Putting Finnegan's Rams future in focus

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
3:30
PM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan chose to play three game with a fractured orbital bone behind his left eye and blurred peripheral vision.

For a player who has made a career based on toughness, Finnegan simply couldn't help himself.

"I’m stubborn," Finnegan said. "I wanted to stick it out and show these guys I’m tough about it."

The Rams placed Finnegan on injured reserve in a move that might have flown under the radar as it was made Saturday afternoon. The move came after much consternation from all parties and the attempts by Finnegan to play through an injury he first suffered on Sept. 26 against San Francisco. Finnegan left that game with an apparent hamstring injury that would cost him the next three games but would later find out he suffered the more serious eye injury.

Finnegan got the initial diagnosis of the eye injury but was given the option to continue playing despite the blurry and sometimes double vision. When the bye week finally rolled around on Nov. 17, Finnegan went for further examination and he was advised not to continue playing through it.

"Cort played through it and he wanted to be a part of this but this injury became prohibitive for him," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "He has a chance for a full recovery."

[+] EnlargeTennessee's Kenny Britt
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesLosing Cortland Finnegan leaves the Rams thin at the cornerback position.
With his season over, Finnegan will now turn his attention to having surgery to repair the eye. He indicated there are a handful of dates in December he will consider in hopes of getting it done sooner than later. The way Finnegan and Fisher describe the operation, it seems there will be no issues for Finnegan in terms of making a complete recovery.

"I wanted to wait as long as I could before it got too much worse," Finnegan said. "I waited until the bye week and realized my orbital fracture and muscle entrapment wasn’t a good thing so I needed to go handle it. So I’m handling it."

Finnegan's absence leaves the Rams a bit short at corner, a development that nearly cost them against Chicago on Sunday when his replacement, Trumaine Johnson, left with a concussion and didn't return. The Rams moved Quinton Pointer from the practice squad to the active roster but as it stands Wednesday afternoon, Janoris Jenkins, rookie Brandon McGee and Pointer are the only known healthy commodities the Rams have at the position. Safety Rodney McLeod also can play the slot position and has done quite a bit of it this season.

Adding to Finnegan's frustration is the inability to right the ship after some serious struggles at the beginning of the season. Finnegan expressed his disappointment in his early-season play and had appeared to be making at least modest strides in what turned out to be his final two games of the year.

Against Tennessee and Indianapolis, Finnegan played through the eye injury and posted 13 tackles and an interception while playing 115 snaps. For the season, he finished with 27 tackles and an interception in seven games, meaning about half of his production had come in those final two contests.

In the bigger picture, the Rams will now likely head into the offseason with a decision to make on Finnegan's future. The above numbers, combined with an OK first season in St. Louis, would likely indicate that Finnegan's $10 million salary-cap number for 2014 would be more than the Rams would want to pay. Finnegan is due $6 million in base salary, $3 million in roster bonus and $1 million in signing bonus (from the $5 million signing bonus spread out over his contract) next year.

If the Rams chose to release Finnegan outright, they'd only be on the hook for the remainder of the signing bonus in terms of accelerated cap space, so they'd realize a net savings of $7 million next year so long as any move was made before the roster bonus is due.

Still, Finnegan is an important cog in terms of leadership and one of Fisher's "guys" in terms of what he brings to the table. The Rams may well be inclined to keep him but do it under a restructured contract.

The Rams have spent the second-most amount of money on the cornerback position in the NFL at almost $17.5 million, second only to Tampa Bay this season. In addition, the Rams are 22nd in the league in passing yards per game allowed (247) and 30th in completion percentage allowed (67.1 percent) and yards per passing attempt allowed (8.24).

All of those numbers are due in some part to Finnegan. Add the eye injury to the mix and it makes it more likely than not that something will have to give heading into 2014.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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