NFC West: Brett Romberg
"John Greco is much better than anyone realizes and will be a starting-caliber guard if they give him a chance," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said during a May discussion. "They should be excited about him. He doesn't have a discernible trait where he is a real masher or a wonderful technician or a great athlete, but he is good at all of the above and he really has a nasty streak to him. He is somebody to keep an eye on."
I don't think the Rams saw that nasty streak.
After landing Harvey Dahl in free agency and finding a way to keep Jacob Bell amid salary concerns, the team traded Greco to the Cleveland Browns. Adam Goldberg, the starting right guard in 2010, could still return in a backup role. But with Dahl in and Greco out, the line has undergone a massive overhaul since Steve Spagnuolo's arrival as head coach for the 2009 season.
Orlando Pace, Goldberg, Brett Romberg, Greco and Alex Barron were the starters in the final game before Spagnuolo's hiring. Cory Withrow and Roy Schuening were backups in that game. Bell, Richie Incognito and Anthony Davis were listed among inactive players. Bell is the only one of those 10 players still with the team.
The projected starting five this season -- Rodger Saffold, Bell, Jason Brown, Dahl and Jason Smith -- each started all 16 regular-season games last season (Dahl was with Atlanta).
The natural question is whether the organization went too far in pushing out higher-priced veterans.
I suspected they might have gone too far when they released linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa. I also thought they might have been premature in parting with Orlando Pace despite the tackle's steep salary and history of injuries.
The reality, though, is that the Rams got it right.
They have gone from being a bad, old team with significant salary-cap problems to being a bad, young team with a much brighter salary-cap future.
The younger players finding their way this season have a chance to help the team in the future. That wasn't the case in 2008, when losing got old, literally.
The Rams have the third-youngest roster in the league. They had the third-oldest last season. Their offense has moved the ball much better than I would have anticipated. A glaring lack of playmakers has turned the red zone into a dead zone, preventing the Rams from scoring enough points to compete on the scoreboard. But I think it's safe to say the Rams have the most promising young offensive line in the NFC West.
This team needs to find playmakers in the draft, plain and simple.
Kraig writes via Facebook: Sando, you pity the Rams, but you ridicule the Seahawks. You're a believer in the new 49er formula, although not always its execution. The Cards are an enigma, but undeniably talented. Interesting. But kicking the Seahawks when they're down is starting to stand out. What gives?
Mike Sando: Expectations frame the analysis. The Rams were a 2-14 team rebuilding. They parted with Torry Holt, Orlando Pace, Drew Bennett, Trent Green, Anthony Becht, Corey Chavous, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Brian Leonard, Gary Stills, Jason Craft, Ricky Manning, Fakhir Brown, La'Roi Glover, Dane Looker, Travis Minor, Dante Hall, Nick Leckey, Brett Romberg, Chris Draft and others. This was a total roster overhaul. I thought the Rams might have gone too far with a couple of these moves, but once the moves were made, the expectations were set accordingly.
With a new head coach and a younger roster, the Rams were going to struggle for a while. I thought 0-7 was likely and said so on the blog. The fact that the Rams are 0-6 is bad, but not a shock. It's Year 1 of a total rebuild. The Seahawks did not see themselves in the same light. Holding them to the same standard as the Rams would have been a bigger insult to the Seahawks than holding them accountable as I have tried to do.
Seattle thought injuries were pretty much to blame for a 4-12 record. The team thought Walter Jones would be fine this season. The team thought depth at tackle would be fine after re-signing Ray Willis. I thought the team needed to do more to shore up the position. Sean Locklear had missed a few games in the past, Willis has had knee issues and Jones was coming off surgery at age 35. I questioned whether the team could stay healthy in predicting a 7-9 record when schedules came out, upgrading the outlook slightly when Matt Hasselbeck seemed to pass a few injury-related milestones.
The outlook for Seattle darkens when we consider advanced ages for some of these injured players. Jones and Patrick Kerney are into their 30s. Both needed to play at a high level for Seattle to succeed. The fact that both are dealing with injury problems should surprise nobody. It was entirely predictable even if there was a chance both might beat the odds.
I think it's an even worse sign for Seattle if we start judging them with the same standards applied to the Rams. It's not that bad.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Campfires: Coach Ken Whisenhunt isn't afraid to make first-round draft choices earn their starting jobs. He benched Matt Leinart coming out of camp last season, then made talented rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie wait until near midseason before becoming a full-time starter. The trend could continue this summer as rookie first-round choice Beanie Wells practices with the Cardinals for the first time.
