NFL Nation: Ronald Curry
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Biggest surprise: The Rams cut former special-teams captain Todd Johnson, a safety, and they also flushed out two veteran receivers they hoped would contribute, Ronald Curry and Tim Carter. Keeping rookie quarterback Keith Null over the more experienced Brock Berlin made sense because the Rams' top two quarterbacks, Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller, have lots of seasoning. The biggest roster surprise came when the team traded 2006 first-round cornerback Tye Hill to the Falcons. Free-agent addition Quincy Butler stuck on the 53-man roster after a strong training camp and preseason. He looked better than Hill, frankly, and the Rams' new leadership wasn't afraid to part with symbols of past failures. Placing defensive tackle Adam Carriker on injured reserve cleared another spot.
No-brainers: The Rams also released linebacker K.C. Asiodu, defensive tackle Antwon Burton, tight end Eric Butler, defensive end Ian Campbell, linebacker Dominic Douglas, tackle Renardo Foster, fullback Jerome Johnson, center Tim Mattran, running back Chris Ogbonnaya, cornerback Cord Parks, running back Antonio Pittman, safety Mark Rubin, guard Roy Schuening, tackle Phil Trautwein and receiver Sean Walker.
What's next: The Rams still need to make one move by the 6 p.m. ET deadline for complying with the 53-man limit. With only four running backs on the roster, counting fullback Mike Karney, the team probably needs to seek help at the position. Backup Samkon Gado suffered injured ribs in the final exhibition game. The Rams lack quality depth and they are starting over. As a result, the team could pursue players released from other teams.
Update: The Rams placed defensive lineman Eric Moore on injured reserve to comply with the 53-man limit.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams' roster requires additional study after a thorough house-cleaning this offseason. With so many new faces, I feel less familiar with the Rams than with the other teams in the division. This initial look at the roster will hopefully help bring some focus.
Donnie Avery's injury and overall health concerns at receiver could influence how many players the Rams carry into the season at the position.
Marc Bulger's broken pinky shouldn't affect the roster as long as he recovers on schedule. Teams must reduce to 75 players by Sept. 1 and 53 players by Sept. 5. Those initial 53-man rosters sometimes change by Week 1 kickoffs. For that reason, I've been focusing on Week 1 rosters when setting baseline expectations for each position.
The chart provides a framework for how many players the Rams might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the Seahawks.
Here's a quick look at which Rams players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players:
|AP Photo/Jeff Roberson|
|St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo has taken control of the Rams' locker room.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Steve Spagnuolo has much to prove as a first-time NFL head coach.
Winning over the St. Louis Rams' locker room is no longer one of them.
"Just the way he came in and took control of this building was impressive," quarterback Marc Bulger said in lauding the way Spagnuolo "captivates the team and has everyone focused on one goal."
Players tend to say nice things about their bosses, or else, but Rams players aren't just paying lip service as they work through an unusually physical training camp complete with live tackling.
Steven Jackson, a harsh critic of Rams dysfunction under previous leadership, nearly interrupted an important family matter in Las Vegas just to attend a voluntary March practice (Spagnuolo ultimately told Jackson not to worry about it). If Jackson weren't buying into Spagnuolo, we'd know it.
While others used Memorial Day Weekend as a respite during the ever-shrinking NFL offseason, new Rams center Jason Brown rented a U-haul and made the 13-hour drive from North Carolina to St. Louis. It was about the only time Brown could make the move without jeopardizing his perfect attendance in the Rams' offseason program.
Franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe practiced with the team all offseason even though he remained unsigned until July, hoping to score a long-term deal.
"I thought he was very classy in the way (Atogwe) handled the franchise tag and I thank him almost every other day," Spagnuolo said. "That tells me a lot about him."
It might reveal plenty about Spagnuolo as well. The no-nonsense approach he adapted from mentors Tom Coughlin and Andy Reid has brought structure to a floundering organization. Brown, signed from the Baltimore Ravens in free agency, says he sees parallels to John Harbaugh.
Spagnuolo has gotten the Rams' attention and held it through the first two weeks of training camp. The vibe is unmistakably positive.
"The hiring of Coach Spagnuolo is definitely the biggest move this offseason, the right step for us," Bulger said. "You are either onboard or you are not. I respect that approach and I think everyone has bought into it."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Avery reported soreness in his foot Saturday, but never did the Rams expect to find an injury this significant. Avery apparently suffered it during the team's scrimmage Friday night.
The Rams have conducted a very physical camp, but none of their injuries appear related to live tackling. This is a very tough break for a rebuilding team without enough depth to compensate for injuries to certain positions, notably receiver.
