NFC West: St. Louis Rams
Warner's Hall of Fame case doesn't come with the longevity of others, but what he did in a short window combined with the romanticism of his professional football journey will almost certainly make him an appealing candidate.
First and foremost, Warner is one of only three quarterbacks in league history to start a Super Bowl for two teams. In Warner's case, that's the Rams and the Arizona Cardinals, two moribund franchises when he took over and world champion contenders by the time he left. What Warner did in those Super Bowls also makes him a viable Hall of Fame contender.
Warner holds the three most productive passing days in Super Bowl history, in terms of yards, with 414 against Tennessee, 377 against Pittsburgh (as a Cardinal) and 365 against New England. In 13 postseason games, Warner posted 31 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for a passer rating of 102.8, and his completion percentage (66.5) and yards per attempt (8.55) stand as the highest in postseason history, among qualified passers.
In six years in St. Louis, Warner threw 14,447 yards and 102 touchdowns for a passer rating of 97.2. Along the way, he won two MVPs, which makes him one of eight players in league history to win the award multiple times. Had Warner’s career ended there, his best chance to make the Hall of Fame would have rested more on the mythology of his story than the cold, hard numbers.
But in five years in Arizona, Warner’s statistics matched up pretty well to his five seasons as a starter in St. Louis. He threw for 15,843 yards and 100 touchdowns for a passer rating of 91.9 while starting 57 games -- seven more than he did with the Rams.
Warner, of course, is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and will find out Saturday night whether he's going to be enshrined this year. Here in St. Louis, there's more concern over the future of the team Warner once led to victory in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Asked about the future of the team in the city in which he first made his name, Warner made it clear that he would like to see the Rams remain in St. Louis.
"I'm a St. Louis guy, so I want the Rams to stay there in St. Louis," Warner told reporters. "That's where my heart is and I'll always think of the Rams as a part of St. Louis. But I hear the rumors and I understand the logic of the natural fit with the Rams back in L.A. But I'm a St. Louis guy, so my hope is that they stay there."
It shouldn't be surprising that Warner would want the team to stay where it was when he played for the organization. Others, such as Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, have expressed similar sentiments. But it's also worth recognizing that there are plenty of former Los Angeles Rams, including Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson, who have made it clear they'd like to see the Rams return to the place of their own glory.
Much like the fans on both sides of this scenario, the former players have their stances on where they'd like to see the team play in the future. It's a completely understandable viewpoint from all angles.
But the reality remains that it's Kroenke who will ultimately make the call.
Among the hardware expected to be handed out is Defensive Rookie of the Year, the only award for which a member of the St. Louis Rams stands to have a shot to win. That's where Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald comes in.
So, what are the arguments for Donald to take home the trophy and become the first Ram since linebacker Isiah Robertson in 1971 to win it?
There are plenty:
- Donald's nine sacks led all rookies and represent the most by any first-year player in the past three years. That total was second most on the team behind defensive end Robert Quinn and eclipses the eight from Detroit defensive end Ezekiel Ansah last year and Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin in 2012. It's also the sixth most by a rookie defensive tackle since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.
- Those nine sacks were the second most among all defensive tackles in the NFL in 2014, trailing only behind the 10 of Buffalo's Marcell Dareus. For what it's worth, Pro Football Focus graded Donald as the best defensive tackle in the NFL.
- Between Weeks 11 and 15, Donald had at least one sack in every game the Rams played. That five-week sack streak tied Donald with Denver linebacker Von Miller and Green Bay linebacker Brooks Reed for the longest streak by any rookie in the past 10 seasons.
- Donald registered 17 tackles for loss in 2014, the most by a rookie defensive lineman in league history.
- It took five weeks for Donald to elbow his way into the starting lineup but once he did, he was one of the most disruptive defensive tackles in the league. Without Donald in the starting lineup, the Rams had one sack, gave up 152.5 rushing yards per game and averaged a sack on 0.9 percent of opponents pass attempts. After he entered the starting lineup, the Rams had 39 sacks, gave up 96.25 rushing yards per game and averaged a sack on 9 percent of opponents pass attempts.
- The lone argument that can be made against Donald is that he didn't play as much or make as many tackles as some of the linebackers he's competing with but given the fact that he's an interior lineman and still produced as much as he did, that should actually be a check mark in his favor rather than against him.
