Thursday, February 26, 2009

FA defensive backs preview

UFA DBs as of 02/26/2009 (from
RamView's Top 5 CBs: 1 - Jabari Greer 2 - Bryant McFadden 3 - Chris Gamble 4 - Keiwan Ratliff 5 - Karl Paymah
Top 5 FS: 1 - Jim Leonhard 2 - Eugene Wilson 3 - Brian Dawkins 4 - James Butler 5 - Dwight Smith
Top 5 SS: 1 - Jermaine Phillips 2 - Darren Sharper 3 - Yeremiah Bell 4 - Jon McGraw

Sleepers: Andre Goodman, Corey Ivy

Gawd No: Pac-Man, Fakhir Brown, Corey Chavous, and any number of old, broken down DBs in this year's FA pool

Rams FAs: Ron Bartell is an unrestricted free agent, along with Fakhir Brown, Jason Craft and Ricky Manning Jr. Corey Chavous was cut shortly after last season. O.J. Atogwe got the franchise tag at free safety.

Rams analysis: By letting Bartell hit the open market, the Rams have created a Jimmy Kennedy-sized problem in the secondary. Bartell's now likely to command an $8 million a year contract, much, much more than what he's worth to the Rams. Assuming the Rams don't bring back the only occasionally-competent Unca Fakhir, well, let's just say you're starting the other teams' WRs every week in your fantasy league. The best CB currently signed to the roster is Jonathan Wade, a willing hitter with speed, but at best, a nickel back with a lot of unrealized potential. Justin King's probably next, and he missed all his rookie season with a blown knee. Who knows what that's done to the speed the Rams drafted him for? Then there's Tye Hill, who's rapidly developing into as bad a first-round pick as the Rams have ever made. He was so shell-shocked early last season he looked like he needed to be committed to a rubber room. And with his knack for indurability, he would have found a way to get injured in that rubber room. The Rams are going to have to come up with two or three veteran CBs to field even a competitive secondary. O.J. Atogwe got the franchise tag at free safety despite his liabilities in coverage and ken for selfish play (he lost the home game against San Francisco last season by trying to intercept a late TD pass instead of knocking it down). But he's also about the only Ram defender who can force a turnover, so he's definitely valuable. The strong side remains the hole it has been ever since Toby Wright left town. Todd Johnson looked like a promising incumbent after (FINALLY) replacing Chavous last season, but he withered into a tackle-missing mess by the end of the season like every other Ram SS of the last decade. With Bartell gone, the Rams are worse off in the secondary than anywhere else on the team, including offensive line.

Viewing the field: This year's DB market makes up for its lack of quality with abundant quantity. RamView has no way to put decent research into all of these guys before free agency starts tonight, so this is a rather quick overview. I'm a big fan of Greer's play in Buffalo. He's part of a solid young core there that I honestly thought would have gotten the Bills farther along by now. Gamble has more of the size the Rams need in their secondary, but if you're going to spend Gamble money, why not spend it on Bartell? Leonhard is an up-and-coming safety who's also a dangerous kick returner for the Ravens. Wilson came into the league as a corner out of Illinois. His flexibility could come in quite handy here. Though 30, Goodman's career is still peaking, and he might be as good as Bartell at a much cheaper price. He was the best player in Miami's secondary down the stretch last season and his statistics are worthy of a shutdown corner. And RamView can't close out without mentioning longtime favorite Corey Ivy. No, he wouldn't be anything higher than a nickel back, but darnit, the guy has a knack for making plays.

RamView's moves: There are a lot of "names" out there the Rams could go after as a quick fix for their looming Bartell snafu. There's older CBs like Chris McAlister and Dre Bly who have been game-changing playmakers but who have lost at least a step. Leigh Bodden, Domonique Foxworth and Drayton Florence are on my next level: younger players but ones who have topped out at the average-to-above average level. Justin Miller's a knucklehead, but he can return kicks, which increases his, or Chris Carr's, or even R.W. McQuarters', value to the Rams, regardless of their coverage skills, or lack thereof. Needing two veteran CBs, and a SS who can tackle, the Rams may have to use all of their salary cap space at this position. RamView would renew Craft's contract and go after Goodman and Miller, hopefully having Bly and Manning Jr. to fall back on in the event of quick rejection.

What the Rams could do: If Steve Spagnuolo believes his former SS for the Giants, James Butler, is a guy to get, then I'll agree with him. Odds are, though, that the economics of the market are going to force them to try to resuscitate Hill's career to be able to field a defensive backfield.

Prediction: The Rams bring in Butler at SS, and another former Giant, Will Allen, to hold the fort across from Hill at CB. They might surprise me and spend a lot more, but Spagnuolo's never had really great secondaries to work with. If the Rams do anything big on defense in FA, it'll be in the front seven. One thing for sure: RamView is making damn sure to get Larry Fitzgerald in fantasy football this season.

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