St. Louis Rams: Cortland Finnegan

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The departure of cornerback Cortland Finnegan to the Miami Dolphins will not yield anything in terms of compensatory picks for the St. Louis Rams next year because the Rams released Finnegan on the first day of free agency.

Instead, the Rams will receive their parting gift much sooner from Finnegan's departure. Details of Finnegan's two-year, $11 million deal came out Monday afternoon. The contract includes $5.5 million in guaranteed money including the entirety of his $3.5 million 2014 salary.

Finnegan
Put simply, that contract will save the Rams an additional $3 million in salary-cap space. It's unclear when that cap credit will be officially applied for the Rams.

Taking it a little further and into the details of the cap, the Rams will receive the "full offset" of a $3 million roster bonus he had in his contract with St. Louis. That bonus had offset language surrounding it which allowed the Rams to recoup that money if and when Finnegan signed elsewhere.

In this case, Finnegan's 2014 guaranteed salary in Miami is $3.5 million. The bonus with the Rams was $3 million. Obviously, the guaranteed salary in Miami exceeds the bonus from the Rams so they realize all of that $3 million in savings.

If, for example, Finnegan had signed for $2 million, that money would have gone back to the Rams but the additional $1 million from the bonus would have counted against St. Louis.

At the time of Finnegan's release, the Rams immediately saved $4 million in salary-cap space. Finnegan's deal with Miami brings that total to $7 million in savings.

Offset language is more commonly associated as something teams and draft picks haggle over but the idea of it is to prevent players from double dipping from two teams. Finnegan actually acted as his own agent in his free-agent venture.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The free-agent frenzy that opened last Tuesday was one of the busiest and most expensive days in NFL history. But the St. Louis Rams stuck to their plan and mostly opted to sit on the sidelines.

Almost a week removed from the beginning of the free-agent period, the Rams have retained a couple of starters and seen their share of departures. The normal waves of free agency usually take longer than this year but it seems teams aren't waiting around to make their moves in 2014.

Here's where we stand after five days:

Retained

Saffold
OL Rodger Saffold

The deal: Re-signed with the Rams on a five-year, $31.7 million contract with $19.5 million guaranteed.

What it means: It was a wild week for Saffold but after one of the most bizarre free-agent scenarios in recent memory, the Rams kept their top offseason priority. Saffold will be the team's right guard moving forward and allows them more flexibility moving forward because of his versatility. St. Louis got lucky on this one but it doesn't matter how it happened so long as Saffold can stay healthy and produce.

LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar

The deal: Re-signed with the Rams on a two-year deal worth up to $3.5 million.

What it means: Dunbar will get a chance to rebound from a lost 2013 season and reunite with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with the Rams. While Dunbar's role decreased because of the addition of Alec Ogletree last year, the Rams need more production from him when they do have three linebackers on the field. If Dunbar can return to his 2012 form, he fills another starting job and lessens the need for the Rams to add another outside linebacker in the draft.

Departures

Williams
OL Chris Williams

The deal: Signed a four-year, $13.5 million deal with $5.5 million guaranteed with the Buffalo Bills.

What it means: The Rams lost the one lineman who started all 16 games last year and provided some versatility with his ability to play multiple positions. But Williams was also the team's least effective starting lineman and a clear candidate to be upgraded heading into 2014. The Rams had interest in keeping him but had no intention of offering a similar type of deal. It also speaks to the ability of offensive line coach Paul Boudreau to maximize reclamation projects.

OG Shelley Smith

The deal: Signed a two-year, $5.5 million with the Miami Dolphins.

What it means: The loss of Smith is another subtraction from the Rams' depth on the offensive line but it's also not cause for much alarm. Smith lost a preseason battle for the starting left guard job to Williams and though he showed some ability as a run blocker, he struggled in pass protection and was often overmatched by the bigger, more physical front sevens in the NFC West. Again, Boudreau should be able to coach up someone else to provide similar production and depth to fill Smith's backup role on the interior. That depth could come from current options like Barrett Jones or Brandon Washington or a veteran free agent such as Davin Joseph or Daryn Colledge, both of whom have visited St. Louis.

TE Mike McNeill

The deal: Signed a two-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. Terms unknown.