Donald will face plenty of competition for the award, namely from Oakland linebacker Khalil Mack and Baltimore linebacker C.J. Mosley. Mack was the only rookie in the league with at least 75 tackles and four sacks this season. Mosley led all rookies with 129 tackles and joined Houston's Brian Cushing as the only rookies in the past 10 years to have at least 120 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions in a season.
Mosley also could benefit from playing for a winning team that advanced to the playoffs. He and Donald both had historic rookie seasons but all things being equal, Donald's impact across the defense should be enough to land him the award.
But that doesn't mean the time between now and then won't be filled with plenty of rumors and speculation. In St. Louis, it's no secret that the Rams are going to explore all avenues to bolster the depth chart at quarterback. Even though they plan to bring Sam Bradford back, the Rams' search will include an extensive look at all outside options including the draft, free agency and, yes, the trade market.
"There's going to be competition at the quarterback position, there's no doubt," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said at his end of season news conference. "With somebody that is not in the building right now. We're hopeful for that."
Which makes 'Who will be the quarterback(s) brought in to compete with Bradford?' one of the most pressing questions of this offseason. Earlier this week, Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles had the honor of being one of the first names to be rumored as a possibility. According to a report at NJ.com, the Rams are one of a handful of teams showing early interest in making a deal for Foles.
Foles was viewed as one of the league's emerging young quarterbacks after a breakthrough 2013 season in which he threw 27 touchdown passes with just two interceptions in leading the Eagles to an NFC East Division title. Some of the shine came off Foles' star this season though, as he threw 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while playing eight games before a fractured collarbone ended his season.
"I don't know, we'll sit down and thoroughly evaluate everything in the offseason," Kelly told reporters. "It's no different than any other position. We'll look at it. Let's look at the film again. Let's get all the opinions on it and make valid decisions on it."
It's no secret that Kelly has an affinity for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Heisman Trophy winner who Kelly coached before taking the Eagles job. But Kelly and the Eagles are almost certainly well out of range to select Mariota, as they hold the No. 20 overall pick in the draft.
Which might lead us to the crux of the situation. The Rams hold the No. 10 pick in the draft, which is also probably out of reach of Mariota but certainly a lot closer to Mariota's range than the 20th spot. Should Kelly and the Eagles decide to move up to try to get Mariota, they might have to make multiple trades and could dangle Foles as bait in one of those moves.
The question then becomes whether the Rams would be willing to make the move. There's no chance the Rams would simply trade the 10th pick for Foles straight up. If Philadelphia offered the 20th pick, Foles and a mid-round pick for the 10th pick, that would be something the Rams would have to take a closer look at.
As it stands, the Rams have no obvious in-house solution at quarterback, and there's no doubt that they'll explore any option out there. It remains to be seen how Foles would function outside of Kelly's offense, but at least he has more of a resume than any other free-agent quarterback or draft prospect the Rams could land.
Considering that the current Rams regime is entering its fourth year without a winning season to its name, adding a quarterback who could legitimately push to be the starter right away (while still drafting a young quarterback to groom) would make plenty of sense.
Over the next couple of months, plenty of other rumors will pop up, but Foles is one name that would be intriguing if he does become available and the price is reasonable.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Oakland outside linebacker Khalil Mack are expected to be among the top candidates to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. The award will be announced Saturday.
Rams NFL Nation reporter Nick Wagoner and Raiders NFL Nation reporter Bill Williamson discuss Donald's and Mack's candidacy here:
Williamson: Mack's case is pretty simple: He looked like a five-year All-Pro all season. He was so smooth, so smart. He was Pro Football Focus' top ranked outside linebacker in the NFL -- and we're not talking about just rookie outside linebackers. He never played like a rookie and he got better as the season progressed. He didn't have a ton of flashy plays, but he was just so steady. According to STATS, INC, he was second in the NFL with 11.5 "stuffs." Who led the NFL? MVP candidate JJ Watt with 13.5. He was also good against the pass. He hit the quarterback 25 times and had four sacks.
So, why Donald?