Wells projects as the long-term replacement for Edgerrin James at running back, but Ohio State's late graduation prevented him from participating in minicamps and organized team activities. That means the adjustment period for Wells could take a little longer. Expect Tim Hightower to enter camp as the tentative starter.
Meanwhile, the situation at tight end remains a mystery. Arizona is carrying six tight ends on its roster, one behind the league high. Ben Patrick, the player coaches have tried to develop as a player versatile enough to help as a receiver and blocker, faces a four-game suspension to start the season. That could open the door for Anthony Becht, Leonard Pope or Stephen Spach to seize the starting job. I don't see a clear favorite, particularly with Patrick serving a suspension and Spach coming off knee surgery.
|Jeff Mills/Icon SMI|
|Will Beanie Wells be able to avoid the injuries that plagued him in college?|
Camp will be a downer if ... Wells doesn't immediately prove he can avoid the long list of injuries that affected him in college. Arizona needs a more dynamic runner to run its offense the way Whisenhunt and offensive line coach/running game coordinator Russ Grimm want to run it. Wells has the physical ability to provide that missing element. Can he stay on the field and will he fight through some of the ailments that await every running back in the NFL?
The preferred scenario would include Wells breaking a few long runs during the preseason, setting up the play-action passing game that worked so well for Arizona when the team showed more balance in the playoffs last season.Camp will be a success if ... the reconfigured coaching staff takes control of the team and helps Arizona build on the momentum from its Super Bowl season.
Whisenhunt has stressed continuity during the first two years of his tenure. He kept the same five starters on the offensive line even though right guard Deuce Lutui had penalty problems and center Lyle Sendlein sometimes struggled while playing through a shoulder injury. While the approach worked, continuity wasn't an option for the coaching staff once the Chiefs hired offensive coordinator Todd Haley head coach.
Whisenhunt's decision to fire quarterbacks coach Jeff Rutledge and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast shook up the staff considerably more.
Warner will miss the rapport he enjoyed with Haley. The two appeared inseparable at times and the relationship seemed to benefit Warner on the field. Can the newly configured staff fill the void or otherwise find ways to keep Warner and the offense rolling?
Franchise player rules will force Dansby to wait, and he should be content "settling" for a one-year franchise deal worth nearly $9.7 million. The volatile Dockett has also committed to letting his play do the talking, a good sign for the team.
While Boldin put aside his concerns to produce last season, his situation bears monitoring. Another year without a new contract probably equates to a higher frustration level. Boldin, generally the consummate pro, might have a harder time dealing with the situation -- particularly if the team fails to meet expectations.
San Francisco 49ers
Training camp site: 49ers headquarters (Santa Clara, Calif.)
|Kyle Terada/US Presswire|
|Can Shaun Hill distinguish himself to claim the starting QB job?|
Campfires: The 49ers have quite a few position battles for a team that finished strong and feels good about its chances for contending within the division.
The quarterback race will rightfully command the most attention. Coach Mike Singletary said the players will know whether Shaun Hill or Alex Smith should be the starter, at which point Singletary will merely affirm what they know. That means Smith's status as the No. 1 overall draft choice in 2005 will not afford him any advantage in the competition. Hill's 7-3 record as the 49ers' starter over the last two seasons gives him the edge.
On defense, Dashon Goldson would have to flop or suffer another injury for the older and less athletic Mark Roman to take back his job at free safety. Dre Bly has the edge over Tarell Brown at right corner. Kentwan Balmer, the 49ers' first-round choice in 2008, could push for a starting job at left defensive end.Camp will be a downer if ... both quarterbacks flounder and veteran Damon Huard appears to be the best option. Unlikely? Perhaps. But the scenario isn't as laughable as it should be. Neither Hill nor Smith distinguished himself during the competition a year ago. Even if Mike Martz was playing favorites when he installed J.T. O'Sullivan as the starter, the fact remains that O'Sullivan enjoyed the strongest preseason of the three.
The new offensive system should better suit Hill in particular, and the 49ers have declared this quarterback race a two-man affair, ruling out Huard as a contender. Still, after years of backing up Trent Green, Tom Brady and Dan Marino, Huard wound up starting three of the first five games in Kansas City last season when the unaccomplished Brodie Croyle and Tyler Thigpen were his primary competitors.Camp will be a success if ... Hill validates his 7-3 record as the 49ers' starter, right tackle Marvel Smith makes it through training camp healthy and the push toward a full-time 3-4 defense validates Parys Haralson and Manny Lawson as promising pass-rushers.