What it means: Losing McNeill doesn't alter much in terms of the Rams' primary options at tight end but it does remove a versatile piece from the depth chart. McNeill was the team's fourth tight end and played sparingly in the offense. He was a trustworthy backup and a favorite of coach Jeff Fisher's but is a piece the Rams can replace rather easily, perhaps with late-season pickup Justice Cunningham.

Finnegan
CB Cortland Finnegan

The deal: Signed a two-year, $11 million deal with the Miami Dolphins.

What it means: The Rams released Finnegan at the start of free agency, creating valuable cap space and a hole in the secondary. The key here is how much the Rams can gain from this contract based on the offset language they had built in to Finnegan's contract. Depending on how Finnegan's deal with the Dolphins is structured, the Rams could gain an additional $3 million in cap space. Assuming he makes the team or possibly immediately based on a bonus, it's reasonable to think the Rams have a good chance at getting all of that $3 million in space back. The team also has an opening for another cornerback.

QB Kellen Clemens

The deal: Signed a two-year, $3 million deal with the San Diego Chargers.

What it means: We already knew the Rams were planning to grab a young quarterback in May's draft but this should only serve to reinforce that idea. What remains to be seen is whether the Rams want to carry a third, veteran quarterback to handle the No. 2 job until the unnamed rookie is ready. That's a role Clemens would have been ideal for but he did enough in 2013 to draw interest and land a well-deserved deal with San Diego. The Rams now have just two quarterbacks, starter Sam Bradford and Austin Davis, on the roster.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams aren't likely to be big spenders in this year's free-agent market when it opens at 4 p.m. ET today. But that doesn't mean they don't have the resources to make a move or two, even a fairly pricy one if they so choose.

Finnegan
After releasing guard Harvey Dahl on Monday and with the pending release of cornerback Cortland Finnegan (which could go through as early as today), the Rams will save at least $8 million. The offset language in Finnegan's deal related to a roster bonus that is guaranteed could save the Rams up to an additional $3 million if a team signs him.

According to ESPN roster data, that leaves the Rams with $16.52 million in salary-cap space when accounting for just the top 51 highest-paid players on the roster. Ultimately, that number will come in closer to $15 million, because eventually they will have to count 53 players on the cap plus a practice squad. Also, the rookie class is expected to cost somewhere in the ballpark of $5-6 million for 2014, meaning the team has about $10 million in actual cap space it can use in this market.

That doesn't seem like much, but it's certainly enough to make a few moves if the Rams want. Remember, teams can backload deals and keep that first-year cap hit low to fit a player it covets. With the cap expected to rise to record levels in the next two years, teams might choose to do that more than ever this year.

Under the guidance of chief operating officer Kevin Demoff, that hasn't been the Rams' modus operandi. Demoff and the Rams prefer to operate under a pay-as-you-go philosophy, getting guaranteed money off the books and lessening the chance at future dead money.

One way or another, the Rams are going to add some reinforcements via free agency, but don't expect them to get into any major bidding wars. They have neither the cap space nor the inclination to do so.

The St. Louis Rams have not released cornerback Cortland Finnegan yet but the day is coming soon as the team informed him Wednesday. Whether Finnegan returns to the Rams or not in 2014 remains to be seen but the pending move should come as no surprise to anyone paying even a little bit of attention.

Finnegan
Rams coach Jeff Fisher expressed optimism that the team would bring Finnegan back at last month's NFL scouting combine but what was left unsaid at the time was how much the team would be paying him if he did return. Either way, it was pretty obvious the Rams weren't going to bring Finnegan back at his scheduled $10 million cap hit in 2014.

Put simply, Finnegan never performed like the $50 million corner the team signed him to be. He got off to a hot start as a Ram, posting interceptions in his first three games with the team. From there, Finnegan's first two years in St. Louis were marred by injury and a lack of productivity.

Toward the end of the 2012 season, Finnegan battled a hamstring injury which limited him to a nickel corner role. He appeared to get past it but looked like he had lost a step early in 2013 before a fractured orbital bone ended his season after seven games in which he struggled mightily.

In two seasons with the Rams, Finnegan played 23 games with 128 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and four interceptions.

It's possible that the door hasn't completely closed on Finnegan's time in St. Louis. He was a valuable piece of the locker room, not only for the young corners but for the young team as a whole. He and Fisher are tight and it remains possible the two sides could work out an agreement if that's the result they want.