Wagoner: Well, like Mack the case is pretty simple. Also like Mack, Pro Football Focus rated Donald as the best defensive tackle in the league. Not the best rookie defensive tackle, the best defensive tackle in the league. But aside from a subjective grading system, Donald has the hard numbers to back it up. His nine sacks were the most among all rookies and he had 18 tackles for loss, fifth most in the NFL. His value is best recognized in what happened to the Rams defense after he stepped into the starting lineup. Without Donald in the starting lineup the first four games, the Rams had one sack, gave up 152.5 rushing yards per game and averaged a sack on 0.9 percent of opponent's pass attempts. After he entered the starting lineup, the Rams had 39 sacks, gave up 96.25 rushing yards per game and averaged a sack on 9 percent of opponent's pass attempts.
There are others involved in the mix in this, too. Namely, Baltimore linebacker C.J. Mosley, who has the numbers and plays on a winning team. What do you think are the chances that Donald or Mack is able to overcome that hurdle?
Williamson: I think they are the two frontrunners. If I had to guess, I'd say Donald is going to win the award and Mack will be second. They may not have been on winning teams, but their dominance was so strong, voters couldn't help but notice. That's a testament to both youngsters.
What were the Rams immediate expectations for Donald?
Mack is obviously part of the foundation for the Raiders moving forward whether he wins the award or not. What do you think his ceiling is?
Williamson: There is no doubt; Mack is a building block for the rebuilding Raiders. He will get better as the Raiders add pieces around him. ESPN analyst Merril Hoge told me during the season that he thinks Mack can become one of the most complete, versatile linebackers ever to play in the NFL. That is heady, heady stuff. I don't know if we can expect that type of career, but, because there are no downsides to Mack's game, approach and attitude, I think he has a chance to be a perennial All-Pro player.
Did the Rams focus on Donald or were they surprised he was on the board?
Wagoner: I was told by more than one person in the organization as far back as the combine that they loved Donald but they had little expectation that he would be available. It was made clear as the draft approached that they would take him if he somehow slipped. But even the day before the draft, I was laughed at for even suggesting he might be available. The Rams had plans to take Dallas offensive lineman Zack Martin or Mosley in more realistic scenarios but when Donald slipped to them, it was academic. They were thrilled to get him and that enthusiasm has clearly been justified. He's going to be one of their primary players for the next decade or so.
But the Rams and coach Jeff Fisher will have to make a decision at some point and could be drawing closer to one. Tuesday brings with it a couple of options that could be in play for the job.
The most obvious of those choices is former Buffalo offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett interviewed with Fisher last Thursday and remains firmly in the mix for the job. In fact, Hackett is the only outside candidate known to have interviewed for the job to this point and is scheduled to speak to the Rams again on Tuesday. The fact that he's getting a second interview at the very least means Fisher is intrigued enough to continue considering him, even if it guarantees nothing when it comes to hiring him.
But, according to a report from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the Colts will no longer have a say in Chudzinski's future as of Tuesday. At that point, he'll be free to interview with either team. That doesn't necessarily mean he will though, as it's believed Indianapolis values his input and the Colts might try to find a way to expand his role.
At the Colts' end-of-season news conference, general manager Ryan Grigson indicated that retaining Chudzinski is a possibility.
“I’m not going to get into specifics,” Grigson said. “But it’s ultimately my job to make sure that good people stay in this building and don’t just walk right out. So we’ll address that and do our best to keep good people here.”
Barring that, there's strong belief in league circles that Chudzinski would prefer San Francisco to St. Louis, though circumstances can always change. Chudzinski spent last season with the Colts after getting just one season as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Before that, he was the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers for two seasons.
Hackett spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator for Doug Marrone in Buffalo. During his time, the Bills struggled offensively with an unsettled quarterback situation not unlike the one the Rams currently have. Still, there are some league observers who believe Hackett has the makeup to be successful if given the right tools with which to work.
Aside from Hackett and Chudzinski, the only other potential candidates linked to the job include in-house options such as tight ends coach Rob Boras and quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti. It's also possible there are other candidates that have not been revealed, but without many candidates to consider, the Rams will have to come to a resolution to their search sooner than later.
The Rams never even got to interview Gase but, as we reported Tuesday night, if he had made it out of Chicago, things would have gotten serious with the Rams. Alas, Gase never made it out of Chicago.
Which leaves the Rams still searching in an ever-thinning pool of candidates. To this point, they've also expressed interest in Green Bay quarterback coach Alex Van Pelt and Indianapolis special assistant Rob Chudzinski. But the Packers and Colts denied the Rams permission to interview either. Although Chudzinski's contract with the Colts is up next week, Indianapolis could look to increase his role to keep him and, barring that, the Rams could have competition from San Francisco for his services.
