The St. Louis Rams jumped into the free agent waters with both feet on the first day of NFL Free Agency. While there were many Rams fans who were jumping up and down about the lack of “sexy” moves during the first few days of unofficial free agency the Rams went after players who filled holes and needs for the upcoming season. The St. Louis Rams announced the signings of guard Harvey Dahl, wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker, linebacker Zac Diles and cornerback Al Harris. In addition the Rams finalized their previously leaked deal of safety Quintin Mikell. In all the Rams made significant improvements in the first day of free agency.
The biggest new move is the signing of former Atlanta Falcons guard Harvey Dahl. One of the toughest players in the league, Dahl is exactly what the Rams wanted and needed on the offensive line. Dahl is considered a superior run blocker and an above average pass blocker. He has started 43 straight games for Atlanta who has been an excellent running team in the past few years. The Rams biggest hole on the line was the right guard position and Dahl should immediately fill that gap. It was brought up by Jim Thomas in the Post-Dispatch though that Jacob Bell could now be in jeopardy of being a salary cap casualty. This will be something to watch over the coming days and weeks to see if Bell gets cut for a pure salary reason or if someone else beats him out for a position in camp.
Another probable starter acquired on the first day is linebacker Zac Diles. The former Houston Texans linebacker is the victim of a defensive scheme change in Texas. Diles appears to be a weak side linebacker option for the Rams in 2011. The former Texans linebacker started 32 games over the past three seasons and is supposed to be better against the run than the pass. Since Spagnuolo took over for the Rams the outside linebacker positions have been sort of a wasteland. Hopefully Diles will fix some of this.
The wide receiver addition of former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Michael Sims-Walker fits into what the Rams have been trying to do with the position all offseason. They have consistently selected players and coveted players who are big, athletic and get in the end zone. Sims-Walker has shown that he can do that over the past two seasons. In 2009 Sims-Walker had 63 catches for 869 yards and 7 touchdowns. In 2010 it dipped a little bit to 43 catches for 562 yards and 7 touchdowns. He clearly is a threat in the red zone, but does not constitute a number one receiver. The Rams promised that they were going to get Sam Bradford more weapons and they have done that. How they will be all utilized remains to be seen and worked out.
The final major addition of former Pro-Bowler Al Harris is an interesting one. Harris is a true professional who was once one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. At 36 though, his better days are behind him. Harris missed a large part of the 2009 season with the Green bay Packers due to injury and only played three games in 2010 with the Miami Dolphins. This smells like a last ditch chance to play for Harris and an opportunity given to him by his old position coach Steve Spagnuolo. To expect Harris to come in and play like he did in Philadelphia or Green Bay is asking way too much, but if Harris can come in and work with a decent cornerback unit and help out in occasional packages, then the Rams made a good move. We will find out in training camp how much is left in the tank for Harris.
All in all these moves all make a ton of sense and are the kind of moves Rams fans should have expected. They are all moves to fill needs and make the team better. There is still plenty of work to be done, but this is a great start. The Rams still need to address the defensive tackle position as well as the backup running back position, but the team is significantly better today than it was on Thursday. We’ll see what is up General Manager Billy Devaney’s sleeve next.
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