WR Steve Smith, OT Barry Richardson, C Scott Wells, DE William Hayes, DT Kendall Langford, DT Trevor Laws, OLB Mario Haggan, OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, CB Cortland Finnegan.
Early Draft Picks:
DT Michael Brockers, WR Brian Quick, CB Janoris Jenkins, RB Isaiah Pead, S Trumaine Johnson, WR Chris Givens, K Greg Zuerlein.
RB Cadillac Williams, WR Brandon Lloyd, WR Mark Clayton, G Jacob Bell, G Adam Goldberg, C Jason Brown, DE James Hall, DT Justin Bannan, DT Fred Robbins, DT Gary Gibson, OLB Chris Chamberlain, OLB Brady Poppinga, CB Ronald Bartell, CB Justin King, K Josh Brown, P Donnie Jones.
2012 St. Louis Rams Offense:
What a difference a year can make. Sam Bradford won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010, performing very impressively for a St. Louis team that didn't have any play-makers outside of Steven Jackson. However, Bradford's completion percentage dropped from 60.0 in 2010 to 53.5 in 2011, while his YPA remained the same. He also had 18 touchdowns to 17 turnovers (15 INTs, 2 fumbles) as a rookie, but saw that ratio plummet to six scores compared to 13 give-aways (6 INTs, 7 fumbles).
So, what happened? A number of things, actually. Danny Amendola, Bradford's favorite receiver, went down in Week 1. That could have been the culprit for his slow start, but he didn't improve much after the team dealt for Brandon Lloyd. Bradford suffered a high ankle sprain in October, a malady that lingered throughout the season, but he was already struggling before that.
The biggest reason for Bradford's regression was the offensive line. The blocking unit was simply dreadful. It surrendered a league-worst 55 sacks, and was just as dreadful at the end of the season as it was in September. Left tackle Rodger Saffold's play really fell off. He was solid in 2010, but happened to be responsible for 11 sacks and 10 penalties last year. Meanwhile, right tackle Jason Smith didn't see much action because of lingering concussion symptoms. He's been a huge bust anyway, so it's a shame that the Rams failed to find anyone to upgrade the position. Had they stayed at No. 2 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, they could have selected Matt Kalil and moved Saffold to right tackle. But that did not happen, much to the chagrin of Bradford.
The interior of the offensive front was just as anemic. Center-right guard Jason Brown and left guard Jacob Bell were awful, so neither will be back. St. Louis was able to find a replacement at center with former Packer Scott Wells, who signed a 4-year, $24 million contract this spring. Wells is one of the top centers in the NFL, so he'll provide some stability to the offensive line next to Harvey Dahl, who is also decent. Unfortunately, someone named Bryan Mattison is occupying the left guard position, which will probably prove to be disastrous.
It's clear that the offensive line hasn't improved enough, so Bradford will probably struggle and get banged up once again in 2012. He might actually be ruined anyway. Bradford quite frequently appeared as though he felt phantom pressure in the pocket last year. No one can really blame him because he's been knocked around so many times, but it appears as though he may have already developed David Carr Syndrome. And there's no turning back from that.
It definitely doesn't help Bradford's cause that the front office failed to find a No. 1 wideout for him. St. Louis spent top-100 selections on receivers Brian Quick and Chris Givens, but both are rookies and cannot be counted on, especially when the former is considered a raw, long-term project. Lloyd is also gone, but on the bright side, Amendola is back from his triceps injury.
Making matters worse, Steven Jackson is all but done. Almost every single running back in NFL history has seen a sharp decline in production after 2,100 career carries. Jackson has already exceeded that mark. It's not an absolute - there have been outliers like Emmitt Smith - but considering the amount of injuries that Jackson has endured over the years, it's likely that he'll experience severe skill erosion in 2012. If so, third-round rookie Isaiah Pead will have to step up.
2012 St. Louis Rams Defense:
Given Sam Bradford's issues, St. Louis' stop unit will have to carry the team this year. While the defense projects to be much better than the offense, it has enough holes to prevent it from becoming an elite unit - including the absence of shamed defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
The linebacker position is a mess. James Laurinaitis, manning the middle, is a very good player, but there are nothing but no-talents surrounding him. Jo-Lonn Dunbar, a major liability in every facet of the game, will be the starting strongside linebacker. The third man in the group is the recently signed Rocky McIntosh, who underachieved in Washington. If McIntosh can't play well, it'll be up to 2010 undrafted free agent Justin Cole, who has never played a single defensive snap in his professional career.