Among other known prospects, the Rams also missed out on Greg Roman and Kyle Shanahan, who took the coordinator jobs in Buffalo and Atlanta, respectively. So what's left for the Rams?
Well, there's now only one known outside candidate remaining in the form of former Buffalo offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett has spent time with the Rams in the past 24 hours. For those unfamiliar with Hackett, here's a quick scouting report from ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak:
"Hackett took some heat from fans and reporters the past two seasons for a Bills offense that was among the NFL's worst. An energetic, young coach, Hackett began the 2013 season running an up-tempo, option-style system that he and Doug Marrone brought along from Syracuse. Slow development from EJ Manuel -- hampered by multiple knee injuries his rookie season -- forced Hackett to slow the pace and narrow the scope of his game plans by the end of his first season. Manuel never emerged this past season, leading to Kyle Orton taking over his job by Week 5. The carousel at quarterback -- the Bills had five different starters between 2013 and 2014 -- and a reliable defense led Hackett to be more conservative with the offense than he wanted. At best, he's a bright offensive mind who was strapped by a brutal quarterback situation in Buffalo. At worst, he was in over his head with the Bills and might need more time as a position coach before he's ready to return as a play caller."
There are those around the league who believe Hackett better fits the best case of that scenario, but it also leads to the question of whether he'd be inheriting a situation in St. Louis much better than the one he's leaving in Buffalo. The Rams quarterback situation has no obvious solution aside from hoping for health from quarterback Sam Bradford and some major repairs are needed on the offensive line.
Beyond Hackett, the Rams also still have in-house candidates like tight ends coach Rob Boras and quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti. And given the secretive and deliberate approach Rams coach Jeff Fisher has taken to the whole process, it wouldn't floor anyone if he had a surprise candidate or two up his sleeve.
St. Louis Rams punter Johnny Hekker signed a contract officially filed to the league on Dec. 5 that makes him the highest-paid punter in the league and provides the greatest guarantee for a punter or kicker in league history.
Hekker signed a six-year contract extension that would pay him a total of more than $18 million through the 2020 season should Hekker make it there. The total amount guaranteed is $9,100,991, most of which comes in the form of guaranteed base salary and roster bonuses along the way.
Here's how it breaks down with all numbers courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:
Base salary: $1,111,111 (Becomes fully guaranteed on fifth day of new league year)
Prorated signing bonus: $151,551
Roster bonus: $1,111,111 (Paid on third day of new league year, fully guaranteed)
Cash value: $2,222,222
Cap value: $2,373,773
Base salary: $2,222,222 (Guaranteed for injury at signing, guaranteed for cap/skill on fifth day of '16 league year)
Prorated signing bonus: $151,551
Roster bonus: $0
Cash value: $2,222,222
Cap value: $2,373,773
Base salary: $2,222,222 (Guaranteed for injury at signing, guaranteed for cap/skill on fifth day of '17 league year)
Prorated signing bonus: $151,551
Roster bonus: $0
Cash value: $2,222,222
Cap value: $2,373,773
Base salary: $1,111,111
Prorated signing bonus: $151,551
Roster bonus: $1,542,451 (Guaranteed on fifth day of '18 league year)
Cash value: $2,653,562
Cap value: $2,805,115
Base salary: $2,999,992
Prorated signing bonus: $0
Roster bonus: $0
Cash value: $2,999,992
Cap value: $2,999,992
Base salary: $3,500,053
Prorated signing bonus: $0
Roster bonus: $0
Cash value: $3,500,053
Cap value: $3,500,053
That's probably by the design of head coach Jeff Fisher, who surprised many last year when he and Gregg Williams solved whatever issues they had and reunited in St. Louis after Fisher relieved Tim Walton of his defensive coordinator duties.
After Brian Schottenheimer departed for the offensive coordinator job at Georgia, I wrote in this space that it's probably best not to expect Fisher's search to play out publicly or swiftly. That isn't how he's handled things in the past, and it again doesn't appear to be the case this time around.
Schottenheimer's departure came nearly two weeks ago, and to this point it's been hard to confirm any actual interviews taking place, though we do know of a few names the Rams have shown interest in or spoken to in some capacity. That list includes Greg Roman, Kyle Shanahan, Nathaniel Hackett and Adam Gase.
