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Rams Will Wait to Focus on Free Agents

Posted Feb 24, 2012


Rams coach Jeff Fisher and Co. haven't had many opportunities to study for free agency yet but they plan to take advantage of an additional two weeks between the end of the combine and free agency's start on March 13.

INDIANAPOLIS – Les Snead has only been on the job as the Rams’ new general manager for a little more than a week.

In that time, Snead has barely had time to unpack or learn the name of his scouts, let alone formulate a detailed plan for free agency.

Fortunately for Snead and the Rams, the lag time between the end of the combine and the start of free agency is much longer than the usual 48-72 hours that the NFL schedule has been in years past.

This year, free agency isn’t set to begin until March 13, meaning the Rams have some time to figure out what they plan to do after they take care of business here this week.

“Because we have got a new coaching staff, new schemes, we are currently going through that, trying to make that decision, evaluating who fits the scheme and who doesn’t,” Snead said. “We are still working through that and we have a couple of weeks to decide.”

As Snead, coach Jeff Fisher and their respective staffs sit down to work on free agency, they have much to consider.

First and foremost, the Rams have 20 unrestricted free agents – including receiver Brandon Lloyd and guard Jacob Bell – and a handful of restricted and exclusive rights free agents – a group that includes valuable slot receiver Danny Amendola.

While Fisher didn’t want to get too much into specifics about players he’d like to retain, he did acknowledge that Lloyd would be one.

“We have a number of UFAs that we are interested in keeping and he would be one of them,” Fisher said.

Bell has been starting at guard for the Rams for the better part of the past four seasons and is also due to hit free agency.

Unlike Lloyd, Bell and Fisher have a previous relationship from their time together with the Titans. Fisher said he liked having Bell then though obviously Bell’s a bit older now than he was then.

“He did a great job for us,” Fisher said. “We were sad to lose him but we were in position cap wise where we had to make some decisions and we just couldn’t compete but he did a great job for us. He’s still got ability; I thought he played much better toward the end of the year.”

In addition to being able to re-sign their own free agents, there are some street free agents with connections to Fisher that could be evaluated in the next couple of weeks.

Those players can sign at anytime because they didn’t finish the season with a team.

While receiver Randy Moss has been getting some of that attention from fans, it’s unlikely he’d be brought in though Fisher has said Moss was a good influence in the locker room when they were together in Tennessee in 2010.

Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, on the other hand, is a guy who has played for and succeeded under Fisher and a player Fisher openly acknowledged is on the team’s radar.

“There’s some unrestricted free agents out there now that are not under contract that we have been talking about,” Fisher said. “He is one of them. Whether we go ahead and do something, that remains to be seen.”

Haynesworth played his way into a monster payday under Fisher with Washington and could use a jumpstart after his career after fizzling out with the Redskins and Tampa Bay.

“We will exhaust every option for player acquisitions,” Snead said. “I can say this for him; he played his best under Jeff. We will exhaust every option and opportunity to bring in talent. If we deem him as a guy, we will do it.”

As for the opening of unrestricted free agency, it might be too early to begin falling for potential players who may or may not hit the market.

In recent years, the franchise tag period would already have expired but it only just began and the names of players re-signed and tagged won’t be known for a little while. That could severely damage the pool of available talent as well.

“Most teams like to keep their good players and they usually do,” Snead said. “Maybe they are not signed back yet but I am sure their teams are actively trying to get that accomplished as we speak.”

Once free agency actually does begin, though, Snead said he and the Rams plan to be aggressive and go after the players they identify as desirable with vigor.

So although those players might not have identities yet in the Rams’ meeting rooms, by the time it’s time to put pen to paper, Snead fully expects the team to be prepared.

“You have got to be ready for when the whistle blows but I will say that we will definitely use the next 10-12 days to really hone in,” Snead said. “It’s a puzzle we have got to put together and we discuss it every day.”

INJURY UPDATES: Because of some changes to the collective bargaining agreement, the Rams and the rest of the teams in the league have not yet had the opportunity to meet with many of their players.

The few that are around, the injured players, are making progress according to Fisher and Snead.

“Guys are getting back,” Fisher said. “They are in the building, they are working hard, they are rehabbing and they are getting back. I am pleased with the progress and I am really pleased with our training staff and medical staff. I think we have an outstanding staff as it relates to rehab and where everybody is right now.”

Offensive tackle Jason Smith was one player mentioned by name. He’s battled serious concussion issues but Fisher and Snead said they believe he’s coming along fine and will be able to plug into the offseason program when it opens up in April.

Cornerback Bradley Fletcher’s status is less certain as he comes off his second torn ACL in as many years. 

“Right now the goal is to get him healthy,” Snead said. “With those types of injuries, we will not be able to put him on the field until he’s 100 percent. You don’t want to get them back too early and do further damage.”

HIGHER GROUND:  Fisher’s teams in Tennessee were often competitive enough that he found himself drafting no higher than the mid-teens.

In other words, Fisher doesn’t have much experience drafting players in the top of the draft and has usually had to delve deeper to find the right guy in the first round.

Coincidentally, the highest the Titans drafted in his tenure there was his very first year with the team, a feat he will best with his new team in his first year in St. Louis.

That Tennessee (then Houston) team drafted quarterback Steve McNair.

“In 95 we did have No. 3, that was actually my first draft as head coach,” Fisher said. “And that worked out very well for us, by the way. We are hoping to have the same success.”

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