But for a young team that has devoted itself to bringing along young players and giving them opportunities to succeed, there's simply no room for a $10 million veteran corner who never provided the return on investment that Fisher once hoped.
The free-agent market is scheduled to begin March 11 and teams may begin negotiations with those poised to hit the market beginning March 8. We'll countdown to that with a position-by-position look at what the Rams have in place, who is set to hit the market, what they might need and who might fit the bill.

In place: The top four cornerbacks on the roster all remain under the Rams' control for 2014, though the possibility for tweaks remains. Starters Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are set to enter their third year and will be back as will Brandon McGee, who is set to enter his second season.

Where the intrigue comes in is with veteran Cortland Finnegan. Rams coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have publicly given Finnegan the vote of confidence in terms of his return, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be back under the same contract with his $10 million salary cap hit. The Rams technically don't have to do anything with Finnegan's contract right away since they have room to sign a player or two without restructuring, but having an agreement in place if they plan to bring him back would seem to be a priority.

Pending free agents: Quinton Pointer (exclusive rights)

What’s needed: Simply put, the Rams need to find another starting-caliber cornerback or at least good enough to be one of the top three options on the team. They've invested picks and time in Jenkins and Johnson, and though signs of progress have been evident for both, inconsistency has been just as prevalent. Many believe defensive coordinator Gregg Williams can get that duo on track, but even if that's true, the Rams need another option ready to go.

Finnegan played hurt before he went on injured reserve last year and didn't look right before the season even started. He's still relatively young at 30 and one would think he has some gas left in the tank, but it's hard to imagine the Rams bringing him back at his projected cost.

Possible fits: The obvious name here is pending Tennessee free agent Alterraun Verner. Verner had his best season last year under the guidance of Titans defensive assistant Williams, who is now running the defense in St. Louis. He would certainly fit the need for a starting-caliber corner. But Verner figures to get a hefty contract, and with what the Rams have invested in Jenkins and Johnson and the lack of return on investment for Finnegan, it might not be the best idea to invest heavily in a corner who doesn't have a long track record of success.

Other top corners who will be available include New England's Aqib Talib, Miami's Brent Grimes and Green Bay's Sam Shields. All figure to get big-money deals. The better bet for the Rams might be to find a mid-level veteran type like Oakland's Tracy Porter or San Francisco's Tarell Brown.

Verdict: I wouldn't be surprised if the Rams kicked the tires on Verner, but I also don't expect them to spend the kind of big money on a free agent that would be required to land him. They could use an early pick on a top corner, but they could use a veteran presence in the secondary. Perhaps Finnegan will be that guy, coming back on a lesser contract.

Rams optimistic Finnegan will return

February, 22, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- It has become a sort of conventional wisdom that the St. Louis Rams will not bring cornerback Cortland Finnegan back at his scheduled $10 million cap cost in 2014, if they bring him back at all.

Finnegan struggled mightily in 2013 before suffering a fractured orbital bone on Sept. 26 against San Francisco. He attempted to play through it but ultimately landed on injured reserve after playing in seven games.

[+] EnlargeTennessee's Kenny Britt
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesCortland Finnegan will likely have to restructure his contract in order to return to the Rams in 2014.
The Rams aren't exactly flush with salary-cap space. Do the simple math, and Finnegan would appear a logical candidate for release or restructure.

Although Rams coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead didn't tip their hand on exactly how they plan to get there, they indicated Friday at the NFL combine that Finnegan would be back in some shape, form or fashion.

"He overcame a difficult situation," Fisher said. "I understand he's healthy now. And so we expect him back in the offseason program."

The question then becomes which scenario brings Finnegan back to the Rams. Finnegan signed a five-year, $50 million contract with the team in 2012, a deal that still has three years remaining. Keeping in line with how many of their contracts are structured, the bulk of the guaranteed money due Finnegan has already been paid.

Finnegan has a $3 million roster bonus which is guaranteed coming three days into the new league year but other than that, the only remaining potential dead money on his deal would be the remaining amortization of his signing bonus. That amounts to another $3 million, which is currently scheduled to count on the cap in $1 million installments each of the next three seasons.

If the Rams want Finnegan to return as they say, it still seems unlikely they'd want to pay $10 million for a cornerback who fell well short of earning such a windfall in 2013. There are plenty of ways they could work a restructure with Finnegan, give him a chance to bounce back and bring him back at a reduced cap number.