The safety area is also a problem. Strong safety Quintin Mikell struggled a bit in coverage last year and won't be any better in 2012 because he'll turn 32 in mid-September. The free safety position will be a battle between the anemic Darian Stewart and third-round rookie Trumaine Johnson.
St. Louis' stop unit has a bunch of strengths, however, starting up front. Chris Long is one of the top defensive ends in all of football. He recorded 13 sacks in 2011, which is really impressive because the Rams were often behind, meaning the opposition didn't have to throw very much. Robert Quinn will start opposite of Long. The second-year lineman had five sacks in 2011, four of which came in Week 8 or later, so there's a good chance he'll improve upon his seasonal total this year.
The Rams entered the offseason with two glaring holes at defensive tackle. They may have filled them with Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers. Langford isn't very good against the run, but he can create a consistent pass rush on the interior. Brockers, the 14th-overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, is the complete opposite. He's young and raw, and doesn't have the necessary pass-rushing skills just yet. He can really do a good job of clogging running lanes, however.
St. Louis should produce a decent sack total - it had 39 of them in 2011 - which will make life easier for a solid group of cornerbacks. The Rams' big free-agent acquisition was Cortland Finnegan, who inked a 5-year, $50 million contract in March. Finnegan, formerly of Tennessee, led all corners in surrendered YPA (4.3) last year.
Despite signing Finnegan, the Rams didn't have a worthy No. 2 corner to play across from him entering the 2012 NFL Draft. They may have fixed that by obtaining Janoris Jenkins in the second round. Jenkins has major character concerns, but there's no questioning his unbelievable talent. He would have been a top-15 selection had he not gotten kicked out of Florida for a series of marijuana-related arrests. Jenkins has sworn to the media that those days are behind him, but he'll have to prove it.
2012 St. Louis Rams Schedule and Intangibles:
Remember when the Edwards Jones Dome was such a huge advantage for the Greatest Show on Turf? Sam Bradford will have to rekindle that magic, much like Matt Ryan did with the Georgia Dome. The Rams were 1-7 as hosts last year.
Josh Brown used to be one of the NFL's top kickers, but he struggled in 2011 and consequently was released. St. Louis will have to count on rookie Greg Zuerlein, who was an amazing 9-of-9 from 50-plus in college last season.
The Rams also lost punter Donnie Jones, so they'll be using 28-year-old rookie Tom Malone.
St. Louis has surrendered two special-teams scores in each of the previous two seasons. That's now 10 since 2006. The Rams took one of their own back to the house, but were outgained on both kick and punt returns. This is yet another area Jeff Fisher will be tasked to fix.
One would think the Rams would have an easy, last-place schedule, but they begin the year at Detroit, then home to the improved Redskins led by Robert Griffin and then on the road at Soldier Field. There's a short reprieve with consecutive matchups versus the Seahawks, Cardinals and Dolphins, but then St. Louis has to battle the Packers, Patriots and 49ers in a span of four weeks.
2012 St. Louis Rams Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2012 St. Louis Rams Analysis: The Rams will be better than last year. Their defense has improved and Sam Bradford is healthy again. Plus, Jeff Fisher is worth a win or two just on his own. However, St. Louis still has tons of holes, especially on offense, and it will once again be one of the worst teams in the NFL. It's also unfortunate, but there may not be any hope for the immediate future if Bradford has indeed contracted David Carr Syndrome.
Goals Entering the 2012 NFL Draft: The Rams have tons of holes and a young quarterback with a terrible supporting cast. Jeff Fisher must help Sam Bradford to prevent the Oklahoma product from becoming the next David Carr. I've seen some mocks project Fletcher Cox to St. Louis at No. 6 overall, but selecting a defensive tackle over Justin Blackmon would be disastrous.
2012 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Oops. In all fairness, the Rams did want Blackmon; Jeff Fisher reportedly slammed his glasses on the table when the Jaguars traded up to obtain the Oklahoma State wideout. Fisher then understandably traded all the way down to No. 14, picking up a second-round pick in the process.
