NFC East: St. Louis Rams

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Les Snead wasn't even a month into his new job as the St. Louis Rams general manager when he made the move that, for better or worse, will define his tenure.

Hired on Feb. 14, 2012, Snead and coach Jeff Fisher worked to orchestrate a trade that sent the No. 2 overall pick in that draft to the Washington Redskins for a haul of draft choices that included first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. The deal was finalized and announced March 13.

Two years later, the final piece of that puzzle will fall into place during Thursday night's first round of the NFL draft. In the past two drafts, Snead, Fisher and the Rams have made a habit of using their additional capital to manipulate the draft with more trades, moving up and down the board regularly.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Ben LiebenbergIt's time for the Rams to collect on their trade with Washington and get a difference-maker.
Stockpiling picks the past two years was logical for a team that had one of the worst rosters in the league when Snead and Fisher were brought on board. While the jury remains out on how most of those players will develop, the Rams have seen better results on the field even if it means being mired in mediocrity rather than muck.

To take the next step, the Rams should consider making the transition from quantity to quality.

So far, the results of the trade with Washington have been mixed. After moving to the Redskins' spot at No. 6 in 2012, the Rams traded down again, this time with Dallas to No. 14 and selected defensive tackle Michael Brockers.

Using the second-round choice the team acquired from Washington, St. Louis selected cornerback Janoris Jenkins and followed by trading the choice from the Cowboys to Chicago to move back five spots in the second and add a fifth-round pick. The Rams used those picks on running back Isaiah Pead and guard Rokevious Watkins.

Brockers is off to a promising start and is a candidate for a breakout third season. Jenkins flashed major playmaking potential as a rookie but took a step back in 2013, Pead has been relegated to a special teams role and Watkins lasted only one injury-plagued season on the roster.

Last year's draft saw the Rams trade Washington's pick, No. 22 overall, and a seventh-rounder to Atlanta for the 30th pick plus third and sixth-round selections. From there, the Rams used No. 30 on linebacker Alec Ogletree, the third-round pick on receiver Stedman Bailey and the sixth-round choice as part of a deal to move up for running back Zac Stacy.

Early returns on those moves are decidedly positive with Ogletree improving as the year went on, Stacy emerging as the starting back and Bailey flashing starter potential near the end of the season.

All told, the Rams' current return on the initial trade with Washington and the many ensuing moves appear to be mostly good, solid additions. Which is precisely the point; the Rams have plenty of good and solid on the roster. Good and solid has translated to 7-9 and 7-8-1.

What they need is transformative.

Defensive end Robert Quinn is the only every-down player on the roster who currently qualifies in that blue-chip category. Sure, others could ascend to that level, as Quinn did in 2013, but the need for more remains.

Looking around the brutal NFC West, a team such as Seattle can boast seven or eight legitimate All-Pro caliber starters. San Francisco and Arizona are not far behind.

That's not to say Snead should switch his cellphone to airplane mode should teams come calling for the No. 2 pick in this year's draft.

While each team views the draft class differently, the Rams probably would be happy to come out of the draft with any one of six elite talents, a group that includes South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack and Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan.

Should any trade offers come their way, it would be risky for the Rams to move any lower than No. 6, where previous trade partner Atlanta currently sits. But in a year when there's no franchise quarterback teams are eager to trade up for, would it be worthwhile for the Rams to trade with a team such as the Falcons knowing they might have to settle for the player they rank sixth in that group?

Why not, barring a Godfather offer from another team, stay at No. 2 and walk away with the player you believe has the best chance to be a true difference-maker and potential Hall of Famer?

With all of the extra premium picks, the Rams have been an April power broker the past two years and will be again this May. Now is the time to cash in those chips to become one in January.
IRVING, Texas -- Henry Melton's visit with the Dallas Cowboys has ended and the free-agent defensive tackle is off to visit the St. Louis Rams, according to a source.

From all accounts, Melton's visit went well. According to sources, the medical checkup on his surgically-repaired knee came back fine, and he was able to re-connect with the coach that developed him into a Pro Bowler with the Chicago Bears, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

Melton has visited with the Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings since free agency started. Talks with the teams will continue as Melton looks for his next home.

The Cowboys will continue meeting with free-agent defensive end Jared Allen, who arrived in Dallas Monday night and met with coach Jason Garrett and several assistants.

The Cowboys are looking for defensive line help, but so far in free agency have maintained a disciplined approach despite the release of DeMarcus Ware and the loss of Jason Hatcher. Ware has since signed with the Denver Broncos and Hatcher signed with the Washington Redskins.

The Cowboys have roughly $7.6 million in salary cap space. Depending on the structure and lengths of deals, they may need to come up with more cap room by either restructuring or releasing players.

Live blog: Rams at Cowboys

September, 22, 2013
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Video: NFC 411

November, 23, 2011
PM ET bloggers Dan Graziano (NFC East), Kevin Seifert (NFC North), Pat Yasinskas (NFC South) and Mike Sando (NFC West) analyze the NFC.

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September, 19, 2011
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Oshiomogho Atogwe's contract agreement with the Washington Redskins, reported by Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, leaves the St. Louis Rams weaker in the secondary.

That is the bottom line.

ESPN's Adam Schefter says the deal is for five years and $26 million. It's unclear how the contract is structured. Atogwe's previous deal with the Rams wound up paying him $4 million. His new deal surely represents an upgrade even though players often don't see all the money in a long-term deal.

Unusual and unfortunate circumstances negatively affected negotiations between the Rams and Atogwe. The team named him its franchise player following the 2008 season. Atogwe played the 2009 season under terms of the one-year, $6.34 million franchise offer. He became only a restricted free agent following the 2009 season, however, as the labor agreement upped requirements for unrestricted free agency in an uncapped year.

This was an unfortunate step backward for Atogwe.

The Rams took advantage of the RFA designation by making the lowest possible offer. Rules required them to up that $1.226 million offer to $7 million or let Atogwe become a free agent last June. The Rams opted to let Atogwe become a free agent. They liked him, but not at the $7 million price. The timing made it tougher for Atogwe to find a suitable deal. He re-signed with the Rams.

At the time, Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. thought Atogwe would have been better off joining a superior defense elsewhere on a one-year deal and re-marketing himself. Instead, Atogwe came back to the Rams and played well at times, but he did not stand out.

Atogwe has built a reputation for forcing turnovers, but his production in that area has fallen off even while the Rams have improved on defense. He had three interceptions in 2010 and two the previous season after collecting 13 in 2007 and 2008. Jim Haslett, the Rams' defensive coordinator during Atogwe's ball-hawking years, is coordinating the Redskins' defense. Perhaps Atogwe will fit better there.

I think the Rams would have liked to have brought back Atogwe, but they never valued him as a sideline-to-sideline force. They never valued him the way the franchise designation said they valued him. For them, the tag was a convenient way to keep him for a year, not a sign they valued him at that price over a long-term deal. Throw in the unusual RFA situation last offseason and this negotiation wasn't as easy as it should have been.

The Rams will miss Atogwe, but their fans should be happy for him, too. Atogwe handled himself more professionally than I can recall another player handling himself under the circumstances. He practiced with the team as a franchise player even though he hadn't signed the $6.34 million tender. He was a team player all the way.