"What we want to do is get the cap where we don’t have to make a non-football decision," Snead said. "I think that’s where we’re at. He had an injured eye last year, really a broken eye. I don’t know if you can break your eye so he continued to play through that and it was causing him some issues and headaches and vision.

"First of all, get him healthy and then with [defensive coordinator] Gregg [Williams] coming in figure out where we all fit. In this league, like pass-rushers, corners that can go inside and play nickel, you can’t have enough of those people."

The Rams aren't prone to tipping their hand on any of their offseason plans, so plenty of salt should be taken with any discussion of contracts or signings. But it wouldn't surprise if Fisher did want to retain Finnegan, who is viewed as a key part of the locker room and leader for the team's young defensive backs. What remains up for debate is the circumstances under which that return would occur.
We don't yet know exactly what the 2014 NFL salary cap ceiling is going to be. Many anticipate that it will land in the range of $126 million but some suspect it could actually finish in the range of $128 million.

The St. Louis Rams are like the rest of their NFL brethren in that they don't share their exact salary cap situation with the rest of the league. But we can at least piece together enough information to have a good handle on what a team is dealing with as we head toward the start of free agency and the new league year on March 11.

It's no secret that the Rams aren't exactly flush with salary cap space. In the past two years, they've spent big dollars on free agents such as tackle Jake Long, tight end Jared Cook and cornerback Cortland Finnegan along with fairly pricey deals for players like center Scott Wells and defensive tackle Kendall Langford. Add lucrative contract extensions for middle linebacker James Laurinaitis and defensive end Chris Long and you have the recipe of a team that's up against it when it comes to the salary cap.

As of Tuesday, ESPN's Roster Management system has the Rams carrying 51 players counting a total of $125, 548, 963 in salary cap charges for 2014. Only Dallas, Pittsburgh and Seattle currently have more money tied up in 2014 salaries. Depending on where the cap number comes in for next season, that means the Rams could have less than half a million dollars available or closer to $2.5 million.

Either way, the Rams are going to have to create salary cap space in the near future to be able to do anything this offseason. With two first-round picks, the Rams' rookie salary allotment will require a bit more than usual pending trade downs and the team would like to retain offensive lineman Rodger Saffold or add help elsewhere if that proves untenable.

At first glance, the Rams' lack of salary cap space would seem a tough obstacle to improving the roster but Rams COO Kevin Demoff has done a good job managing the cap by front-loading contracts to give the team flexibility when it comes to the salary cap. The team could release or re-work contracts for Finnegan, Wells and/or guard Harvey Dahl and instantly create between $12 and $15 million in space.

If the Rams needed further assistance, they could also choose to move some numbers around on Laurinaitis and Long's deals. They've already tweaked Long's contract a couple times to create room and could do so again if needed.

How the Rams handle trash talking

January, 29, 2014
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ST. LOUIS -- It should tell you all you need to know about how St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher views trash talking that one of his first moves upon taking over in 2012 was signing cornerback Cortland Finnegan to a lucrative five-year contract.

Finnegan
Finnegan has made a career of getting into opponents' heads both with his words and his style of play. That approach has earned Finnegan the "dirty" player label from other players around the league but from the day he signed with the Rams he made it clear that the talking and agitating are part of his game.

"I play with an edge," Finnegan said then. "If there is an edge, I’m standing over it, looking over it. Never stepping over it, never want to hurt the football team. That’s something that I can continue to do is just play with that edginess. I think that’s part of my game."

It's a big part of Finnegan's game and one that has alternately helped and hurt his team. In his second game as a Ram against Washington in 2012, Finnegan annoyed receiver Josh Morgan so much that Morgan got fed up in the game's closing moments and threw the ball at Finnegan. The ensuing penalty pushed Washington out of field goal range and sealed the win for the Rams.

On the flip side Finnegan can push too far, such as the 2013 season opener where he racked up a pair of 15-yard penalties in a game the Rams barely managed to win.

Of course, Finnegan is far from the only Ram who likes to run his mouth. It's no coincidence that other cornerbacks such as Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson also have an affinity for yapping. This season, those antics often worked more to the detriment of the team than to its benefit.

Fisher has long maintained that he doesn't mind if his players push the edge so long as it's under control. At times that control seems to be lost, but there's little doubt that Fisher's players have the green light when it comes to engaging opponents in a war of words.

Mock draft: About that 'other pick

December, 19, 2013
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay released his newest mock draft Insider Wednesday and it generated plenty of discussion when it comes to the St. Louis Rams and the second overall pick they own courtesy of the Washington Redskins.

