. In my opinion, Brady Quinn is not an NFL starter, so he wouldn’t help this franchise, nor would Vick. Coach Spagnuolo needs to put his stamp on this team, by selecting a franchise quarterback in the 1st round of the 2010 draft, who can also be the new face of the franchise.
Other needs: The Rams need to continue to build through drafting wisely and signing free agents who fit Coach Spagnuolo’s schemes. They need a big target with solid hands at the receiver position, but without an established quarterback it might be hard to lure free agents such as, Miles Austin, Brandon Marshall, Braylon Edwards and Vincent Jackson to St. Louis. That being said, the draft looks to be the way to acquire a receiver. Brandon LaFell from LSU would be a great option if he slides in to the second round and Arrelious Benn from Illinois is another option but doesn’t have consistent hands. Golden Tate from Notre Dame would be interesting if the Rams pick Clausen, but Tate has a similar skill set to Donnie Avery. The offensive tackle position appears to be deep with talent for the 2010 draft. The Rams could select one in the second round by grabbing Trent Williams of Oklahoma, Anthony Davis of Rutgers, Jason Fox of the U, or Ciron Black of LSU. All are solid talents that could play right tackle for the Rams if they decide to let Alex Barron go, which appears to be the way they are leaning. Defensive line is pretty deep in the draft too, so you can bet they will take one in the first couple of rounds.
Spagnuolo always had a deep defensive line unit with the New York Giants and I believe he will build the Rams the same way with interchangeable players. Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins are both free agents and could come to St. Louis as they know and are comfortable in Spagnuolo’s defense. The Rams need two outside linebackers but I doubt it will be a high priority, since middle linebacker is set in stone and that is a bigger key to his defense. Cornerback is a need as well but it doesn’t appear to be a deep draft class at that position. They might address corner during free agency but nothing stares out at me currently. I listed safety as a need, which is only if the Rams can’t re-sign O.J. Atogwe. I see him re-signing with the team though.