Hitting on all three of those might be asking a bit much, but getting two of them right might be enough, particularly if the 49ers feel good about the quarterback situation.
On the receiving end: It's a little surprising to see the 49ers emerge with their deepest group of receivers in years after committing to Singletary's smashmouth approach. The change to Singletary and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was all about making smarter use of the players general manager Scot McCloughan and former coach Mike Nolan had acquired in recent years.
That meant -- and still means -- forging an identity in the ground game. Yet, while receivers Michael Crabtree, Isaac Bruce, Brandon Jones and Josh Morgan will not be battling Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin for Pro Bowl berths this season, they do give the 49ers better potential than they've enjoyed recently.
Singletary's smashmouth roots should not and likely will not dissuade the 49ers from making frequent use of those receivers.
|Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire|
|The Seahawks must get Matt Hasselbeck through training camp unscathed.|
Training camp site: Seahawks headquarters (Renton, Wash.)
Campfires: The Seahawks weren't going to pretend that first-round choice Aaron Curry would have to prove himself in camp to earn a starting job. They put the fourth overall choice in the lineup from the beginning. No suspense there.
Most positions in Seattle appear settled. The situation at receiver should produce intrigue with Nate Burleson, Deion Branch and rookie burner Deon Butler fighting to get on the field with T.J. Houshmandzadeh and tight end John Carlson. Injuries will probably help sort out the situation. Burleson is returning from ACL surgery. Branch is entering his first full season since undergoing his own ACL procedure.
Don't be surprised if rookie second-round choice Max Unger pushes for playing time somewhere in the interior of the offensive line. He projects as the long-term starter at center if Chris Spencer plays out his contract and leaves following this season. If S
pencer holds the job, Unger figures to find his way onto the field in one of the guard spots, perhaps this year.
Camp will be a downer if ... quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's back injury flares up at any point along the way. Hasselbeck and the Seahawks say the quarterback has long since overcome the problems that helped limit him to seven starts last season. They didn't know the extent of the problem a year ago when they assured fans that Hasselbeck would be fine for the regular season. The issue is under control now, they say, but the very nature of back injuries should raise at least some concern heading into a pivotal season for the organization.
Camp will be a success if ... Hasselbeck, left tackle Walter Jones and defensive end Patrick Kerney put to rest concerns about their long-term health. Beyond the obvious injury storylines, this camp becomes a success for Seattle if Curry validates coach Jim Mora's opinion that the linebacker's pass-rushing abilities are indeed far stronger than anticipated on draft day.
Seattle badly needs to restore its pass rush to better compete against the Cardinals' passing game in a broader effort to overtake Arizona in the division. Kerney is the key, but the Seahawks are also counting on pressure from other sources: Brandon Mebane, Cory Redding, Lawrence Jackson, Darryl Tapp and possibly Leroy Hill. Significant pass-rush help from Curry would offset Julian Peterson's departure while making it easier for the Seahawks to justify having drafted a linebacker fourth overall.
Learning curve: By all accounts, the two years Mora spent in the background watching Mike Holmgren operate should leave him better prepared to handle his second head-coaching job. The way Holmgren handled everything from players to the media differed quite a bit from the more freewheeling approach Mora displayed with the Falcons.
Lessons learned? Yes, but it will be interesting to see how the Seahawks' leadership -- operating without Holmgren for the first time since 1998 -- will respond under pressure if things go wrong early.
St. Louis Rams
Training camp site: Rams Park (Earth City, Mo.)
|G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)|
|Will Marc Bulger be able to regain his old form behind a revamped offensive line?|
Campfires: The Rams need to figure out what they have at receiver, linebacker and left cornerback after overhauling their roster.
Torry Holt, Orlando Pace, Drew Bennett, Trent Green, Anthony Becht, Corey Chavous, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Brian Leonard, Gary Stills, Jason Craft, Ricky Manning, Fakhir Brown, La'Roi Glover, Dane Looker, Travis Minor, Dante Hall, Nick Leckey and Brett Romberg were among the former starters and role players cast aside in the makeover.
None was irreplaceable. Getting rid of them was the easy part. Identifying and developing adequate replacements will take time.
Camp will be a downer if ... top draft choices Jason Smith and James Laurinaitis aren't ready to contribute right away. Coach Steve Spagnuolo has taken it slowly with both rookies, but he likely will not have that luxury once the regular season gets going. Smith and Laurinaitis probably must play and play well for the Rams to avoid trouble.