So, that was nice - until Michael Floyd went off the board one selection earlier, perhaps predictably to Arizona. The Rams should have moved ahead of the Cardinals to secure Floyd, but they apparently had their mind set on Michael Brockers, which is a bit curious. Brockers offers very limited pass-rushing skills. That is troubling for a top-15 pick. St. Louis fans are used to bust defensive tackles, and considering Brockers' inexperience and lacking ability to get to the quarterback, he could easily be the next Jimmy Kennedy or Adam Carriker.
On the bright side, the Rams were able to land two promising receivers in Brian Quick and Chris Givens. Isaiah Pead could be a worthy successor for Steven Jackson. And I like the Janoris Jenkins gamble. He's so talented that he's well worth the risk, considering that St. Louis had three second-round choices at its disposal.
Bradford has to be happy about the new targets. He can't, however, be pleased that the Rams failed to improve the offensive line. They added a blocker at No. 150, which was way too late.
2012 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
14. Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: C Grade
There's nothing like picking a raw prospect and screwing over your franchise quarterback in the span of an hour. I don't quite get why the Rams wouldn't help out Sam Bradford with David DeCastro or Riley Reiff, or perhaps jumping the Cardinals to obtain Michael Floyd, but maybe they have some sort of plan with their three second-rounders. The move down is what keeps this from being a D.
33. Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State: C+ Grade
The Rams really needed a receiver, so this was a very logical pick. Some really question whether Brian Quick can play right away because he's so raw, so I'm sure Sam Bradford wanted someone more pro-ready. Quick does possess great upside, however.
39. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: A- Grade
I really like this pick. Janoris Jenkins is unbelievably talented - if he were clean, he would have been a top-10 pick - but he's a major bust risk. The Rams, however, had three second-round picks, so they could afford to take the risk. If Jenkins stays clean, he and Cortland Finnegan will combine for one of the league's top cornerback tandems.
50. Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati: C+ Grade
Isaiah Pead with Lamar Miller and LaMichael James on the board? I'm not so sure about this. Pead is a bit of a reach - he was No. 68 on the consensus draft board - but he fills a need, so it at least makes sense in that regard.
65. Trumaine Johnson, CB/S, Montana: A Grade
Trumaine Johnson is decent value atop Round 3, as he was No. 53 on the consensus big board. The Rams needed depth in the secondary entering the 2012 NFL Draft, so I can understand this pick.
96. Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest: A Grade
This is a really good pick. Chris Givens could have easily gone atop the third round. He also fills a need, as the Rams absolutely had to find two receivers to help Sam Bradford.
150. Rokevious Watkins, G, South Carolina: C- Grade
I'm amazed the Rams waited this long to find some blocking for Sam Bradford. I knew they weren't in the tackle market, but still. At any rate, this is a reach. Scouts Inc. had him ranked highest (200).
171. Greg Zuerlein, K, Missouri Western: C Grade
Is Greg Zuerlein going to beat out Josh Brown? Brown is coming off a down year (21-of-28), so maybe the Rams think he can.
209. Aaron Brown, OLB, Hawaii: C Grade
Aaron Brown was No. 718 on the consensus big board, but there's no such thing as a reach in Round 7. It's shocking that the Rams didn't go with a linebacker earlier than this.
252. Daryl Richardson, RB, Abilene Christian: B Grade
Another running back for the Rams, who are thin at this spot. Daryl Richardson was a borderline draftable prospect going into the 2012 NFL Draft, and that held true.
The Rams came within one win against the Seahawks from being in the playoffs in 2010. A lot can change in a year. Steve Spagnuolo is gone, the front office was axed, and Sam Bradford is now being discussed by the media as a candidate for trade or release so St. Louis can move forward with Robert Griffin. Bradford will remain the Rams' starter, but he really needs to make progress this upcoming season. Of course, it would help if new management can actually put talent around him.
