The First (Five) Cuts are the Sharpest

Wow. Devaney is not afraid to go bold. In announcing four of their five cuts, the Rams included the ostensibly still-battling-for-the-3rd-string-job Joe Klopfenstein. This declares one camp battle over, as there is almost nothing Daniel Fells can do, outside of punching the Pope, to lose the 3rd-string job to Eric Butler.

Then, rather than placing WR Brooks Foster on injured reserve, the move that many were expecting the Rams to make, they trade still-competing-for-a-starting-spot Tye Hill to Atlanta for a late-round draft pick. The ripple effects of this move simultaneously award the taller and more physical Jonathan Wade with the starting CB job, and all-but-guarantees both the undrafted Quincy Butler and 3rd-round-pick Bradley Fletcher spots on the roster.

In doing so, Devaney almost completely cuts the cord on the disastrous 2006 draft, the last draft before his arrival in St Louis. All that’s left is 4th-rounder Victor Adenyaju, who has no guarantee of surviving the final cuts, and backup center/guard Mark Setterstrom, a late 7th-round selection who has played very well in the preseason and should be safe. Suffice to say, any player that is a holdover from the old regime has now been duly warned.

The trade of Hill to Atlanta is particularly curious, since the touchdown catch by Tony Gonzalez over Hill was one of his worst moments of the preseason. I suppose that by joining the Falcons, Hill can no longer be beaten by them. But he now has to face the Saints’ receiver corps, perhaps the second-best in the game behind Arizona, twice a year. Out of the frying pan, as they say…

But the trade also says, in bold letters, “I trust my third round pick, and even my undrafted guys, over the previous regime’s idea of top-round talent.” Bradley Fletcher was on his way out of the roster, having been outperformed by Quincy Butler in the late going. But he has showed flashes of a very competitive attitude, and when he’s gotten beat it has been in being too aggressive — by looking in for the ball and missing a step, or by hitting his man just before the ball arrives. That can be coached out of a player, essentially by adding smarts and experience. Much harder to coach out of a player is Fear, and there’s no question that Tye Hill had become afraid out there, tentative. Now they can keep Fletcher on board, spend the time with him that is necessary to make him into a better player than Hill turned out to be, and at the same time, hope that Q Butler continues to blossom. A guy with Butler’s ball skills could flourish in nickel and dime packages….

These deals also short circuit a couple of my upcoming “Bubble battles,” sending us back to rewrite. Expect to see that posted later today.

Bonus Link: Mike Sando shows us just how little draft value the Rams have left from the 2006 class, and puts it in perspective with the last several years of NFC West drafts.