The St Louis Rams aren’t in the market to be a big spender in Free agency this off season, as they have just over $7 million available in cap space. It is lucky for them that the Rams do not have a long list of free agents that they need to re-sign. St Louis will have 10 players entering free agency on the eleventh, not counting Brady Quinn who ended 2013 on the IR and is recovering from back surgery that he underwent in November. Here’s a breakdown:
13 Cap Hit
Not a lot of big names on that list, which should make it easier to bring back the players that the Rams mark as their top priorities, starting with Kellen Clemens.
Clemens’ career numbers are not sexy. Drafted 49th overall by Jets in the second round of the 2006, Clemens managed to go 4-5 as a starter last year after starter Sam Bradford went down with an ACL injury. Clemens has a 4-8 record as starter for the Rams, and overall his career record as a starting quarterback is 8-13. Clemens is not a threat to steal the starting job away from a healthy Bradford, but given his price tag and that he has worked within offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s system for years, it makes sense for St Louis to make him a top priority amongst their internal free agents. Do not forget that Sam Bradford is still playing under his rookie contract, one of the last under the old CBA. Bradford’s current contract owes him $35 Million over the next two seasons. Another year of struggles in St Louis could spell the end of Bradford’s tenure and Clemens would serve as a decent stop gap while the team reassesses the quarterback situation.
The other player that is most likely to be retained on the offensive side of the ball is T/G Rodger Saffold. Saffold was the 33rd pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Health has been an issue as he has only played first season in entirety, but has shown versatility when on the field. In 2013 he lined up at both tackle positions as well as right guard. Saffold’s strong play down the stretch and the emergence of Zac Stacy as a viable backfield option means that Saffold will more than likely be returning to St Louis for the 2014 campaign and beyond.
The remaining free agents on the offense are a collection of undrafted or disappointing players. Tackle Chris Williams was selected 14th overall in 2008. The Bears castoff has played both guard and tackle positions, but has struggled as starter and never lived up to his draft position. Guard Shelley Smith started 8 games in his career, including the final two in 2013. Smith is a former 6th round pick of the Houston Texans. Center Tim Barnes is an undrafted Free agent who originally signed with Baltimore before joining the Rams practice squad. He made the active roster in September of 2012 and has served as a rotational player, with four career starts to his credit. Finally tight end Mike McNeill was an undrafted free agent that signed with Indianapolis in 2011 before joining the Rams in December of the same year. The third stringer has a career total of 5 Rec for 36 yards. None of the four are expected to resign, and St Louis is likely to bolster its Offensive line in the 2014 draft.
On the defensive side of the ball the Rams have fewer questions. They do stand to potentially lose a pair of outside linebackers, as Will Witherspoon and Jo-Lonn Dunbar will be hitting the market. Dunbar was suspended four games for use of PEDs, and was released by the Rams before re-signing with St. Louis in October. Dunbar joined the Rams in 2012 after he began his career with the Saints as an undrafted free agent out of Boston College. Dunbar started ten games after rejoining the Rams following his suspension, but his 33 tackles made little impact.
Will Witherspoon is a 12 year veteran, whose best days are behind him. A solid rotational player, Witherspoon just finished his second stint as a Ram and if re-signed would likely be forced to play for the veteran minimum.
The Rams also have a pair of safeties hitting the market in Matt Giordano and third year player Darian Stewart. Giordano is a journeyman, as the Rams were his fifth team in nine seasons. Giordano has only started 29 of 116 games he has played in and is no more than a solid depth player.
Stewart is more intriguing; he signed with the Rams as a free agent out of South
Carolina in 2010 and when given the opportunity has made plays. In 2011 Stewart started 13 games, and managed to record three sacks, eleven pass defenses, a pick six and two forced fumbles to go along with his 60 tackles. Stewart was bumped as a starter for the 2012 season, and managed only six starts last season. If Stewart can return to the form he showed in 2011 he could be a valuable contributor to St Louis, or wherever else he ends up.