Laurinaitis' development is critical because the Rams appear so thin at linebacker after releasing Tinoisamoa. Even if Laurinaitis plays well, the Rams' depth at linebacker could betray them.
Camp will be a success if ... quarterback Marc Bulger finds comfort behind an upgraded offensive line. Bulger can be a highly accurate passer when opposing defensive linemen aren't pounding the confidence out of him. The player who topped 4,300 yards passing with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions three years ago hasn't resembled even remotely the scared soul seen under center for the Rams too often over the last two seasons.
The Rams' should start to regain some swagger on the line with 320-pounder Jason Brown taking over at center and the personably intense Smith at tackle. Right guard Richie Incognito won't be the only starter with some snarl, in other words. That should help provide improved protection for Bulger and leadership for the offense.
Fantasy spin: Running back Steven Jackson should not hurt for opportunities now that the Rams have landed a 320-pound center (Brown, free agent from the Ravens) and a 258-pound fullback (Mike Karney, late of the Saints). The Rams will try to develop their young receivers, but rarely should any of them represent a more formidable option than Jackson. And if he gets some luck with injuries, look out.
The first stage in the process of determining compensatory choices for the 2010 draft passed quietly with the June 1 deadline for NFL teams to make qualifying offers to unrestricted free agents. No team extended an offer to a UFA candidate. That means no additional UFA signings this offseason will influence compensatory choices.
The compensatory formula is complex. AdamJT13 has come close to solving it. Basically, the NFL awards additional draft choices to teams that lost free agents more valuable than the free agents teams signed. Values are determined by salaries and on-field contributions.
I had pulled a list of free agents NFC West teams added and lost when I noticed AdamJT13 had already done it on his blog. He notes that it's not yet known whether NFL teams extended qualifying offers to any UFAs. I can provide a small assist here by confirming that no teams extended qualifying offers to any UFAs.
A team-by-team look at the early compensatory picture in the NFC West:
Arizona: The Cardinals added two UFAs from other teams and lost four. They paid $5 million per year to cornerback Bryant McFadden. They lost defensive end Antonio Smith to a deal worth $7.1 million per season. How much those players play and at what level they perform could prove influential. And if former Cardinals cornerback Eric Green enjoys a bounce-back season with the Dolphins, that could improve Arizona's compensatory ledger.
St. Louis: The Rams do not appear to be in strong position in the compensatory race. Center Jason Brown, added from the Ravens at $7.5 million per season, should more than cancel out the Rams' three UFA losses (offensive linemen Brett Romberg, Nick Leckey and Brandon Gorin). The Rams also added Kyle Boller, James Butler and Billy Bajema.
San Francisco: The 49ers also do not appear to be in strong position in the compensatory race. Additions Brandon Jones, Marvel Smith, Demetric Evans and Moran Norris could play quite a bit. The players San Francisco lost -- Bryant Johnson, Ronald Fields, J.T. O'Sullivan, Donald Strickland, Bajema and Sean Ryan -- appear unlikely to cancel out the additions.
Seattle: I would like to hear AdamJT13's analysis on the Seahawks' compensatory situation. The team spent $8 million per season for receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and nearly $4.4 million per season for defensive tackle Colin Cole. The team lost defensive tackle Rocky Bernard ($4 million), running back Maurice Morris ($2.1 million), fullback Leonard Weaver (nearly $1.8 million), receiver Bobby Engram ($1.25 million) and offensive lineman Floyd Womack ($1 million) among its seven departures.
AdamJT13 was good about helping out when I asked for his input earlier this year. Here's hoping we hear from him again.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams weren't an 8-8 team seeking a few tweaks to regain their footing. They needed a franchise overhaul after posting a 5-27 record over the past two seasons.
That overhaul has continued with Brian Leonard's trade to the Bengals on Thursday and Pisa Tinoisamoa's release Friday.
Changing over a roster means adding new players in key positions. Adding new players means losing existing ones, and the Rams have parted with quite a few this offseason.
The chart shows notable Rams players to leave the roster since general manager Billy Devaney spearheaded Steve Spagnuolo's hiring as head coach.
Some of the changes were difficult to miss. The releases of Torry Holt and Orlando Pace come to mind. Other changes have come via attrition. In this case, the Rams have decided against re-signing numerous unrestricted free agents. It's significant to note that quite a few of them remain unsigned.
