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Monday, March 12, 2012
Rams' moves signal need to develop youth

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

The St. Louis Rams went through last season as one of the five oldest teams in the NFL.

They are now one of the five youngest after parting with veterans Jason Brown, Justin Bannan and Fred Robbins. The new average, based on rosters I maintain for every team, also reflects subtracting more than 400 projected free agents around the league.

The moves will create about $9.5 million in salary-cap space, according to Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis. The Rams will get another $1.6 million in space, as will every other NFC West team, after the league took away cap space from Washington and Dallas for accounting tactics they used in 2010.

Defensive end James Hall (35), kicker Josh Brown (32), safety Quintin Mikell (31), guard Harvey Dahl (30) and cornerback Ron Bartell (30) are the only Rams players in their 30s with contracts for the 2012 season. Mikell and Dahl project as starters. It's tougher to say how Hall and Bartell might fit.

Robbins was outstanding for the Rams in 2010, the first of two seasons he spent with the team. He wasn't as effective last season -- the team struggled as a whole, of course -- and will turn 35 next month. Brown, 28, started each of the 46 games he played in three seasons for the Rams, but the coaching staff benched him last season. Bannan, a free-agent addition during camp last summer, started 14 games. He turns 33 in April.

The Rams are only getting started on their roster makeover. They added veteran seasoning to patch holes on their roster coming out of the lockout last offseason. The contracts for most of those players had no bearing on the salary cap beyond 2011.

Now, with additional draft choices acquired from Washington, the Rams are in position to stock their roster with younger players. They had fallen behind their division rivals in developing young talent.