With Avery out, the Rams might need to consider adding another veteran. Keenan Burton, Laurent Robinson, Ronald Curry, Tim Carter, Derek Stanley, Brooks Foster, Jarrett Byers and Sean Walker are the other receivers on the roster.
According to the Rams, the MRI showed more damage than the initial X-ray revealed.
Update: With the regular-season opener five weeks out, Avery has a chance to return in Week 1 or Week 2.
Continuing what feels like an all-Detroit day, we bring you this exciting news: The Lions announced they have signed free-agent receiver Ronald Curry and fullback Terrelle Smith to one-year contracts.
Curry and Smith both visited Detroit earlier this week. Both players should be available for the Lions' mandatory minicamp, which opens Monday.
Curry will get a chance to compete for the Lions' No. 3 receiver position behind Calvin Johnson and Bryant Johnson. Smith will compete with Jerome Felton for the top fullback job. Last year's starting fullback, Moran Norris, departed via free agency.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin did not give the team a deadline to make a contract offer. Boldin had told XTRA-910's Mike Jurecki he would accept offers through Tuesday, but his agent was not taking that tack with management. Issuing such a deadline would have made little sense from a strategic standpoint.
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind looks at the Cardinals' situation at offensive tackle. Mike Gandy is coming off another strong season. Levi Brown improved, but he's still not playing at a level to match his draft status.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chroncile says the 49ers expect to have more salary-cap room than all but five or six teams when free agency opens. Crumpacker: "Even in a bad economy, the 49ers will have money to spend when the free-agency signing period begins at 9:01 p.m. PDT Thursday." I would differentiate between cap room and cash to spend. Having the former doesn't necessarily mean the team has the latter.
David Fucillo of Niners Nation wonders which running back the 49ers will add to their backfield as a complement to Frank Gore.
John Morgan of Field Gulls isn't sure where the Seahawks will find a defensive tackle to start alongside Brandon Mebane. He comes back to free agent Jovan Haye. Morgan: "Shaun Cody should be very cheap, but his struggles are real and one wonders if he's really more valuable than a no-name toiling on another team's practice squad. ... Haye is a very good one-gap tackle that could function as a situational end, but isn't stout against run and presents many of the same problems as [Craig] Terrill. Chris Canty is mega-expensive (or thinks he should be) and better suited for a 3-4. Haye or Cody makes the most sense. Either could start and neither buries [Red] Bryant if he breaks out."
Also from Morgan: Receiver Ronald Curry could make sense for Seattle in free agency.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wasn't sure if the post-combine outlook became more or less clear for the Rams with the second overall choice in the draft. But he does know this: "The Rams won't be drafting Andre Smith, the aggressive but immature offensive tackle from Alabama. Never mind the questions about his work habits or weight control; those weren't the big issues surrounding Smith in Indy. Smith never really answered questions about why he got suspended from the Sugar Bowl. Then he played it coy about whether he was working out at the combine or not. It's one thing to say such things to the media; Smith apparently did the same to NFL teams, including the Rams."
VanRam of Turf Show Times takes a look at the Rams heading into free agency.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Nnamdi Asomugha is still in Oakland and it is by his choice.
|G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images|
|Nnamdi Asomugha signed a three-year contract with Oakland.|
Instead of being stuck in Oakland by getting the franchise tag placed on him for the second straight year, Asomugha has agreed to a record contract with the Raiders.
He signed a deal Thursday for three years worth more than $45 million. If Oakland keeps him for the third season, the entire deal will be guaranteed.
No longer is Asomugha, perhaps the best cornerback in the NFL today, going to be looked at as a great player stuck in a bad situation. He is in Oakland for the next three years because it is his choice. That's big for the Raiders, a team that is in the midst of a great offseason, even if it does nothing else.
Oakland's best player just told the football world he wants to be a Raider. With so much negativity swirling around the team the past few years, this move begins the process that, yes, it is OK to be a Raider. Players around the league will take notice.
Couple Asomugha's long-term deal with the long-term deal Oakland gave Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler on Wednesday, and the Raiders are having a banner week. The moves, which owner Al Davis deemed as difficult earlier this month, are huge for a team coming off a 5-11 season.
Both Asomugha -- who rarely gets tested by opposing quarterbacks -- and Lechler were in Oakland for the six seasons in which the Raiders won an NFL-low 24 games. So they don't make the Raiders better. But the moves help change the culture of a franchise that is in dire need of an image makeover.
