By Jon Lopuch, Associate Editor Rams Offseason Needs We continue our team-by-team look at offseason needs with the Rams, who need to address the issue of some aging veterans and a undermanned defense.
Areas of Need: The Rams have one of the better receiving corps in the game with Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce out wide and Kevin Curtis in the slot. However, all is not as rosy as it seems. Bruce's best days are in the distant rear view mirror, as is his 34th birthday, so the Rams would be wise to start searching for his heir apparent. Curtis would be a good choice, but he is a free agent and will certainly attract plenty of interest on the open market. If he bolts out of town, the Rams would not only lose a potential replacement for Bruce, but they'd also be without their slot receiver, and we have our doubts whether Shaun McDonald or Dane Looker are the answer.
The Rams defense has only one real playmaker at linebacker, Pisa Tinoisamoa, and he was hurt most of the year. The lack of another true talent across the field was a constant problem last season. Plus, Will Witherspoon isn't a true middle linebacker, so the team would be wise to move him if they can land a better fit at that position.
The defensive line is in even worse shape. They have a top talent in Leonard Little, but it gets ugly after that. La' Roi Glover is no longer an every down player, Jimmy Kennedy isn't really a nose tackle, and end Victor Adeyanju is raw. St. Louis needs to add better talent in the middle and acquire some depth on the edge.
Help is on the Way? The Rams aren't going to spend a first-round pick on a receiver since Bruce will be around for at least another season and is fresh of a 1,000-yard campaign. That doesn't mean they can't address this issue on the first day, though. They could look at such prospects as Craig Davis, Rhema McKnight, or Aundrae Allison in the second or third round, and then allow the kid a year to serve as Bruce's apprentice before challenging him for a starting gig or allowing him to retire without leaving the Rams in a lurch. Of course, St. Louis could also choose to re-sign Curtis if his price tag remains reasonable.
This year's draft class features plenty of defensive players who could fill needs for the Rams. They could look at Jamaal Anderson or Adam Carriker if they want to add a pass rusher. Another option in the first round is to select a defensive tackle. If they go that route, look for Amobi Okoye or Tank Tyler to be their choice. The 12th pick may be too soon to select inside linebacker Patrick Willis from Old Miss, but they could hope a player such as Buster Davis lasts until the second.
Of course, the Rams could also land a linebacker in free agency. Former Rams linebacker London Fletch-Baker, Lance Briggs, and Cato June would all be big-ticket acquisitions who would provide an immediate upgrade. Defensive end Justin Smith would be a great tag team partner for Little, but St. Louis could also bulk up the interior of the line for a more reasonable price if they went after a guy like Vonnie Holliday or Terdell Sands.
Wants and Needs: Though the Rams are no longer the Greatest Show on Turf, they're pretty set offensively. The need for an heir to Isaac Bruce's role in the offense was filled with the signing of Drew Bennett, and while depth along the offensive lline and for skilled starters Steven Jackson and Marc Bulger would be nice, they're well down on Scott Linehan's priority list. That means defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will have plenty of input during the Rams' early selections, with a lengthy wish list that includes a pass-rushing defensive end, a run-stuffing tackle, and multiple linebackers. The Rams' extra picks won't come until the final round, so expect them to focus their Day One selections on the defensive front seven.
Potential Selections: It's possible that an end like Nebraska's Adam Carriker or Arkansas' Jamaal Anderson slide to the Rams at No. 13. They could also reach a bit for Florida's Jarvis Moss or Georgia's Charles Johnson and fill that same need. Michigan defensive tackle Alan Branch has seen his stock slip, which could make him an option in this area as well. At one point the Rams figured Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis was a cinch to be on the board with their first pick, but that's looking less and less likely as draft day approaches. That could force the Rams to wait on linebackers until later, with names like Florida's Brandon Siler or Earl Everett and Miami's Jon Beason coming into play. Georgia defensive end Quentin Moses and North Carolina State defensive tackle Tank Tyler will also draw strong consideration, as the Rams are unlikely to even consider an offensive player until Day Two. That strategy may leave them scouring the likes of Boston College tackle James Marten and Auburn guard Tim Duckworth for offensive line depth.