Thirty-Somethings: Evaluating The Rams' Elder Statesmen
My original assignment was to discuss the top five Rams players over 30, but there were only five on the young St. Louis team this past season. And guard Wayne Hunter wasn't about to be on a list of top players in any category, unless I wrote an article about "players who give you heartburn." So I expanded the search to the five best players who are at least 29:
Steven Jackson, RB, age: 29 » It's assumed that Jackson will void the $7 million he has on his contract for 2013 and join this year's free agent class, but he's a Ram until that procedure occurs. He's been the most consistent offensive player in this dark period for St. Louis football, and the team should certainly consider that when offering him a new contract. On the other hand, the Rams need to consider that Jackson will turn 30 when training camps open in July, and he's seen his carries, rushing yards and receptions decrease in each of the last three seasons. The team wants to bring him back, but at what cost?
Cortland Finnegan, CB, 29 » In the first year of a five-year, $50 million deal, Finnegan did a nice job statistically. He had as many interceptions (three) as his previous two seasons combined and he matched a career-high with 83 tackles. His 2013 season is going to be rather expensive, with a $9 million base salary and $5 million roster bonus on top of that. It would take a pretty darn impressive season for Finnegan to play like a $14 million player.
Harvey Dahl, G, 31 » Dahl has been one of the lone constants on the offensive line over his two years with the team, starting all 30 games he's played. He's set to make $4 million in 2013, which is a bargain given his relative consistency. There's no reason to think he won't continue his strong play into the future, which is why he's been one of the few players over 30 that management has decided to keep on the roster.
Scott Wells, C, 32 » Wells, a free-agent acquisition from Green Bay a year ago, was limited to seven starts in as many games with an injured right knee. He had surgery on that knee and will be out of commission until late July, but the team is confident he'll return to full strength. And considering all of Wells' $5.5 million salary is guaranteed for 2013, the Rams better hope he can come back and become a mainstay on the offensive line. Otherwise, it'll be more than $5 million down the tubes for an injured, 32-year-old lineman.
Quintin Mikell, S, 32 » Again, there is a reason why these specific players are the only over-30 members of the team. Mikell has started 31 of the 32 games he's played for the Rams and recorded a career-high in sacks (three) and forced nine fumbles in his two seasons in St. Louis. Mikell is due $6 million this coming season, but it doesn't seem to be guaranteed. St. Louis would gladly dole out his salary if he performs at 2011-2012 levels. But with the team clearly focusing on younger players, any dip in Mikell's play could quickly lead to his ouster.