This is a major change from last year when Oakland wildly spent on several free agents. Oakland spent $255 million in salary and bonuses last year. Most of the moves were disastrous. This year, Oakland, which locked in right cornerback Chris Johnson last week, is keeping its own players. It is a smart move.
Now the Raiders may have difficulty doing other major business this offseason, even though they likely will cut players such as Ronald Curry, Kwame Harris and Javon Walker. Still, they probably could figure out a way to get a couple of some other teams' free agents. But Oakland might be more focused on the draft. The Raiders, who need a receiver and a left tackle, have the No. 7 pick.
But for now, the team needs to glow in the aftermath of getting Lechler and Asomugha signed. This is a major step for a team that needs to make quality, major steps.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Stay tuned Thursday for movement on the Nnamdi Asomugha situation in Oakland. There were some strong indications Wednesday night and early Thursday that a long-term deal between the shutdown cornerback and the Raiders could be done at any time.
This would be huge news for the Raiders.
- The Denver Post is reporting linebacker Boss Bailey may not be salary-cap causality. With five defensive starters already jettisoned and with more than $25 million in cap room freed up, Denver certainly doesn't need to create any more cap space.
- New Kansas City coach Todd Haley said he hasn't named exact positions for several new assistant coaches because he hasn't figured it all out yet.
- The Oakland Tribune is reporting that receiver Ronald Curry has been informed he will be cut.
- The Chargers are hoping to secure LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates this offseason. Keeping his own has long been a mantra of San Diego general manager A.J. Smith.
- The Ravens' decision to put the franchise tag on linebacker Terrell Suggs could affect both Denver's and Kansas City's plans. Both teams have plenty of cap room and both teams could have used a pass-rusher like Suggs.
- The Chargers may be quietly bummed that the Raiders re-signed punter Shane Lechler. Many in San Diego believe their punter, Mike Scifres, is the best punter in the AFC but he keeps getting bypassed in favor of Lechler for the Pro Bowl. Some in the San Diego organization may have been hoping Lechler would go to an NFC team which would open a spot on the Pro Bowl roster for Scifres. My take on that one: Both Lechler and Scifres are the real deal.
- Former Oakland wide receiver Tim Brown will coach the receivers in an alumni game featuring Notre Dame players in Tokyo this July.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The top issues facing each team in the division:
|Dustin Snipes/Icon SMI|
|Rey Maualuga might fit the mold of what Denver is looking for on defense.|
Primary issue: It's all about moving forward in Denver as the Josh McDaniels era starts, ending Mike Shanahan's 14-season run in Denver. If the Broncos are going to be successful early in McDaniels' tenure, they will have to address their problems on defense.
If the season started now, the Broncos would have a difficult time lining up 11 quality starters. The defense has been terrible for the last two seasons and there are only a few quality starters on the roster. Further complicating matters is that the Broncos want to run a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Mike Nolan, the former San Francisco head coach. Thus, Denver has to find players in that mold.
The team has star left cornerback Champ Bailey, linebacker D.J. Williams and defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who could be moved to linebacker in the new scheme. Other than those players, the Broncos need a bunch of pieces. And players such as defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson and cornerback Dre' Bly could be on their way out as salary-cap casualties.
Solution: The Broncos have the No. 12 pick and need to secure a quality player such as a middle linebacker like USC's Rey Maualuga or a defensive tackle such as Boston College's B.J. Raji. Also, Denver needs to pick up a couple of starters through free agency. Free agents such as defensive tackle Grady Jackson, and perhaps, if Bly is cut, a young cornerback such as the Rams' Ronald Bartell could be interesting fits.
Secondary concern: While the majority of the work to be done in the offseason in Denver is on the defensive side, McDaniels is an offensive-minded coach and he needs to put his stamp on the team. He needs to get his key offensive players, such as quarterback Jay Cutler and receiver Brandon Marshall, acquainted with his system.
The Broncos put up a ton of yards in the final couple of seasons of Shanahan's regime, but they didn't score enough points to go along with those copious yards. McDaniels has to find a way to get the most out of his talent.
Solution: Offseason study sessions and practice in minicamps should get this offense in touch with what McDaniels -- who had raging success as the offensive coordinator in New England -- wants to get done in Denver.
Primary issue: Although the Chiefs have many issues on defense that need to be addressed immediately, there are much more pressing issues with existing players on the opposite side of the ball.
|Evan Pinkus/Getty Images|
|Tony Gonzalez's future in Kansas City remains uncertain.|
Kansas City needs to figure out if it wants to convince future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez to remain with the team for a 13th season or trade him. The Chiefs also need to make a decision on running back Larry Johnson, who wants to be cut or traded. And finally, Kansas City has to figure out whether it will stick with young quarterback Tyler Thigpen or if it will try to get a franchise quarterback through the draft or through a trade.
New Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli could very well be tempted to go get New England's Matt Cassel through a trade.
Solution: The Chiefs can retain Gonzalez if they convince him that they can compete immediately and they could do that by getting defensive players. If not, he'll likely ask to be traded. If the Chiefs decide to trade Gonzalez, they will probably
get a fairly high draft pick for him. Johnson needs to be cut or traded, and he likely will be, so don't expect him to be back.
Thigpen could probably fill the Chiefs' need at quarterback for a year or so while they work to fill other positions. The team, however, may be tempted to trade for Cassel or draft Georgia's Matthew Stafford. Thigpen should be kept in Kansas City, and the Chiefs should address the needs on defense by drafting Wake Forest outside linebacker Aaron Curry with the third pick.
Secondary concern: The Chiefs need several new starters on defense. They are happy with their cornerbacks, but they could use help nearly everywhere else. Kansas City's front seven has been particularly weak. Kansas City set an NFL record for the fewest sacks in a season with 10 in 2008.
A complete overhaul is needed in Kansas City. There is enough talent for this team to start competing offensively. But unless Kansas City gets legitimate defensive help, it will be a long season.
Solution: The Chiefs need to draft a player like Curry and concentrate the early rounds on defense. Also, they need to sign two or three starters in free agency. Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers would be a dream addition and Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby would be an outstanding pickup.
|Charles Small/US Presswire|
|The Raiders need to get JaMarcus Russell some help.|
Primary issue: The Raiders have an outstanding running game, but their passing game needs to improve greatly. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell still has a long way to go to prove he can be a capable NFL quarterback. But he also needs help.
Oakland needs to give him better blocking and better receivers. Oakland's receiving corps was embarrassing at many points last season. Coupled with poor pass protection and bad receiver play, Russell didn't have much of a chance to succeed a lot of the time in 2008.
With better protection and legitimate NFL receivers, the Raiders will be able to find out if Russell, the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, can become a legitimate NFL standout.
Solution: There are several receivers who are or will be available through free agency and the draft. Perhaps Oakland will try to trade for Arizona's Anquan Boldin or Cincinnati's Chad Johnson. The Raiders could also try to draft Michael Crabtree with the No. 7 pick. Oakland also needs to find offensive line help early in the draft.
Secondary concern: To be able to be active in the offseason, the Raiders are going to have to do some bookkeeping. There are several players who may end up being cut to clear salary-cap room.
The Raiders went on a wild spending spree last year. They won't be able to do the same thing this year, but that spending spree didn't answer a lot of issues, so the Raiders have nearly as many holes now as they did before they spent all their money. Thus, some room needs to be made.
Solution: Cutting players like defensive back Michael Huff, receivers Ronald Curry and Javon Walker, and tackle Kwame Harris could help clear cap space and begin the process of making amends for past financial blunders.
Primary issue: This offseason is all about finding a way to keep the Chargers' stars happy financially.
|Scott A. Miller/US PRESSWIRE|
|LaDainian Tomlinson may need to restructure his contract in order to remain in San Diego.|
The Chargers are going to be working on contracts for future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, key backup running back and dynamic return man Darren Sproles and franchise quarterback Philip Rivers, who is the third priority because he's under contract for 2009.
If Tomlinson doesn't restructure his contract and give the Chargers a more cap-friendly deal, he will likely be cut. But both sides want to make something work, and keeping Tomlinson in San Diego is a high priority for both him and the team.
Sproles could be given the franchise tag if he doesn't sign a long-term deal in the coming days. He's too valuable for the Chargers to allow him to hit the street. He is an asset in the running, receiving and return games. The Chargers want to re-sign Rivers to get it out of the way and allow him to play the final year of his contract without any issues.
Solution: The Chargers can redo Tomlinson's contract so it cuts down his salary-cap number but allows him to make up the money in bonuses and incentives. Sproles can be franchised and both players will be happy. Although none of this will be easy, the Chargers can still find a way to extend Rivers and keep everyone pleased.
Secondary concern: The Chargers don't have a ton of needs, but there are some issues on defense, where the team needs to reload.
The Chargers can use help in all three phases of the defense with inside linebacker and, perhaps, free safety being the most pressing.
Solution: The Chargers should try to go after a veteran in free agency, such as Baltimore's Bart Scott. The Chargers will also likely try to address the needs on defense with the No. 16 overall pick.