Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Rams searching for depth at DT
By Nick Wagoner
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Despite showing interest in a handful of free agents, the St. Louis Rams have yet to make any moves on the open market aside from re-signing two of their own.
Eventually, the team will likely add at least one outside free agent, but it's interesting to note the players the Rams have showed interest in during the first eight days of free agency. There's been a veteran quarterback (Shaun Hill), a pair of offensive linemen (Davin Joseph and Daryl Colledge) and a wide receiver (Kenny Britt).
But there's one position where the Rams seem most intent on adding depth and it's not one that ranked high on most outside pre-free agency lists: defensive tackle.
The Rams have expressed interest in, hosted visits for or both for potential defensive tackle options Henry Melton, Antonio Smith and Alex Carrington. Melton completed his free-agent tour Tuesday in St. Louis before deciding to sign with the Dallas Cowboys. Smith was supposed to visit St. Louis but the Oakland Raiders didn't let him leave without signing a deal.
Carrington remains on the market though it's still unclear if he'll visit the Rams. He's had interest from Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Oakland and though there have been reports that he would visit St. Louis, it has yet to happen.
Regardless of how things play out with Carrington, it's obvious from some of the players the Rams are vetting that they are looking to upgrade their depth on the interior of the defensive line and they believe they can find a veteran bargain to provide it.
The interest in interior help on the defensive line might have some wondering what it means for the future of starter Kendall Langford, but all indications from the team are that any additional help coming in would be as part of the rotation behind Langford and fellow starter Michael Brockers. Langford has been better than given credit for since arriving in St. Louis and really seemed to settle into his new spot -- he played end in a 3-4 for Miami before signing with the Rams -- the second half of the 2013 season.
Although Langford carries a $6 million cap number into the 2014 season, the Rams have showed no signs of wanting to part ways with him. And they shouldn't, given Langford's performance. He posted 49 tackles and five sacks last year and was a key in the team's improved efforts against the run in the final eight games.
Instead, added help on the interior would serve as a chance to improve over current backup defensive tackles Jermelle Cudjo and Matt Conrath. 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 actually proved better as options inside behind Brockers and Langford. And though the Rams had plenty of success with the four defensive ends look on third down, the belief here is that they'd like to find ways to lessen the need for Hayes and/or Sims to spend so much time inside and allow them to provide more breathers for Chris Long and Robert Quinn on the edge.
The NFL draft will provide plenty of chances for the Rams to fill some but not all needs. From the looks of things, defensive tackle is one the Rams would prefer not to wait on.