Rams sign OLB Rocky McIntosh
Rams sign OLB Mario Haggan
Rams sign OT Barry Richardson
Buccaneers sign DT Gary Gibson
Jets sign K Josh Brown
Rams cut K Josh Brown
Redskins sign LB Bryan Kehl
Rams re-sign QB Kellen Clemens
Rams sign DT Trevor Laws
Broncos sign DT Justin Bannan
Bengals sign G Jacob Bell
Rams sign DE William Hayes
Rams sign OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar
Texans sign P Donnie Jones
Rams announce retirement of WR Torry Holt
Rams sign WR Steve Smith
Rams sign TE Matthew Mulligan
Rams re-sign FB Brit Miller
Saints sign OLB Chris Chamberlain
Rams sign G Quinn Ojinnaka
Patriots sign WR Brandon Lloyd
Rams sign DT Kendall Langford
Rams sign C Scott Wells
Rams sign CB Cortland Finnegan
Rams cut DE James Hall
Rams cut CB Ronald Bartell
Rams cut C Jason Brown
Rams cut DT Fred Robbins
Rams cut DT Justin Bannan
Rams tender WR Danny Amendola
Two Tackles or Left Tackle & Left Guard: Left tackle is St. Louis' greatest need. Rodger Saffold is overmatched on the blind side, so he needs to move over to left guard or right tackle, which is why I have a conditional listed. Jason Smith, meanwhile, is garbage. A new front office could cut ties with him because he's owed $10 million in 2012. If the Rams don't upgrade this position this offseason, they'll risk Sam Bradford turning into David Carr. Luckily, Matt Kalil will be sitting there at No. 2 in the 2012 NFL Draft. He's locked in as the pick barring a trade. Signed Barry Richardson
Two Wide Receivers: Brandon Lloyd has declared that he will be following Josh McDaniels this offseason. If the two leave, the Rams will need a pair of wideouts to help Sam Bradford, who has nothing to work with. Tendered Danny Amendola; signed Steve Smith; drafted Brian Quick and Chris Givens
Two Defensive Tackles: Fred Robbins and Justin Bannan were cut this offseason. The Rams need two new starters here unless they want to give Darell Scott a chance. They'll be able to take one with a second-round pick. Signed Kendall Langford and Trevor Laws; drafted Michael Brockers
Center: Jason Brown was owed $5 million in 2012, which would explain his release. He sucked anyway. Signed Scott Wells
Two Outside Linebackers: Brady Poppinga was awful at strongside linebacker last year. Weakside backer Chris Chamberlain was OK, but he can be upgraded. They're both free agents anyway. Signed Rocky McIntosh, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Mario Haggan
Free Safety: Darian Stewart did a terrible job at safety this past season. The Rams can do better than a third-year undrafted free agent. Drafted Trumaine Johnson
Cornerback: The Rams infamously had 10 cornerbacks on injured reserve in 2011, but they needed help at the position even before everyone started getting hurt. Signed Cortland Finnegan; drafted Janoris Jenkins
Defensive End Depth: St. Louis jettisoned James Hall, so Jeff Fisher will have to replenish depth. Signed William Hayes
Running Back: Steven Jackson doesn't have much left in the tank, given that he passed 2,100 career carries this year. The Rams may look for a possible successor in Rounds 2-4 of the 2012 NFL Draft. Drafted Isaiah Pead
Fullback: Brit Miller is ineffective and injury-prone. He can be upgraded. Re-signed Brit Miller
2012 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Scott Wells, C, Packers. Age: 31. Signed with Rams
Scott Wells is one of the top centers in the NFL. He excels in all areas, and is due for a big contract.
Cortland Finnegan, CB, Titans. Age: 28. Signed with Rams (5 years, $50 million)
Cortland Finnegan is a really good cornerback unless he has to cover Andre Johnson. He's expected to reunite with Jeff Fisher in St. Louis.
Kendall Langford, DE/DT, Dolphins. Age: 26. Signed with Rams (4 years, $24 million; $12 million guaranteed)
Kendall Langford is a really good, young five-tech who excels in both stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback. He's a key piece of Miami's 3-4 stop unit who will have to be retained.
Rocky McIntosh, OLB, Redskins. Age: 29. Signed with Rams
I called Rocky McIntosh an idiot for re-signing with the Redskins last offseason. He's not a good fit in the 3-4. I don't get how he didn't understand that. Maybe he'll learn his lesson and sign on with a 4-3 team.
