Chris Givens in particular stands to pick up plays that might otherwise have gone to Greg Salas.
The New York Jets have a cavalier attitude toward their draft picks, having already waived four of their eight selections from the 2012 draft. The Rams’ 2012 picks and college free agents have no such worries: an astounding 15 rookies are on the roster, with 10 slated to start or make major contributions this season.
However, for most Devaney-era draft picks, job security is a foreign concept. After the Jason Smith trade, roster cut-downs, and a pair of transactions this weekend — cutting Jerome Murphy and trading Greg Salas for a draft pick in the distant future — only 10 of Devaney’s 26 draft picks remain on this team. And the ice may be awful thin under some of those as well. Here’s a table for reference:
|QB – Sam Bradford||2010||1 (3000)||Rams starting QB, franchise player (for now).|
|T – Jason Smith||2009||2 (2600)||Demoted, traded to Jets for Wayne Hunter.|
|DE – Robert Quinn||2011||14 (1100)||Rams starting DE. Primed for breakout season.|
|T – Rodger Saffold||2010||33 (580)||Rams starting LT. Needs a comeback year.|
|LB – James Laurinaitis||2009||35 (550)||Starting middle linebacker. Negotiating long-term extension.|
|TE – Lance Kendricks||2011||47 (430)||Rams starting TE. Primed to contribute.|
|CB – Jerome Murphy||2010||65 (265)||Cut by Fisher.|
|CB – Bradley Fletcher||2009||66 (260)||Currently 4th on depth chart. May be on trade block.|
|WR – Austin Pettis||2011||73 (225)||Rams possession WR.|
|WR – Mardy Gilyard||2010||99 (104)||Cut in 2011 camp.|
|DT – Darell Scott||2009||103 (88)||On IR. Not a contributor.|
|WR – Greg Salas||2011||112 (70)||Traded to Patriots.|
|TE – Michael Hoomanawanui||2010||132 (40)||Rams 3rd or 4th-string TE. May be on the bubble.|
|DE – Hall Davis||2010||149 (32)||Cut in 2010 camp.|
|DB – Jermale Hines||2011||158 (28)||Cut midseason in 2011. 1 career tackle.|
|WR – Brooks Foster||2009||160 (27)||Cut in 2010 camp. 0 NFL plays.|
|TE – Fendi Onobun||2010||170 (23)||Cut in 2011 camp. 2 career receptions.|
|DE – Eugene Sims||2010||189 (16)||Rams backup DE, ST contributor.|
|QB – Keith Null||2009||196 (13)||Forced to start 4 games his rookie year. Cut in 2010.|
|RB – Chris Ogbonnaya||2009||211 (7)||Cut in 2010 camp. Currently backup in Cleveland|
|CB – Marquis Johnson||2010||211 (7)||Cut in 2011 camp.|
|DB – Mikail Baker||2011||216 (5)||Cut in 2011 camp.|
|DE – George Selvie||2010||226 (1)||Cut in 2011 camp. 1.5 sacks as a Ram.|
|LB – Jabara Williams||2011||228 (1)||Cut midseason in 2011. 0 career tackles.|
|DB – Jonathan Nelson||2011||229 (1)||Cut in 2011 camp. 1 INT for Panthers.|
|DE – Josh Hull||2010||254 (1)||Rams backup MLB.|
As far as raw numbers are concerned, 10 players (5 starters) out of 3 drafts isn’t vey good. But the bulk of Devaney’s highest draft value acquisitions remain on this team, and with Steven Jackson and Chris Long, form the core of talent that Jeff Fisher inherited.
And Fisher has hardly been slashing and burning his way through Devaney’s team. Most of that work was already done for him, as low-ceiling guys and one-dimensional system players that didn’t fit the system were churned out prior to Fisher’s arrival.
That said, Fisher did bring a commitment to competition with him into Rams Camp. He and Les Snead made it their mission to stockpile draft picks, and scour the ranks of college free agents. Of the ten players drafted, nine have made the roster and each — even 7th-round running back Daryl Richardson — will have a chance to make major contributions to the team.
Where they couldn’t draft competition for Devaney’s leftovers, the Rams brought in free agents to provide it. Barry Richardson was acquired off Kansas City’s scrap heap to push Jason Smith, and Smith gave way. Cortland Finnegan was brought in to supplant Bradley Fletcher, who found himself pushed aside by an even more precocious rookie in Janoris Jenkins. Steve Smith was invited into a crowded group of holdover receivers, and played well enough to force Austin Pettis and Greg Salas to compete for a single roster spot.
This competition between Pettis and Salas took a surprising turn, as Pettis — who appeared badly overwhelmed in his rookie season — came to camp stronger and more determined than Salas. Salas was the player we expected more from, and got less out of. As Rams camp unfolded, Pettis was the one staying late to put in extra work, and the one making the eye-catching tough catches in traffic, while Salas was the one relegated to third-string duty and picking after scraps.
Yesterday, after keeping Salas on the final 53-man roster, the Rams reversed course and dealt him to New England for what is reporting to be a very small bird in a very far away bush (a late pick in the 2015 draft). It doesn’t sound like much value, but the trade may turn out to be a win for both sides. Salas will be reunited with Josh McDaniels, who can groom him to potentially replace Wes Welker in New England’s prolific offense. Meanwhile, the Rams’ receiver picture becomes unmuddied, with more opportunities now available for Brian Quick and Chris Givens. Givens in particular stands to pick up plays that might otherwise have gone to Salas.
Moreover, the cuts of Salas and Murphy — a long shot to make the team in the first place — make room for new acquisitions. RB Terrance Ganaway, one of the Jets’ mysteriously unwanted draft picks, is a younger Ovie Mughelli-type who can provide power running and pass protection. DT Kellen Heard, late of the Bills, is a big-bodied backup who can fill in while Michael Brockers rehabs a high ankle sprain.
Les Snead’s job is far from done, though. More transactions may come before Tuesday, when salaries become guaranteed for players on the roster. In the meantime, Devaney-era holdovers have to be wondering who’s next.