The Rams could always re-sign a free agent or two as they set their roster for training camp. In most cases, however, the team appears eager to move on without them.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
A quick look at 53-man rosters from Feb. 1, date of Super Bowl XLIII, provides a reference point for seeing how NFC West teams have changed so far this offseason.
I'll continue with St. Louis.
Gone from the Rams' 53-man roster and injured reserve list in the 58 days since the Super Bowl (18):
|Kevin Terrell/Getty Images|
|Orlando Pace was drafted by the Rams in 1997.|
Orlando Pace, T
Torry Holt, WR
Dante' Hall, WR
Drew Bennett, WR
Dane Looker, WR
Travis Minor, RB
Anthony Becht, TE
Cory Withrow, C
Nick Leckey, C
Brandon Gorin, OL
Rob Petitti, OL
Corey Chavous, SS
Jason Craft, CB
Fakhir Brown, CB
La'Roi Glover, DT
Gary Stills, LB
The Rams have more unrestricted free agents -- 13 -- than any NFL team. That is not by accident.
The team is rebuilding with younger players while trimming fat from the payroll and making very targeted additions through free agency.
St. Louis entered the offseason needing to get stronger up the middle on both sides of the ball.
Signing center Jason Brown and fullback Mike Karney helped the cause on offense (Karney is not listed on the chart, which covers only unrestricted free agents). Signing strong safety James Butler should help the defense, although the front seven still needs work.
The Rams are carrying only eight offensive linemen, tied for the league low with the Cardinals, Panthers, Bears, Lions and Jets. NFL teams are carrying 10.5 offensive linemen on average.
The unsigned Adam Goldberg proved valuable last season. As we discussed, the Rams will certainly be targeting offensive linemen in the draft.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with 49ers free agents Billy Bajema and Donald Strickland. Bajema is visiting the Rams. Which reminds me of another visit. The Seahawks met with 49ers free agent tackle Damane Duckett. Probably just a look-see.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Smith's visit comes after the 49ers informed Jonas Jennings that he would not return to the team in 2009. Back injuries have limited Smith in recent seasons. The 49ers have gotten their fill of injury-prone right tackles -- Jennings comes to mind -- but Smith is worth a look anyway.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' former starting center, Nick Leckey, has signed with the Saints. Leckey is a solid backup. The Rams wound up needing him to start for longer than anticipated. They responded this offseason by signing Jason Brown in free agency. That made Leckey and fellow center Brett Romberg expendable. Romberg signed with the Falcons.
Also from Thomas: The Rams are pretty much done in free agency, unless a player comes available unexpectedly. As for the Rams looking at Jay Cutler? Thomas: "I guess he's a Field General if your definition of Field General includes whining like a baby when you catch wind of a possible trade for a player that happens to play your position. Memo to Jay Cutler: You're in the big leagues now, kiddo. Competition is what it's all about in the NFL, and you're always subject to being replaced, there's always someone waiting to take your job. Besides, what exactly has Cutler accomplished that he has earned the right to be so upset about a trade that didn't happen?"
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune cites reports suggesting Seahawks free-agent fullback Leonard Weaver is close to signing with the Bucs, Vikings or Seahawks. I didn't think Bobby Engram would find an acceptable deal before Weaver. Weaver presumably didn't see that coming, either.
John Morgan of Field Gulls takes a look at Cory Redding's performance against the Falcons last season. First impressions were favorable. Morgan: "He's also a lot of fun to watch. Detroit aligned Redding on both the right and left, but played him almost exclusively over the 'B' gap in the '3' tech. I'm not wild about jargon. Basically, Redding's job is to run through the space between the guard and tackle and into the backfield."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Clark Haggans' return to the Cardinals made sense even though the team could stand to add younger prospects at linebacker. Urban: "No one outworks Haggans [who was down there this morning with a handful of teammates working out with strength and conditioning coach John Lott]. It will be good to have him there to aid with the transition to new defensive coordinator [and former linebackers coach] Bill Davis."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Tracking free-agent visits can become a part-time job during the initial rush of free agency. Now that things have settled, I've put together an unofficial list showing where NFC West free agents have visited and which players the division's teams have visited with.
These visits fall into four basic categories:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Another NFL team has signed one of the Rams' unrestricted free agents for the first time since the current signing period opened Feb. 27.
The Rams still have a league-high 15 unrestricted free agents without contracts for 2009. No other team has more than 12 (Seattle). Romberg was a part-time starter for the Rams last season. He appeared best suited to a utility backup role.
