NFC West: Alex Carrington

The past week saw the St. Louis Rams finally dip their toes into the free-agent pool, signing a pair of veterans in defensive tackle Alex Carrington and quarterback Shaun Hill and taking a flyer on under-the-radar youngsters in cornerback Greg Reid and linebacker Etienne Sabino.

It was also a busy week for coach Jeff Fisher, who spent most of the time discussing potential rule changes and alterations at the owners meetings in Orlando. Fisher also spent some time chatting with reporters in Orlando, offering some thoughts on a variety of issues.

A look back at the week that was:

  • [+] EnlargeTavon Austin
    Tony Avelar/AP PhotoThe Rams are hoping to get more out of receiver Tavon Austin in his second season.
    After trading up to the eighth pick in the NFL draft last year, the Rams selected receiver/returner Tavon Austin in hopes that he'd provide a spark to an offense in desperate need of one. In his rookie year, Austin certainly flashed that game-changing ability, especially against Indianapolis and Chicago, but missed time at the end of the year with an ankle injury and fell short of the many lofty outside expectations for him.
But the Rams have no concerns about that. In Orlando, Fisher expressed confidence Austin would take the next step in 2014 and the team would have a better idea of ways to best use him.

“We’re not disappointed in what his production was last year at all," Fisher said. "One of the things that was misleading was he had two or three returns called back -- one against Dallas --and then he got hurt. I think another year in the program, in the offense, OTAs, training camp, you’ll see more production. I think we’ll do a better job of using him now that we know what he’s capable of doing. Kind of looking forward to see him improve from year one to year two.’’

  • Signing Carrington was no surprise in that the Rams were looking for help on the defensive line. It was a little more of a surprise that he was the team's first free-agent addition from another team. St. Louis saw great value in Carrington, who has the ability to play all over the line and signed a relatively cheap one-year deal.
“We just wanted rotational depth at the tackle spot," Fisher said. "We’ve had over 100 sacks the last two years, so we can rush the passer, I think we can continue (that). We just wanted some more experience at that spot. It will take a little of the draft pressure off us at some point. Alex has been injured, healthy now and has played a lot of different positions in a number of schemes in the last couple years and hasn’t been able to settle down. We liked him coming out, we thought he would be a disruptive type pass rusher and run defender and we’d like to give him a chance to do that.’’

Carrington is coming off a torn quad but the Rams have no concerns about his health moving forward.

  • It's no secret the Rams have interest in help on the offensive line as many have linked them to the top three tackles: Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Michigan's Taylor Lewan. The first two are expected to go in the top six or so but Lewan's status is a little more of a question mark given some off-field issues.
Fisher didn't want to speculate on how that might change the way the team views Lewan but said it will require a deeper look.

“It doesn’t cause you pause in evaluating, but it certainly going to cause to do more background and research on it,’’ Fisher said.

  • Finally, anytime a player like receiver DeSean Jackson comes available, the obvious question is whether the Rams would have interest in him. Clearly, the Rams could use a No. 1 type of receiver and a proven one like Jackson might make even more sense than taking a chance on even the most talented receiver in the draft.
Jackson is scheduled to visit Washington first and Oakland and Buffalo have also expressed interest. Indications from the Rams are that they won't be involved in this particular conversation in any sort of serious way. While the Rams could use the help, they don't have a lot of salary cap space to use on a player who would probably require another big cap number. Theoretically they could give him a smaller number in the first year but that would require them to backload the deal more than they'd like and eat up valuable space that could be used on extensions for current players in the next few years.

There's also the idea that Jackson would be a bit redundant with Austin, which is to say they are both smaller receivers with games built on speed and change of direction. Not that both players couldn't succeed but it still may not be the best fit.

Beyond all of that, there's the larger X-factor of why, exactly, Philadelphia released such a productive player under contract in the prime of his career. One way or another, the Eagles had their reasons and, like Fisher mentioned with Lewan, there will need to be some major legwork done by any team looking to add Jackson.
The past week saw the St. Louis Rams finally dip their toes into the free-agent pool, signing a pair of veterans in defensive tackle Alex Carrington and quarterback Shaun Hill and taking a flyer on under-the-radar youngsters in cornerback Greg Reid and linebacker Etienne Sabino.

