Winning and winning? Grading Rams free agency moves
By Shlomo Sprung
The Rams certainly shuffled the deck on the offensive side of the ball, which was just some of the changes the team made during the free agency period. So which moves worked, and which signings left this writer scratching his head? We break it down:
Free Agency Win- Signing OT Jake Long
The Rams want to better protect QB Sam Bradford (the team was a mediocre 14th last season with 35 sacks allowed) and who better than the former top overall pick with the Dolphins? St. Louis inked Long to a four-year deal worth $34 million to provide much needed stability to the offensive line. Health has been an issue for Long, but it was something the team had to overlook to provide a pillar for this team's offensive line.
Free Agency Loss- Signing TE Jared Cook
With Danny Amendola now with New England and Brandon Gibson on Miami, the team needed to do more than add Cook. The 25-year-old certainly has physical potential, but the production just was not there during his tenure with the Tennessee Titans. Cook never had more than 49 receptions in a season, yet was signed to a five-year contract worth $35 million. He's going to have a lot to live up to, and I'm not sure if he could handle being Bradford's top pass-catching option. Cook missed the last three games of 2012 with rotator cuff surgery. Big risk.
Free Agency Win- Re-Signing DL William Hayes
Hayes did not start a single game for the Rams, yet racked up seven sacks. He was rewarded with a three-year deal worth $10.5 million, a pretty good value given his pass rush production in 2012. The Rams actually led the NFL in sacks last season with 52, and Hayes was a major part of that. He'll return at a bargain price. Hard to argue with this move.
Free Agency Loss- Losing Steven Jackson
It seems pretty clear that Jackson wanted to leave the Rams, after opting out of the final season to sign a deal with the contending Atlanta Falcons. But Jackson only got $12 million over three years, with no guaranteed money after the first season of the deal. To put that into context, Hayes will make just $1.5 million less over the life of his contract than the franchise's pillar over the last several years. Perhaps it was time to move forward for both player and team, but losing Jackson for such an affordable price makes it a tough to swallow.
The Rams have plenty of team needs to address, including at running back, wide receiver and safety after the losses of Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl. There isn't much time left in the free agency period as we get closer to the NFL Draft. We'll see how the team does, but these have been the wins and losses for the club thus far.