Checking the stat sheet after one of the busiest opening weeks of free agency in franchise history, the Rams:
• Released two veterans in center Scott Wells and offensive tackle Jake Long.
• Swapped quarterbacks (and draft picks) in a trade that sent Sam Bradford to Philadelphia and brought Nick Foles here.
• Traded a seventh-round draft pick in 2016 to Houston for quarterback Case Keenum.
• Added a pair of defensive role players in linebacker Akeem Ayers and defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
• Re-signed tight end Lance Kendricks and wide receiver Kenny Britt.
On the other side of the coin, they lost quarterback Shaun Hill to Minnesota. Defensive tackle Kendall Langford was released in a salary cap move and ended up signing with Indianapolis. And free agent Mike Person ended up with Atlanta.
Person, who was the seventh man on the Rams’ offensive line last season, signed a three-year, $3.5 million deal with the Falcons, which included a $500,000 signing bonus. It’s unclear if the Rams wanted to re-sign him.
When it came to Langford, the Rams essentially swapped him out for Fairley. Cutting Langford saved the Rams $6 million. Adding Fairley counts about $4.75 against the cap this year. So the Rams saved a little money (about $1.25 million) in hiring a new third D-tackle.
As for Hill, the Rams pushed hard to bring him back, but he opted instead for the Vikings, on a two-year, $6.5 million deal that includes $3.2 million in guaranteed money, and incentives that could max out the contract at $7.5 million.
That was probably too rich for the Rams’ blood; they payed Hill $1.75 million in 2014. Hill’s departure was lost in the shuffle of the Bradford-for-Foles trade, but it left the Rams scrambling for backup help.
They looked a little silly trading for Keenum, a player they cut from the roster last season. Keenum wouldn’t be here if the Rams had re-signed Hill.
“To be honest, he didn’t get a lot of opportunity (with the Rams),” coach Jeff Fisher said Friday. “When he left our practice squad and went back to Houston, he won two games for ’em. So he can play the position.”
Then again, he was 0-8 as a starter for the Texans in 2013.
So, the Rams currently have a quarterback trio of Foles, Keenum and Austin Davis. That’s assuming no one makes an offer to Davis, who has been tendered at the $1.5 million level with no draft-pick compensation if the Rams declined to match an outside offer.
It remains to be seen if that trio of QBs tops last year’s quarterback group of Bradford, Hill and Davis.
One thing to keep in mind on Foles, Keenum and Davis: All three have contracts that expire after the 2015 season (and that’s assuming Davis returns). So it still makes sense for the Rams to select a quarterback in this year’s draft — and one that has starter’s potential. That’s true in part because Foles hasn’t exactly been Cal Ripken in terms of durability, missing eight games last season with a collarbone injury and one full game and part of another with a concussion in 2013.
For the sake of argument, say the Rams draft Baylor’s Bryce Petty in the second round this year. Under that scenario, Foles starts, Petty learns the pro-style game and Davis and Keenum slug it out for the backup job in training camp.
So the quarterback issue remains in flux even with the arrival of Foles.
The other huge roster hole despite all that Rams’ activity in Week 1 of free agency is the offensive line. The team needs a starting center, right guard, and right tackle. Other than that, Foles will be lining up behind the Great Wall of China.
While there’s reason for anxiety, there’s no need for panic — yet. Two players the Rams appear to have targeted in free agency, guard Justin Blalock and center Stefen Wisniewski, are still available.
Released by Atlanta, Blalock, 31, visited Detroit last week before returning home. He’s expected to visit the Rams this week. Wisniewski, who turns 26 on March 22, is a free agent from Oakland who has visited Tampa Bay and Seattle. His agent said it’s “very possible” he visits St. Louis this week.
Another starting center hit the market late last week when Arizona released Lyle Sendlein, 30. It’s not clear if the Rams are interested in him, or vice versa.
If the Rams lose out on a free-agent center, they could turn to Barrett Jones, who has played very little in two seasons with the club because of a foot injury (from college) and back surgery.
At right tackle, the Rams’ starter during the past two seasons, Joe Barksdale, remains in play. It looks like the market hasn’t developed as expected by Barksdale and his agent. He has taken no visits, perhaps partly because he got married Saturday.
Where at first it looked as if Barksdale was gone to greener pastures, it now seems the Rams could get him on the rebound.
The Rams currently have about $11 million in cap space, so when you factor in the cost of signing their draft class and signing a practice squad, they might not have enough cap room to land Barksdale, Blalock and Wisniewski. But they could get two of the three. And there are cap adjustments easily made on their existing roster that would create room for all three.