Lost in the mix of McShay's projection of the Rams taking Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews at No. 2 was the fact that the Rams hold another pick, currently No. 14 overall, in the first round. McShay's projection there was no laughing matter.

OK, sorry, had to get that first bad pun out of the way now because I have a feeling McShay's choice of Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Rams with their second first-round pick is one that's going to be quite popular in the buildup to the draft.

Here's what McShay had to say about the free safety and the Rams:

"This might be something of a reach, but I actually think that safety has taken on more importance with the increasing number of slot receivers and pass-catching tight ends. Clinton-Dix doesn't have elite man-to-man cover skills, but he has good range when asked to cover the middle of the field and very good closing burst. He comes in hard, blows up plays and isn't afraid to mix things up. He's exactly what you're looking for in terms of a complete safety, and he fills another need for the Rams."

The safety position has generally been the biggest weakness of the Rams defense in 2013. They believe they have one piece locked in for the future in T.J. McDonald, who has started every game in which he's been healthy. McDonald is more of a box safety, capable of coming up and helping in run support. What the Rams need next to him is a ball hawking type to patrol the middle of the field. Rodney McLeod has improved as the season has gone on but is probably best suited as a backup and special teamer. If Clinton-Dix fits the play making mode, he would make sense for St. Louis.

Of course, there are other directions the Rams could go here if, as McShay says, the team considers Clinton-Dix a bit of a "reach" at this point in the draft. A top receiver such as Clemson's Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M's Mike Evans or USC's Marqise Lee would also have to be intriguing for an offense still in need of a true No. 1 type wideout. If the Rams felt one of those guys was capable of being that, it's something they'd have to consider.

But at the end of the day, the Rams' biggest need heading into the offseason is help in the secondary. Cornerback Cortland Finnegan may not be back and if he is, it would almost certainly be under a drastically altered contract. That leaves Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson as the top two corners. Even if the Rams believe that's their starting duo moving forward, another top corner would remain a necessity with the need for at least three in today's NFL.

Although plenty can change in the next five months, there doesn't appear to be a defensive back worth taking in the top 10. Thus, going with the best secondary piece available, be it a safety or a corner, would make a lot of sense for the Rams' second first-round choice.

Putting Finnegan's Rams future in focus

November, 27, 2013
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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.

Upon Further Review: Rams Week 12

November, 25, 2013
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ST. LOUIS -- A review of four hot issues from the St. Louis Rams' 42-21 win against the Chicago Bears:

[+] EnlargeZac Stacy
Michael Thomas/Getty ImagesZac Stacy rushed for 87 yards and a score as the Rams rushed for a total of 258 yards.
Staying alive: The win moved the Rams to 5-6 on the season and though they are still on the outskirts of the playoff race, they managed to stay in the picture by knocking off a team that's in front of them in the mix.

With five games to play, the margin for error is small -- the Rams probably can't afford to lose another game to have a real shot at the playoffs -- but they now have consecutive impressive wins against playoff contenders in Indianapolis and Chicago. Heading into Monday night's game between San Francisco and Washington, the Rams sit two games behind 7-4 Arizona for what would be the final wild-card spot.

St. Louis' next two games come against the Niners and Cardinals, two teams ahead of them not only in the NFC West but in the NFC wild-card picture as well.

Battle of the Longs: Much was made of the meeting of Rams defensive end Chris Long and his brother Kyle, the Bears' starting right guard, last week. In a rare battle between brothers where they might actually cross paths on the field, there wasn't much to report with one notable exception.

Following an incomplete pass by Bears quarterback Josh McCown in the first half, Kyle Long got tangled up with defensive end William Hayes. The pair continued to battle after the play and Long actually appeared to throw a couple of kicks in Hayes' direction. Chris Long quickly ran in from the sideline to pry his brother out of the mix and away from his close friend Hayes.

It was a difficult situation for Chris Long, but he said he has long been accustomed to pulling his brother out of scrums.

Run game rolling: Immediate following the Rams' blowout loss to San Francisco in Week 4, coach Jeff Fisher made it clear the time had come for a philosophical shift for the offense. The idea was to develop some semblance of a reliable rushing attack with rookie Zac Stacy leading the charge.

