Open Question: Should the Rams pursue Jarvis Moss?

In the comments section yesterday, new reader Rodney asked if we should be pursuing the Broncos’ Jarvis Moss. At first glance, I was not very enthusiastic about the idea, but the more I thought about it, the more the former Florida Gator standout seemed like a potentially attractive — and potentially realistic — low-risk acquisition.

However, I wanted to bounce the question over to Bryan at the Broncos Stable and get his perspective. His response was typically thoughtful and informative. And then some.

Here are the points I presented to Bryan, with the request to please inform me if I’m smoking wacky weed just by dreaming this up:

  1. Obviously, the Rams have a need at defensive line, DT in particular, but DE becoming a priority with the advancing age of Leonard Little. So there’s probably desire.
  2. Moss’s rookie season with the Broncos was widely viewed to be a bust, and his 2008 wasn’t much better. However, he’s still young and not too far removed from his heroics with UF. These next few weeks may be the last chance to deal him, while he still has the “untapped potential” label on him.
  3. Denver’s coaching staff and front office has undergone a major overhaul – Moss is now an inherited problem, and few in the organization would have ties to the player now. (Is this correct?)
  4. Billy Devaney and Brian Xander, GMs of the Rams and Broncos respectively, both came out of the Atlanta Falcons organization, and presumably have a working relationship. What kind of relationship? We don’t know.
  5. The Rams under Spagnuolo and D-coordinator Ken Flajole, are expected to operate a north-south defense, with linemen expected to have speed and vertical attack. An undersized player, weight-wise, like Moss potentially fits this role.

I guess the question is, from your perspective, do you see the Broncos trading Moss, and what kind of return would they be looking for? It seems that their first priority in player movement is finding a new home for Brandon Marshall — or at least shutting him up. Is a Rams’ third-round pick next year enough to get a deal done, for the former first-round talent?

[As it turns out, I may be grossly overbidding]

His answer, after the break:

Jarvis Moss, one of the more intriguing members of the roster we see today. Rumors had the Broncos shopping the young lineman for a late pick on the second day of the NFL Draft, and if that’s true, it puts his standing with the current regime in perspective. Of course, it may say more than they couldn’t find a team to bite.

In general the kid is viewed as a failure due to his inability to progress the talents he showcased in college into the professional game, and that is blamed, almost in full, on his mental shortcomings. Reports indicate he struggled to grasp the playbook, he couldn’t find his way out of the mental cloud, and thus the team found no reason for trust. Dedicated focus to change flaws in technique proved fruitless while persistent pressures to get him on track with the mental aspects of the job were met with frustration. When he was given opportunities he failed to take advantage and he became a project for a staff that no longer works in Denver.

Without a place to send him the Broncos of today, led by defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, are reportedly trying him at various positions. Locals are focusing on his potential contributions in the 3-4 defense we expect to see as the primary scheme of choice and Moss has seen time both on the line and as a member of the linebacking corps in OTAs.

However, we do not hear any reports indicating the reviews from this staff have changed significantly from those put forth by Shanahan and Co.

It seems obvious a change of scenery could help (it certainly wouldn’t hurt).

And you are correct… there are no real ties to the current organization, and with the widespread changes we’ve seen throughout the roster it would be fair to assume Nolan and McDaniels have already begun to construct their vision of the Denver Broncos defense for 2009. By all accounts, Moss won’t be part of that equation. He’s one of ten defensive ends on the current roster, and most will not be staying.

I would interject a note of personal analysis at this point: if I were the general manager for the St. Louis Rams, I might find it difficult to suggest our team should trade for a player (a) no other team was willing to consider for the pittance of a 6th- or 7th-round draft pick just a few weeks ago, and (b) that may be available as a free agent in a few weeks if the reports from Denver are true. There are all kinds of motivations and conversations and influences that come into play, but at face value you would think Moss would be coming available at some point in the near future. If you want to practice patience you could wait for his release, but if the Rams are truly interested in making the wager, if they want to bring him in asap to start his eduction, and if they would like to avoid competing for his services on the open market they could approach the Broncos now. I would suspect the deal would be simple and would represent a “win” (at least in theory) for both sides.

Note: Point taken. A Rams’ third-rounder would appear to be a massive over-bid, if the rumors of his being floated (and rejected) for a seventh-rounder on draft day are correct.

I believe your thoughts on the Spagnuolo system and Moss’ potential place in that plan are correct as well. To be fair, the Giants were lucky in having guys like Mike Strahan and Justin Tuck, quick players that didn’t give up size or strength for acceleration. However, guys like that are few and far between and the allure of Moss coming out of college was his speed. He worked for a formidable Florida defense, he was the leading pocket attack man for their effort, and those were the traits that earned him such tall stature in the Draft (at least in the eyes of Mike Shanahan).

Note: Doing a little further digging, it appears that a big knock on Moss was his strength — his 16 reps at the 2007 NFL Combine were the lowest among his group, though with his frame and some weight training, he could be expected to show improvement.

Asked for perspective I would say this: while I am concerned that this kid supposedly struggled to get his intelligence on par with the NFL world, I would ask what any of us witnessed from the Shanahan regime to suggest the defense was capable of helping him along. The guy’s best defensive units were inherited. Shanny walked in, enjoyed Al Wilson and Neil Smith and John Mobley until their time came to an end, and he never recovered, despite numerous wagers and efforts, after they were gone. The only defensive players of note added by Shanahan have been Champ Bailey, coming via trade (the Clinton Portis deal), and D.J. Williams, coming via the draft. It would be fair to suggest the true talents of Moss may not have been captured by that regime… but it may also be fair to suggest Shanahan was foolish for drafting him in the first place.

In the end I doubt you really know what you’re getting in Jarvis Moss. I tend to believe he is, at best, a marginal defender that could spend a handful of years in the NFL as a backup… but I’m not Ken Flajole. If anyone can key into his benefits, I would think that new crew in St. Lou might be up to the challenge.

From the sound of it, there are a lot of similarities between Moss and Leonard Little: early career derailed, seeing very little playing time, and still very raw, skill-wise, though with a potentially high ceiling. Primary rushing attribute is pure speed, but needs help (and strength) to become an impact player. However, Dick Vermeil and the Rams stuck with Little and reaped the benefit, while Denver appears ready to cut bait with Moss. Moss could benefit from a season working out like a demon and playing mostly special teams, with Little coaching him on technique and attitude. Then in 2010, we may be able to fully tap into his talents for a low-cost replacement for Little, who would be entering his age-36 season.

The one obstacle to a trade would be his salary: He signed a $15 mil/5 year deal in 2007, with $8 million of that guaranteed. With the Broncos on the hook only for that last $2 mil of guaranteed money this season, it becomes affordable to cut him, and definitely more attractive for a team like the Rams without that $3mil salary automatically attached.