In what has been a nonstop Rams offseason, the roster shaping has begun. And in terms of renovations, apparently this isn't going to be done with a coat of paint and some tidying up. General manager Les Snead, head coach Jeff Fisher and executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff are gutting the place.
Free agency starts this afternoon at 3 p.m. (St. Louis time), and all indications are that the Rams won't be tip-toeing into the market.
"We will be active," Snead said. "Like I've mentioned before, we're going to try to be aggressive in acquiring players whatever the method ... we want to get the best players in."
With the salary cap staying flat this year at $120.6 million, the Rams cleared up nearly $20 million of salary cap space by deciding to release five starters:
• Center Jason Brown ($2.8 million cap savings), defensive tackle Fred Robbins ($4 million) and defensive tackle Justin Bannan ($2.75 million) were released Monday.
• Cornerback Ron Bartell ($6.25 million) and defensive end James Hall ($3 million) will be released today.
Interviewed before all of those moves were made official, Snead said he would decline to comment on the cuts until later in the week.
But just like that, the Rams went from about $10 million in cap space to about $30 million, giving them ample resources to be active shoppers in free agency.
"We've got to figure out who's going to actually come free, and then, does that player fit us?" Snead said. "You also have to weigh-in what you value a player at. If those things merge, then you go for it. If not, you let him pass.
"But I think we will always plan to attack free agency. It'll be in a precise manner. It will be in a strategic manner because as history has shown, you can't truly, truly build a team through free agency. But you can certainly supplement your team through that."
Teams have exclusive negotiating rights with their own pending free agents until 3 p.m. today, so some names currently on the Rams' list of targeted free agents may be gone by then.
One thing appears certain. None of the money freed up by the roster cuts will go to re-signing any of the Rams' 20 players scheduled for unrestricted free agency this afternoon.
"There are a select few that we have actually told we would not be interested," Snead said. "There's a select few that we've told we may be interested in, at a certain level at a certain time."
The Rams had shown at least some interest in re-signing offensive guard Jacob Bell, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, punter Donnie Jones and linebacker Chris Chamberlain. But things were quiet Monday, and barring some unexpected late development all four players will hit the market this afternoon.
Jones told the Post-Dispatch via text Monday, that he wanted to test the market and 'see what's out there."
As for the roster cuts, Brown, who turned 29 in May, was one of the most highly coveted interior offensive linemen on the market during the 2009 free agency period. He played well in '09, leveled off in 2010 and had some rough moments last season.
Robbins was re-united with his former defensive coordinator with the New York Giants — Steve Spagnuolo — when he signed a free-agent contract with St. Louis in 2010. Robbins had a very productive first season in St. Louis, but slowed by back problems, Robbins didn't get much done last season and at age 35 (in two weeks) may not have much left.
Bannan, who turns 33 in April, was part of the flood of free agents signed by the Rams in late July and early August of last season after the lockout ended. Although he lacked mobility, Bannan played with tenacity and had some decent moments as a run stuffer.
The 2011 season was to be Bartell's fifth consecutive year as a full-time starter, but he suffered a fractured neck in the opener against Philadelphia. Surgery wasn't required, but Bartell missed the rest of the season and wasn't medically cleared to resume his football career until December.
Hall, 35, finished second on the team in sacks last season with six, but the new Rams regime apparently has decided it's time to move Robert Quinn, the Rams' first-round pick in 2011, into the starting lineup.
The Rams also released linebacker David Nixon and wide receiver Nick Miller on Monday.
Also, the Rams have made one-year tender offers to all six of their exclusive rights free agents: quarterback Tom Brandstater, defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo, wide receiver Dominique Curry, offensive guard Bryan Mattison, fullback Brit Miller and safety Darian Stewart. The Rams decided not to tender restricted free agent C.J. Ah You, ending the defensive lineman's tenure with the team.