After a promising start, the Rams' run game has gone to another level in the past four weeks. Capped by Sunday's 258 rushing yards, the Rams have run for 758 yards with six touchdowns on an average of 5.61 yards per carry. That average is the best in the league during that time frame. Without starting quarterback Sam Bradford, the run game's emergence has eased the burden on backup Kellen Clemens considerably.

Secondary struggles: The Rams' secondary hasn't exactly been able to lock down opposing passing games this season, but it was even tougher sledding Sunday against the Bears. The team placed cornerback Cortland Finnegan on injured reserve with an eye injury on Saturday and Trumaine Johnson, his replacement, suffered a head injury during the game. That left the Rams short at cornerback, and McCown threw for 352 yards and two touchdowns to keep Chicago in the game.

Pending Johnson's status moving forward, the Rams have only rookie Brandon McGee, converted safety Rodney McLeod and unproven Quinton Pointer behind starter Janoris Jenkins on the outside.

Cortland Finnegan doubtful vs. Bears

November, 22, 2013
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- It appeared as one of the stranger designations on the St. Louis Rams' injury report this week, but it appears the eye injury that has kept cornerback Cortland Finnegan out of practice this week will be enough to keep him from playing on Sunday.

Finnegan
Finnegan is officially listed as doubtful on Friday's injury report with an eye injury. The extent of the injury or what, exactly, it is remains unknown, but it seems unlikely he'll be able to play against the Chicago Bears.

Trumaine Johnson, who has been starting in place of Finnegan for most of the past six games anyway, will almost certainly handle the starting duties opposite Janoris Jenkins. Finnegan missed three games this season with a leg injury.

When Finnegan missed time during that sequence, the Rams turned to safety Rodney McLeod as the third cornerback, with an extra safety -- usually Matt Giordano -- entering the game. It seems likely they would go that way again, though Giordano (thigh) and fellow safety Darian Stewart (foot) were limited in practice this week. Giordano and Stewart are listed as probable.

Here's the full injury report for Friday:

Out: G Harvey Dahl (knee), QB Brady Quinn (hip/back)

Doubtful: Finnegan

Probable: RB Chase Reynolds (knee), Stewart, Giordano

Of note for the Bears, defensive tackles Stephen Paea (toe) and Jay Ratliff (groin) are listed as out.

Rams' injury report stays the same

November, 21, 2013
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams had hoped to spend the bye week getting healthy and ready for a final six-game stretch run to close the season. They didn't suffer any serious injuries during their two bye-week practices, but they also probably aren't as healthy as they'd like to be heading toward Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.

The Rams made no changes to their injury report Thursday after listing four players as not participating and two more as limited Wednesday.

For the second day in a row, the Rams practiced without the services of guard Harvey Dahl (knee), quarterback Brady Quinn (hip/lower back), cornerback Cortland Finnegan (eye) and running back Chase Reynolds (knee). The absence of Dahl and Quinn is no surprise as both players had missed time leading into the bye. Finnegan and Reynolds were additions and so far haven't don't anything in practice this week.

Safeties Darian Stewart (foot) and Matt Giordano (thigh) were designated as limited participants again Thursday. The injuries to Finnegan, Stewart and Giordano have left the Rams a little short-handed in the secondary in practice this week.

Of note for the Bears, offensive tackle Jordan Mills (quadriceps) was upgraded from limited participation Wednesday to full participation Thursday.

Morning Ram-blings: A hurtful loss

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
10:40
AM ET
ST. LOUIS -- To the very last drop, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher insisted that Sunday's 28-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans was no more meaningful than any other game he's coached.

"You know what, honestly this is another week for me, OK," Fisher said. "I’ve got Indy this week. This was another opponent. We worked and we worked. We came back on a short week against a good opponent and didn’t get it done. So, we have a normal week this week and we’re getting ready for the Colts."

After spending a few years shy of two decades with the Oilers/Titans franchise, it's hard to imagine that Fisher didn't want to find a way to come out on top even a little bit more than usual. When the game was over and the Rams had come up just short for the second consecutive week, Fisher greeted Tennessee coach/Fisher protege Mike Munchak with a quick handshake.

"I just congratulated him," Fisher said. "He’s really excited and he has every right to be excited on the win. So I just congratulated him."

The loss had to be maddening for Fisher and the Rams on a number of levels, not least of which was a disappointing defensive performance combined with costly turnovers and penalties. To have it happen against the Titans certainly couldn't have helped things.