Roman never made it to a Rams interview, taking the coordinator job in Buffalo. The Rams requested an interview with Gase, but it's unknown if that will happen. He's received similar overtures from Atlanta, Jacksonville, Oakland and Chicago and interviewed for the head-coaching job in Denver, so he has no shortage of options.
Shanahan is a name that has obvious ties to Fisher, but he may be waiting to see how some other things play out before landing. He's been connected to the coordinator job in San Francisco, or possibly as a fit with Dan Quinn should he get a head-coaching job or as a possible fit in Baltimore should (when?) Gary Kubiak depart for Denver's head-coaching position. Gase could also be a factor for the Ravens should Kubiak leave.
A few others to keep an eye on include an in-house candidate in tight ends coach Rob Boras and Indianapolis special assistant Rob Chudzinski. Chudzinski is also expected to be a factor in San Francisco's search. It also wouldn't surprise if Fisher had a surprise candidate or two up his sleeve in the form of a current position coach somewhere in the league.
It's possible more clarity could come this week as the Rams head to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. It's a place where plenty of NFL business gets taken care of, so even if the Rams don't nail down their next coordinator, other dominoes could fall that might ultimately help render a decision.
Grubman was in town to meet with Rams and St. Louis city officials about their recently released stadium proposal in St. Louis. He spoke to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and local radio station KMOX.
The many pertinent questions that need to be asked of a representative of the league were asked. The answers were about as clear as mud.
"There’s no question that new locations, new leases, modified stadiums, renovated stadiums – all of those things are subject to a vote," Grubman told KMOX. "I said to somebody earlier today, whether a team leaves or stays, it needs a vote. We are a league of rules and the rules are followed.”
But how closely are those rules followed and can they be bent to the whims of the league? That has been my contention this whole time, and I still believe it to be true after seeing what Grubman told St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz when he asked if there was a scenario in which Stan Kroenke could move the Rams with a St. Louis stadium in place.
“That’s a great question which I don’t know how to answer because that’s subject to the twin pillars of relocation guideline and votes,” Grubman told Miklasz. “The relocation guidelines are not absolute etched in stone. There’s subjective judgments that have to be made.
“So I can’t guess that probability. But on the other hand there’s votes, which I don’t control. But what’s clear is, if a market has a franchise, and that franchise has been supported, and can be supported, and that franchise can enjoy a healthy existence, that’s a central plank of Roger Goodell’s commissionership. And I don’t take that lightly.”
As Miklasz points out, the use of the phrases "not absolute etched in stone" and "subjective judgments" allows for plenty of wiggle room on matters such as these.
Grubman's overall tone both on the radio and in print were mostly positive about keeping the Rams in St. Louis. He makes it clear that the Kroenke hasn't specifically said he wants to move to Los Angeles though he also acknowledged that Kroenke has said he's "keeping his options open." He also made it clear that for St. Louis to keep the Rams, they must see the stadium plan through to completion (which we already knew). He also told Miklasz he doesn't believe it's "too little, too late" for this stadium plan to keep the Rams and that the league has helped other markets keep their teams.
But let's be realistic here, despite the overall positive tone of any and all comments Grubman made on behalf of the league, he committed to absolutely nothing, nor would you expect him to. He's simply doing his job. But it doesn't take a direct answer to know that ultimately the league and its owners will do what they believe is best for business.
And the St. Louis Rams apparently moved quickly to express interest Thursday morning, as ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported the Rams have requested an offensive coordinator interview with Gase.
St. Louis Rams requested permission for OC interview with Broncos OC Adam Gase, a finalist for 49ers HC job.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 15, 2015
Gase would obviously have plenty of appeal for the Rams, and they are absolutely doing the right thing by seeking an interview with him. While some like to solely credit Peyton Manning for Denver's offensive success, Manning often points to Gase as one of his favorite coaches and speaks highly of Gase at every turn. With Gase in charge of the offense, the Broncos set NFL offensive records in 2013 and finished second in the league in scoring and fourth in total offense in 2014.
The question isn't whether Gase would be a good hire so much as it is whether the Rams can land him. In that regard, there is no shortage of competition.