It was also a busy week for coach Jeff Fisher, who spent most of the time discussing potential rule changes and alterations at the owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. Fisher also spent some time chatting with reporters, offering some thoughts on a variety of issues.

A look back at the week that was:

  • [+] EnlargeTavon Austin
    Tony Avelar/AP PhotoThe Rams are hoping to get more out of receiver Tavon Austin in his second season.
    After trading up to the eighth pick in the NFL draft last year, the Rams selected receiver/returner Tavon Austin in hopes that he'd provide a spark to an offense in desperate need of one. In his rookie year, Austin certainly flashed that game-changing ability, especially against Indianapolis and Chicago, but missed time at the end of the year with an ankle injury and fell short of the many lofty outside expectations for him.
But the Rams have no concerns about that. In Orlando, Fisher expressed confidence Austin would take the next step in 2014 and the team would have a better idea of ways to best use him.

“We’re not disappointed in what his production was last year at all," Fisher said. "One of the things that was misleading was he had two or three returns called back -- one against Dallas --and then he got hurt. I think another year in the program, in the offense, OTAs, training camp, you’ll see more production. I think we’ll do a better job of using him now that we know what he’s capable of doing. Kind of looking forward to see him improve from year one to year two."

  • Signing Carrington was no surprise in that the Rams were looking for help on the defensive line. It was a little more of a surprise that he was the team's first free-agent addition from another team. St. Louis saw great value in Carrington, who has the ability to play all over the line and signed a relatively cheap one-year deal.
“We just wanted rotational depth at the tackle spot," Fisher said. "We’ve had over 100 sacks the last two years, so we can rush the passer, I think we can continue [that]. We just wanted some more experience at that spot. It will take a little of the draft pressure off us at some point. Alex has been injured, healthy now and has played a lot of different positions in a number of schemes in the last couple years and hasn’t been able to settle down. We liked him coming out, we thought he would be a disruptive type pass rusher and run defender and we’d like to give him a chance to do that."

Carrington is coming off a torn quad but the Rams have no concerns about his health moving forward.

  • It's no secret the Rams have interest in help on the offensive line as many have linked them to the top three tackles: Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Michigan's Taylor Lewan. The first two are expected to go in the top six or so but Lewan's status is a little more of a question mark given some off-field issues.
Fisher didn't want to speculate on how that might change the way the team views Lewan but said it will require a deeper look.

“It doesn’t cause you pause in evaluating, but it certainly going to cause to do more background and research on it," Fisher said.

  • Finally, anytime a player like receiver DeSean Jackson comes available, the obvious question is whether the Rams would have interest in him. Clearly, the Rams could use a No. 1 type of receiver and a proven one like Jackson might make even more sense than taking a chance on even the most talented receiver in the draft.
Jackson is scheduled to visit Washington first and Oakland and Buffalo have also expressed interest. Indications from the Rams are that they won't be involved in this particular conversation in any sort of serious way. While the Rams could use the help, they don't have a lot of salary cap space to use on a player who would probably require another big cap number. Theoretically they could give him a smaller number in the first year but that would require them to backload the deal more than they'd like and eat up valuable space that could be used on extensions for current players in the next few years.

There's also the idea that Jackson would be a bit redundant with Austin, which is to say they are both smaller receivers with games built on speed and change of direction. Not that both players couldn't succeed but it still may not be the best fit.

Beyond all of that, there's the larger X factor of why, exactly, Philadelphia released such a productive player under contract in the prime of his career. One way or another, the Eagles had their reasons and, like Fisher mentioned with Lewan, there will need to be some major legwork done by any team looking to add Jackson.
Two years after they first pursued him, the St. Louis Rams finally landed veteran quarterback Shaun Hill on Wednesday as he agreed to terms on a one-year deal as first reported by ESPN Insider Adam Caplan.

Hill
Hill visited with the Rams more than a week ago and departed St. Louis without coming to terms on a contract as he apparently spent time considering a return to Detroit. He went through a similar decision-making process in 2012 when the Rams attempted to sign him away from the Lions before he ultimately re-signed in the Motor City.

This time, the allure of St. Louis was apparently too much for Hill to ignore. Hill keeps a home at the Lake of the Ozarks and is also close with Rams quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti after they worked together in San Francisco.