William Hayes, DE, Titans. Age: 27. -- Signed with Rams (1 year)
Barry Richardson, OT, Chiefs. Age: 26. -- Signed with Rams
Mario Haggan, OLB, Broncos. Age: 32. -- Signed with Rams
Jo-Lonn Dunbar, OLB, Saints. Age: 27. -- Signed with Rams
Trevor Laws, DT, Eagles. Age: 27. -- Signed with Rams
Steve Smith, WR, Eagles. Age: 27. -- Signed with Rams
Matthew Mulligan, TE, Jets. Age: 27. -- Signed with Rams
St. Louis Rams Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Brandon Lloyd, WR, Rams. Age: 31. Signed with Patriots
A legitimate No. 1 receiver, Brandon Lloyd has announced that he'll follow Josh McDaniels wherever he goes. That's a smart football decision, as Lloyd has thrived under McDaniels the past two seasons.
Josh Brown, K, Rams. Age: 33. Signed with Jets
Cut one day prior to his 33rd birthday, Josh Brown went just 21-of-28 last year, but is only one season removed from hitting 33-of-39 attempts.
Donnie Jones, P, Rams. Age: 32. Signed with Texans
Donnie Jones averaged 44 yards per punt with more than a quarter of his tries going inside the 20.
Danny Amendola (RFA), WR, Rams. Age: 26. Tendered by Rams (2nd)
Sam Bradford's favorite receiver, Danny Amendola missed most of 2011 because of torn triceps. He'll bounce back as a solid slot receiver next year.
Ronald Bartell, CB, Rams. Age: 31. Signed with Raiders (1 year, $3 million)
Ronald Bartell can be a decent cornerback when healthy, but he missed all but one game last year with a neck injury. He's a health risk, but he's been cleared by the doctors. He's worth a shot.
Jason Brown, C/G, Rams. Age: 29.
Jason Brown was considered a top-tier free agent center in 2009 when he signed a 5-year, $37.5 million deal with the Rams. But like most players who go from a good team to an inferior organization solely for the money, Brown's performance really dropped off. He was benched last season. He's still young enough to turn his career around though, so he might be worth signing to an incentive-laden contract.
Justin Bannan, DE/DT, Rams. Age: 33. Signed with Broncos (1 year)
Justin Bannan is very effective versus the rush, but he can't get to the quarterback whatsoever. He can play in any scheme.
Chris Chamberlain, OLB, Rams. Age: 26. Signed with Saints (3 years)
Chris Chamberlain is a special teams ace and a solid reserve/two-down spot starter at linebacker. He plays well against the run, but gets lost in coverage.
James Hall, DE, Rams. Age: 35.
James Hall notched six sacks in 2011. He can still get to the quarterback, but his age is an obvious concern.
Fred Robbins, DT, Rams. Age: 35.
Fred Robbins has no pass-rushing ability, but he can still stop the run pretty well.
Jacob Bell, G, Rams. Age: 31. Announced retirement
Jacob Bell, base-born in Philadelphia, was having a rough year before landing on injured reserve with a sprained MCL. His best seasons are well behind him.
Gary Gibson, DT, Rams. Age: 30. -- Signed with Buccaneers (2 years, $2 million)
Brady Poppinga, OLB, Rams. Age: 32.
Mark Clayton, WR, Rams. Age: 30.
Cadillac Williams, RB, Rams. Age: 30.
Adam Goldberg, G, Rams. Age: 32.
Brit Miller (RFA), FB, Rams. Age: 25. -- Re-signed with Rams
Tony Wragge, G/C, Rams. Age: 33. -- Signed with Ravens
Justin King, CB, Rams. Age: 25. -- Signed with Colts
A.J. Feeley, QB, Rams. Age: 35.
C.J. Ah You, DE, Rams. Age: 30.
Bryan Kehl, OLB, Rams. Age: 28. -- Signed with Redskins
Jerious Norwood, RB, Rams. Age: 29.
Billy Bajema, TE, Rams. Age: 29.
Divisional Rival History: Arizona Cardinals: Arizona has won 10 of the past 11 matchups in this series. San Francisco 49ers: San Francisco has claimed 11 of the previous 13 battles in this NFC West rivalry. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have won all but one of the 14 matchups after the Rams knocked them out of the playoffs in 2004.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2012 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)