The 49ers reached out to Gase to make him offensive coordinator after passing him over for the head-coaching job, and the Broncos spent time with Gase on Wednesday discussing their head-coaching job. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders have also expressed at least some level of interest in Gase for their offensive coordinator openings.
And it's the Atlanta Falcons that seem to loom largest in this. The Falcons have already interviewed Gase for their head-coaching job, and though it appears they prefer either Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin or Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn for that job, both coaches have expressed interest in bringing in Gase as offensive coordinator. To that end, the Falcons are expected to put in a formal interview request with Gase for the offensive coordinator position.
Clearly, that might just be a matter of housekeeping since Atlanta has already talked to him and knows him from the interview for the head-coaching job. With a quarterback in Matt Ryan and other talented young pieces like receiver Julio Jones and offensive lineman Jake Matthews in place in Atlanta -- combined with the Rams' potential relocation hovering over the franchise to go with a coaching staff that needs to win in 2015 -- the Falcons would seem to be the more appealing job.
Of course, if the Rams' re-hiring of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams last year taught us anything about the coaching carousel, it's to never rule anything out. Things can always change, so we can't categorically say the Rams won't be a player here.
But where things stand now, it would seem things will indeed have to change for the Rams to have a chance to land Gase.
But as the Rams begin preparations for this year's draft -- the all-star game season is officially upon us -- their once deep pockets are now filled with the usual amount of currency and a couple of pieces of lint.
The extra picks from Washington have all been spent and the Rams traded fourth- and sixth-round choices to Tampa Bay in exchange for safety/linebacker Mark Barron. As it stands, the Rams have just five picks in this year's draft though I believe there's a sixth on the way from the 2012 trade they made with New England for receiver Greg Salas. That pick is expected to be a late-round choice, likely a seventh-rounder.
St. Louis could also garner some additional picks in the form of compensatory selections for their free-agent losses a year ago. Any compensatory choices they would garner cannot be traded.
The lack of additional picks also means that should the Rams decide to try to move up for, say, a quarterback, they don't have as much ammunition to do that as they have in the past. General manager Les Snead is quick to point out that trading fourth- and sixth-round picks likely wouldn't preclude a deal because such a trade would probably require future premium picks like the ones the Rams got from Washington in a similar deal.
"It would probably take future picks as well," Snead said. "You won't move up to take long-snapper."
The idea of a move up might be more appealing than sticking around and making a bunch of picks for the Rams this year. Coach Jeff Fisher has already indicated that the early view of this year's draft class is that it's not nearly as deep or talented as last year. Snead echoed those sentiments recently.
"I have reached the point enough to know it’s definitely not as deep as last year," Snead said. "That was a pretty deep draft. This year there are some positions that are probably stronger than last year’s draft, just from a position standpoint."
Snead declined to say what those positions are but early returns from various draft pundits are that the offensive line, wide receiver and pass-rushers are some of the deeper spots in the coming class.
Clearly, the Rams could use help on the offensive line and a top receiver would still be a good get if the Rams could get access to one (and becomes a serious need if they can't retain Kenny Britt).
The draft is still a long ways off and the way the Rams will deploy the picks they have will evolve over that time but it's a process that's already begun.
"From a draft standpoint, what I like to do is over here we are working on needs and what we need, but we better figure out the 2015 draft," Snead said. "It might not match our needs. You line up things to the best of your ability by who you think the best players are at each position. Then you can go in and say that 2015 happens to be pretty deep at this position and you figure out the strategy of ‘Well, we could go there but this guy might be there later’ so it’s not a big difference so let’s wait. You try to strategize that way."
Bowles' departure from Arizona represents the second sizable loss for an NFC West division foe this offseason after the San Francisco 49ers and Jim Harbaugh parted ways right after the season. For the St. Louis Rams, both of those departures are good news.
In just two years as the Cardinals' coordinator, Bowles' defenses gave the Rams fits more often than not. In four meetings, the Rams' offense mustered just 286.8 yards per game, 3.6 yards per carry and 14.2 points per game. Rams quarterbacks managed a lowly 20.3 QBR in those games while being sacked 12 times and throwing six interceptions. Included in those meetings, Bowles' defenders managed two interceptions returned for a touchdown, a fumble recovery for a score and a safety.
