Rams Continue to Address Needs via Free Agency

Posted Mar 15, 2014

As afternoon turned to evening on Wednesday, the Rams were among the quietest teams since the opening of the 2014 free agency period, which started Tuesday afternoon.

Within the first ninety minutes of the new NFL year, 26 different players had been inked to new contracts, with none of them joining the Rams. That all changed quickly.

In an unforeseen turn of events, the Rams re-signed guard Rodger Saffold to a five-year contract Thursday afternoon, and followed by agreeing to a two-year agreement with veteran linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar.

PHOTOS: Through the Years with Jo-Lonn Dunbar

The retention of both Rams addressed a pair of needs entering the offseason, and could signal at least a preliminary shaping of the team’s draft strategy. Armed with both the second and 13th overall draft choices, the Rams will have ample ability to address priorities at a number of positions, though the team’s most recent activity could hone that scope of need.

The signing of Saffold leaves a single guard position unfilled, though Head Coach Jeff Fisher alluded to the possibility of that position also being filled through free agency.

“I think we’re in good shape right now,” Fisher said. “Obviously, we lost Chris (Williams) and Shelley (Smith), but we feel like we’re not quite done in free agency. We had Davin Joseph in yesterday, who was released by the Bucs. Daryn Colledge was in yesterday. We’ve had him in, we’re still not done there. We’ve got a couple other guys that we’re talking to.  Obviously, we’re going to address it as best we can in the draft as well.”

Dunbar’s signing, though lower in profile than Saffold’s five-year agreement, addresses a need at outside linebacker amid a thinner-than-typical crop of outside options in free agency. Dunbar will be reunited with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who coached Dunbar from 2008-11 as the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. Dunbar appeared in 12 games, including 10 starts, at outside linebacker last season. He was the Rams’ second-leading tackler in 2012.

With a key member of last year’s defense back in tow for 2014, the team’s wish list through the draft may have become slightly better defined.

In addition to adding to the offensive line, the Rams could look to boost their backup quarterback position through the draft if left unaddressed through free agency, following Kellen Clemens’ defection to the San Diego Chargers yesterday. The free agent crop of quarterbacks added an intriguing name Friday, with the Tennessee Titans’ release of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who began his NFL career with two seasons in St. Louis. A nine-year NFL veteran, Fitzpatrick would fit the mold of previous backups employed by Fisher both in St. Louis and in Tennessee.

While meeting with media at the NFL Combine, Rams general manager Les Snead stated that the Rams didn’t see a position that posed a ‘glaring weakness’ entering the draft in May. While the needs at offensive guard and outside linebacker positions may not have been defined as glaring, the Rams undoubtedly will approach the draft from an improved position of strength, thanks to the events of the past 24 hours.

What a difference a day makes.