Rams Cut Roster to 53

Posted Aug 31, 2012

Fullback Ovie Mughelli was one of the Rams' 21 roster cuts Friday evening.

The Rams trimmed the roster from 75 to the league-mandated 53 on Friday evening but coach Jeff Fisher made it clear that the 53 still standing won’t necessarily be the 53 the team takes to Detroit for the Sept. 9 season opener.

For the most part, the team’s 22 roster moves on Friday came with little shock or surprise. The youngest team in the NFL tag appears to be going nowhere though as the Rams sent a clear message that they aren’t going to be afraid to give youngsters a chance to play.

“You constantly evaluate,” Fisher said. “You hear them talk about how you upgrade the bottom part of your roster. Well, we’re going to continue to upgrade this roster if we see fit and if we should see an opportunity that presents itself. (If) a player comes up that’s available or a team’s interested in making a trade and we feel like it makes us better then we’re going to go ahead and do so. You like to stand up and say, ‘Hey, this is the group we’re going with,’ but that’s not the case and it’s not a threatening issue or anything else. It’s just our jobs to get better. The players’ job is to improve. It’s our jobs to improve this organization.”

So it was that the Rams released 21 players and added one to the suspended list to meet the league requirements.

The players released Friday are DT Cornell Banks, C Tim Barnes, QB Tom Brandstater, DE Mason Brodine, LB Aaron Brown, LB Sammy Brown, CB Kendric Burney, QB Kellen Clemens, DE Vernon Gholston, FB Ben Guidugli, TE Cory Harkey, OL T. Bob Hebert, DE Jamaar Jarrett, WR Nick Johnson, T Joe Long, G Bryan Mattison, FB Ovie Mughelli, TE Deangelo Peterson, RB Chase Reynolds, DE Scott Smith, OL Jose Valdez.

In addition, the Rams placed wide receiver Austin Pettis on the reserve/suspended list. Pettis has two games remaining on his original four-game suspension from last season. He’s eligible to come off in time for week three.

Perhaps the biggest surprises on the list of cuts come in the form of Clemens and Mughelli.

At quarterback, Sam Bradford is the obvious starter but undrafted rookie Austin Davis has continued to impress throughout the preseason and earned not only a roster spot, but at least for now, the backup signal caller duties.

Clemens had re-signed with the Rams midway through the offseason program but despite his knowledge of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s system, wasn’t able to nail down the job.

Davis finished the preseason 22-of-34 for 220 yards with no touchdowns and an interception for a rating of 70.7 but impressed with his ability to escape pressure and make plays with his feet.

At fullback, it seemed possible that the Rams could keep two, including Mughelli and Brit Miller. But Mughelli never surpassed Miller on the depth chart and Miller brings the added value on special teams that make him a valuable piece moving forward.

More tough decisions had to be made at tight end where the Rams had a number of talented youngsters. Although they opted to keep four – including local boy Mike McNeill – they had to let Peterson and Harkey, two players with upside, go.

No matter if it was a veteran such as Clemens or Mughelli or wide-eyed rookies like Peterson and Harkey, the discussion in which Fisher lets them know their fate is never easier.

“They’re all the same as far as speaking to the individual players,” Fisher said. “No conversation is easier than the other. You’re letting guys go. This is their dream and they worked hard at it. You tell them the truth and you move on. You try to make them feel good about what they’ve done. But as far as the positions are concerned, we’ve got depth at a lot of positions and unfortunately we can’t keep everybody there.”

Placing Pettis on the reserve/suspended list also allowed the Rams to keep six wideouts and delay any decision on that position for at least a few more weeks. The Rams kept six receivers with Johnson being the only one released.

The rest of the positional breakdown for the roster as it currently stands: two quarterbacks, four running backs, four tight ends, eight offensive linemen, four defensive ends, five defensive tackles, six linebackers, five cornerbacks, five safeties and one each at kicker, punter and long snapper.

In the next 24 hours or so, the Rams will also be able to announce an eight-man practice squad which figures to include a number of players from the above list of cuts. That process isn’t a difficult one according to Fisher.

Players like Aaron Brown, Johnson and Reynolds would make sense as possibilities for that group.

“It’s not a tough decision; it’s a decision that’s in the best interest of the club,” Fisher said. “You can only keep 53 and if you’ve got guys that you’ve become familiar with over the last three or four weeks, or since offseason programs started, that you think have a chance or have the potential, then those are the guys that you would invite back to your practice squad.

“There’s other candidates on other clubs, but most of the time, clubs have a great deal of success signing their own players back because they’re used to the systems. The practice squad is also determined by depth on your team. For example, if you’re short at one position because you want to go long at another position, then you would need those types of players on the practice squad just so you can practice.”

Now, with the roster whittled to 53, the Rams will continue to turn their attention to improving the roster any way possible. For players who have been in the league four years or less (non-vested veterans) that have to clear waivers, the Rams sit only behind the Colts in waiver priority.

In other words, the Rams will get first crack at any talented young players they’d like to pursue. And, considering the injuries at defensive tackle and the depth situations at other positions, there’s a strong chance the Rams will be active when it comes to using their waiver position.

Fisher also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a trade.

“It’s a difficult process but we’ll get there,” Fisher said. “We’re also currently evaluating other peoples’ lists. I think that’s important to do. In the event that we feel like someone’s out there that can help us, then we’ll go ahead and make a move.