The Rams were 1-3 in those games with the win coming in the only game in which they had a good offensive performance, the 2013 season opener in St. Louis. It's probably no coincidence that effort was the one game in which the Rams were led by a healthy Sam Bradford at quarterback. It was also Bowles' first game as a coordinator and the Rams were running the since scrapped wide-open offense they were trying to implement at the time.
In the other three matchups, the Rams started Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis and Shaun Hill at quarterback. In those meetings, the current three-game losing streak for St. Louis, the Rams' offense averaged 260.3 yards per game, 3.92 yards per carry and 10 points per game. Bowles' penchant for blitzing gave those Rams quarterbacks fits.
While Arizona should be able to bring back most of its defensive talent, the Cardinals now face the task of finding a good fit who can fill his shoes. Dick LeBeau has been rumored as one possibility but Arizona can ill-afford to lose the aggressive approach that Bowles had so much success with.
Bowles' exit to the East might not be the last bit of good news within the coaching carousel for the Rams. Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn remains a strong candidate for other openings, and also could be on his way out.
Of course, attrition around the division won't help the Rams more than hiring a creative and talented offensive coordinator and improving the roster at quarterback and on the offensive line.
That was done by design as the Rams had a cadre of extra draft choices from Washington, and Snead and Fisher took over an aging roster in desperate need of an influx of youth and talent. The plan has called for patience while those many young players grow up through playing experience.
Whatever patience that existed for the rebuilding project to take place has worn thin as the Rams again posted a losing record in 2014 and actually finished with one less victory (six) than each of the two seasons preceding it.
It would appear the answer is yes.
"Not going back to the past but what you inherited and how you started, when you're so young, the old [Bill] Parcells thing, the groceries, they're going to come before the dinner," Snead said. "Groceries are individual players. The coaches have done a great job with young players kind of coming up, we'll list them as ingredients, and we're heading toward a good dinner.
"With that, yes. I'm not saying the answer is let's go take the veteran free agent. It could be the boring answer is our guys are becoming veterans, so I think that helps. In free agency you can only add so many pieces."
There are plenty of pieces the Rams need to add moving forward, namely on an offensive line that could have as many as three new starters in 2015. Right guard Davin Joseph and right tackle Joe Barksdale are scheduled for unrestricted free agency, and center Scott Wells has one year left on his deal but the Rams could use an upgrade in the middle. They also have needs at quarterback and for depth at various other spots.
That isn't to say the Rams should or will go out and spend big bucks on high-priced veterans in free agency. It's an exercise that hasn't really panned out well under Fisher and Snead. Big-dollar signings of cornerback Cortland Finnegan, Wells and Jake Long haven't paid much dividends.
But the Rams weren't very active in free agency last year and they've already made clear their feelings on the (lack of) depth of the 2015 draft by trading away a fourth- and a sixth-round pick for safety Mark Barron. With what they perceive as fewer glaring roster holes, the timing could be right to be more active players in free agency so long as those players are still ascending.
“Well, we’re going to look," Fisher said. "We’re going to look at free agency. I think we’ll be able to do that. We’ve done that each year. Everybody that’s been here that’s returned, has got another year of experience right now. Yeah, it would make sense to see if you get some, but you don’t want to go old either. You can’t go out and get somebody on the twilight of his career and expect to be productive.”
Jenkins played his high school ball at Pahokee High and chose the University of Florida for college ball. Even after transferring, Jenkins went to North Alabama. Suffice to say, Jenkins doesn't like the idea of playing outside unless it's in a warm-weather climate.
So while nearly the entire Rams organization was silent on social media during the reveal of the St. Louis stadium plan on Friday, Jenkins had no problem voicing his thoughts on the open-air proposal.
Stl rams plan to play football next year come late December early January.. #L.AorCloseTheNewRoof— Mr.Pix6Sh*t (@JjenkzLockdown) January 9, 2015
As you'd expect, those tweets weren't received too kindly by St. Louis fans or those in the Rams organization. Rams players received a text during the proceedings asking them not to tweet about the stadium proposal or matters relating to it.
Of course, Jenkins also clearly didn't realize that a new open-air stadium in St. Louis has nothing to do with what happens in 2015. Or 2016. Or any year between now and 2020, when the St. Louis stadium proposal is expected to be finished.
Jenkins is actually scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after next season, so if he's truly upset about the idea of playing outdoors in a cold-weather city, he'll be able to factor that in to his decision.