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Monday, March 18, 2013
One way to think of Rams' LT upgrade

By Mike Sando


PHOENIX -- Had the 2009 NFL draft gone as planned for the St. Louis Rams, the team would be thinking about a contract extension for tackle Jason Smith.

The 2009 draft did not go as planned for the Rams -- or for a long list of teams.

Smith struggled before St. Louis traded him to the New York Jets last year for journeyman Wayne Hunter. The Rams recovered Sunday. They reached agreement on a four-year contract with tackle Jake Long, the first player chosen in the 2008 draft.

Think of it as the Rams upgrading from Smith to Long at left tackle.

Smith played right tackle during his Rams career, but that was because the team realized he wasn't the answer on the left side, contrary to expectations on draft day. Smith was supposed to be the Rams' franchise left tackle. Long fills that role now.

The Rams are betting on Long to regain good health following two injury-shortened seasons. Their general manager, Les Snead, has said the team had no concerns about Long's health following biceps and triceps injuries.

The Rams' future at left tackle appears brighter than at any time since the Orlando Pace era.