In landing Hill, the Rams get the veteran backup for starter Sam Bradford they wanted. Hill replaces Kellen Clemens, who signed with San Diego early in free agency.

The 34-year old Hill originally entered the league as an undrafted free agent with Minnesota in 2002 but didn't get the chance to throw a pass in a regular season game until 2007 with the 49ers.

For his career, Hill has played in 34 games with 26 starts, throwing for 6,381 yards, 41 touchdowns and 23 interceptions while completing almost 62 percent of his passes for a passer rating of 85.9. Coincidentally, some of Hill's best games have come against the Rams. He's started four games against St. Louis, all victories, and posted a passer rating better than 100 in three of those contests.

While Hill doesn't come to St. Louis with the same knowledge of coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's offense that Clemens had, he does represent a clear upgrade in talent and demonstrated production throughout the course of his career. Considering his ties to Cignetti, Hill should be able to get up to speed quickly and offer a solid alternative behind Bradford after he completes his rehabilitation from offseason foot surgery.

And though Hill is likely to handle the No. 2 duties in 2014, this probably won't preclude the Rams from using one of their 12 picks in May's draft on a quarterback. The Rams have maintained throughout the offseason that they'd like to add a young quarterback capable of growing into a top backup role behind Bradford. Having Hill for a season would allow whoever that rookie is to come in and learn for a season before having to jump into action should something happen to Bradford.

Likewise, Hill provides early-season insurance in case something goes wrong with Bradford's recovery from ACL surgery.

Much like the team's Tuesday addition of defensive lineman Alex Carrington, Hill is a solid, logical addition who isn't going to break the bank. The Rams have remained patient in free agency and though the approach has kept them from filling some of their major holes, it's starting to pay off in the form of solid depth at positions of need.
The St. Louis Rams finally dipped their toes into the free-agent waters Tuesday afternoon, coming to terms on a one-year deal with Buffalo defensive lineman Alex Carrington.

Unlike the recent additions of cornerback Greg Reid and linebacker Etienne Sabino, Carrington is the first player the Rams have added in free agency who has played in the NFL for a different organization. He's also a sound, logical pickup for a team that has clearly coveted more depth on the interior of the defensive line.

Carrington
The Rams showed early interest in Carrington, Henry Melton and Antonio Smith, even going so far as hosting the latter two on visits. When Melton chose Dallas and Smith opted for Oakland, the Rams concentrated their search for help behind starters Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford on Carrington.

Based on all that movement, the Rams clearly viewed additional help on the interior rotation as one of free agency's main priorities. And rightfully so. Backup defensive tackles Jermelle Cudjo and Matt Conrath didn't provide much help behind the starters in 2013. Cudjo had a strong enough 2012 to earn a contract extension last offseason but followed with 11 tackles and not much else in his 209 snaps in 13 games in 2013. Conrath got opportunities to contribute last year as well, playing eight games and 129 snaps with seven tackles and a sack.

Defensive ends William Hayes and Eugene Sims were actually better options behind the starters when they moved inside but that left Robert Quinn and Chris Long taking on larger than expected workloads every week. Adding another piece to the middle should allow more breathers for Long and Quinn.

In Carrington, the Rams are getting just the type of versatile piece that defensive line coach Mike Waufle likes to groom. At 6-foot-5, 301 pounds, Carrington has lined up all over the line in his four years in Buffalo, though playing end in a 3-4 alignment has been his most consistent spot. That spot is common in terms of translation to defensive tackle in a 4-3 front and, in fact, is the same move Langford made with the Rams after coming over from Miami.

Originally a third-round draft pick out of Arkansas State, Carrington played 44 games in four seasons with the Bills. He posted 52 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble in that time.

The Rams have been patient in free agency and are the last team to sign an outside free agent. And while this one may not make much of a splash on the surface, it looks the part of another under-the-radar defensive line move the Rams have made under coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead (the Hayes signing). Hayes was a fifth-round pick without much on his résumé when he departed Tennessee and has blossomed under the guidance of the well-respected Waufle.

Carrington actually has even less tangible production than Hayes did when he came to St. Louis but it wouldn't be much of a surprise if Waufle and a talented and competitive defensive line group has a similar effect on Carrington.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

NFC WEST SCOREBOARD