Even if Fisher chooses not to acknowledge that connection, it doesn't mean his players didn't. Titans-turned-Rams such as tight end Jared Cook, end William Hayes and cornerback Cortland Finnegan weren't afraid to say playing the Titans meant a little bit more.

“I think so," Finnegan said. "That’s the obvious answer. If you can get any closer to a Super Bowl without it being a Super Bowl, that’s what it was for me. It was staying up late and watching extra film and doing everything I could to prepare myself. In fact I normally do, but just doing a little more because this team is who they were.”

For the record, it wasn't a bad day for former Titans. Finnegan had five tackles and an interception, Hayes had a sack and two tackles and Cook had three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown.

I.C.Y.M.I.

A roundup of Sunday's Rams' stories on ESPN.com. … We started with word that running back Zac Stacy would indeed start and play through an ankle injury. … Next, it was this week's edition of Rapid Reaction and Locker Room Buzz. … From there, it was the Rams' reverting to poor run defense and how that greatly altered what they could do defensively against the Titans. … We also revisited three things with a look at how the Rams fared in three key areas of Sunday's game. … Finally, we chronicled another strong performance from Stacy and how he's emerged as the brightest spot in a season headed toward lost.

Elsewhere:

ESPN Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky breaks down the other side of the Rams' struggles defending the run: The Titans' success doing it.

Cary Chow and Tom Waddle review the Rams-Titans game.

Stltoday.com's Jeff Gordon provides his weekly grades.

Jim Thomas offers his running-game recap.

Need a laugh after the Rams' second consecutive narrow miss? Well, Turf Show Times delivers the good with an ode from some Rams to one of my favorite movies.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Gregg Williams will coach a defense at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday but it won't be the one that he probably envisioned as recently as January of 2012.

[+] EnlargeGregg Williams
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyGregg Williams, one of Jeff Fisher's first hires with the Rams, is instead leaving his stamp on the Titans' defense after his return from a season-long suspension.
Williams was one of Rams coach Jeff Fisher's first hires when he took over the job last year, brought on to be the team's defensive coordinator. That never panned out how either side envisioned when the NFL suspended Williams for the year because of his role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal. Williams faded into NFL oblivion and resurfaced in Tennessee this year as a defensive consultant.

As the Rams and Titans prepare to face off this week, much has been made of Fisher's knowledge of Tennessee and head coach Mike Munchak's system but it's certainly a two-way street, at least on defense. Although Jerry Gray is the defensive coordinator, Williams' imprint on the defense -- lots of blitzing, plenty of press coverage -- is obvious.

"Absolutely, you can see Gregg's fingerprints on that," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "I think Jerry Gray does a great job. I think they're very well-coached. It will be a good challenge for us. The good news is there is some carryover from what we saw last week with Seattle coming off the Monday night game in terms of the eight-man front and some of the stuff we'll have to block. So, that does help you."

Fisher and Williams were once thought to be close friends, a relationship likely strained by what happened with Williams' status in St. Louis and the Rams parting ways with Williams' son Blake after one season last year.

Asked about Williams earlier this week, Fisher told the Tennessee media that he hasn't spoken to Williams much in the past year. Asked again Wednesday by St. Louis media, he didn't offer much more.

"I really never talked to him during the season anyway," Fisher said. "I'm sure I'll see him on Sunday."

I.C.Y.M.I.

A morning roundup of Friday's Rams stories appearing here on ESPN.com. ... We began the day with a look at why Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan is getting the last laugh on the success of Tennessee cornerback Alterraun Verner. ... Next, we looked at the Rams' need to keep the momentum on defense after a dominant outing against Seattle. ... On the injury wire, we looked at the potential for new looks at running back with three backs listed as questionable. ... Finally, we discussed the news about Jacksonville receiver Justin Blackmon with a look back at what might have been had he slipped to the Rams at No. 6.

Elsewhere:

At stltoday.com, columnist Bryan Burwell provides this video look at the Rams-Titans game.

Joe Lyons dives into the breakthrough performance of rookie running back Zac Stacy.

Jim Thomas provides the comments from offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer on the final play against Seattle.

Stacy stopped by to chat with fans at stlouisrams.com.

Tickets for Sunday's game can be had for as low as $9.

One former agent provides a list of likely cap casualties this offseason, including Finnegan.

An interesting look from cbssports.com on the trade that sent Eric Dickerson from the Rams to Indianapolis.

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