One week into the NFL free agency period, teams have yet to sign away one of the Rams' unrestricted free agents.
Cornerback Ron Bartell drew interest from the Saints before re-signing in St. Louis, but none of the Rams' other 16 unrestricted free agents has signed a contract.
Former starting center Brett Romberg visited the Falcons.
Half of the Rams' unsigned UFAs are in their 30s, with a quarter of them at least 33.
Seven of the 16 are offensive linemen. No other team has more than four UFA offensive linemen (Seahawks). The Rams still have seven offensive linemen under contract. They will surely draft additional players at the position.Rams UFA re-signed: Bartell, CB.
Rams UFA lost: none.
Rams UFA added: Jason Brown, C, Ravens.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News provides a full transcript of KNBR's interview with 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan regarding Kurt Warner, Jay Cutler, Damon Huard, Matthew Stafford and Terrell Owens. McCloughan defends the team's pursuit of Kurt Warner as a win-win.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers are taking a look at Cardinals free-agent cornerback Eric Green. Barrows: "If the 49ers somehow landed Green, they would have one of the deepest cornerback corps of any team in the league. Nate Clements and Walt Harris are the starters."
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind links to KTAR's interview with Cardinals general manager Rod Graves regarding Warner, Bryant McFadden, Drew Rosenhaus, Anquan Boldin, Edgerrin James and the draft. Graves on what helped the Warner deal get done following the quarterback's visit with the 49ers: "After the trip, we both recognized that we needed to get something done and that is when the negotiations really started." Next up for the Cardinals, according to Graves: Trying to sign Karlos Dansby to a long-term deal and opening talks with Adrian Wilson.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Warner's finger is not broken, although the quarterback is wearing a wrap on it.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times summarizes KJR's interview with Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill, who apologizes for his offseason arrest on a marijuana charge.
Also from KJR: An interview with Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson regarding T.J. Houshmandzadeh's recent signing. Burleson: "I would love to see him flourish in this offense. I would love to see him catch 60, 70, 80 balls because I know if he is out there attracting that much attention, other guys on the field are not going to be looked at as threats and we'll be able to do damage. I really don't care for numbers too much. I'm not a guy that wants to go out and say, 'Throw me 120 balls so I can be at the top of the league in catches.' I just want to go out there and make plays with the ball in my hands. You can give me 35 catches and I guarantee I'm going to go out and try to find the end zone at least 10 times."
D.Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says free-agent Rams center Brett Romberg is visiting the Falcons. Romberg's future in St. Louis took a hit when the Rams signed free-agent center Jason Brown to a long-term agreement. Right guard Richie Incognito could serve as the backup to Brown if necessary. Romberg and fellow 2008 Rams center Nick Leckey are unrestricted free agents.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams will show no interest in Terrell Owens.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams could conceivably part with every one of their unrestricted free agents this offseason.
They will try to re-sign cornerback Ron Bartell. They could bring back a few others. But when a new front office and new coaching staff inherit a team with five victories over two seasons, serious roster trimming tends to ensue.
The chart ranks the Rams' scheduled unrestricted free agents from oldest to youngest, with ages rounded down to the tenth. Four are at least 33 years old. Four more are at least 30. Two more -- Travis Minor and Brett Romberg -- turn 30 during the 2009 season.
Bartell is clearly the Rams' most attractive UFA candidate. His case is a tough one for the Rams.
While the team would like to retain its best young talent, the coaching staff doesn't know Bartell well enough to make informed judgments about his longterm potential. And with the market for cornerbacks drying up, Bartell might command a significant contract on the open market.
If the Rams knew how bad they were going to be in 2008, they presumably would have added more than a kicker and a guard in unrestricted free agency.
Paying a $7 million signing bonus for Tennessee guard Jacob Bell might have worked better if Bell could have brought the rest of the Titans' offensive line to St. Louis as well.
The Rams' line struggled again. Josh Brown, signed to help the Rams win close games, continued to distinguish himself as one of the best long-range field goal kickers in the league. He made 10 of 13 tries from 40 to 49 yards and 6 of 8 from 50 yards or longer.
Retaining safety Oshiomogho Atogwe as a restricted free agent was an easy call.I did not watch Brandon Chillar play for Green Bay this season, but the Rams could have used another linebacker. Some of the Rams' other moves -- adding Reche Caldwell, for example -- escaped serious criticism here because they cost relatively little financially.