In the NFL's grittiest division, St. Louis remains on the outside looking in. The offseason ahead presents a good news/bad news scenario: The bad news is a roster pushed up against the salary cap heading into free agency. The good news? That comes in May, when the Rams hold the second, 13th, 44th and 75th picks in the 2014 NFL Draft. Look for St. Louis to wave goodbye to a handful of overpaid veterans to fill holes on a defense now under the control of new coordinator Gregg Williams. On offense, everyone's waiting for Sam Bradford to emerge as the starry franchise passer the Rams drafted him to be. Until that happens, it's hard to predict a power shift in the NFC West.
» OL Rodger Saffold: The Rams don't have a laundry list of high-octane free agents. Saffold sits atop the heap after playing well down the stretch at right guard, where he thrived as a run blocker. With fellow interior lineman Harvey Dahl a likely candidate for release, look for St. Louis to make a play at locking down Saffold without having to use the franchise tag.
What they need
Likely to part ways with a handful of pricey veteran O-linemen, the Rams could use new bodies up front. But don't expect St. Louis to use a first-round pick to fill the void: coach Jeff Fisher has never used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman in 18 previous drafts. On defense, there's a dearth of talent at safety, a position the Rams might address in free agency if they free up cap room. Cornerback also could use help if Cortland Finnegan departs. While the team has used a horde of past picks on receivers, there's still no legitimate No. 1 wideout on this roster -- Sammy Watkins, anyone?
On the way out?
» CB Cortland Finnegan: Due $6 million in base salary along with a massive $3 million roster bonus, Finnegan is a prime candidate for release on the heels of an injury-marred campaign. We could see St. Louis bringing him back at a fair rate, but they save $4 million by cutting him.**
» LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar: While defensive lineman Kendall Langford's release could save the team $4 million, he offers more on the field than Dunbar. Coming off a campaign that includes a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy, the linebacker is no lock to re-sign with the club.
Offseason crystal ball
"It's a nice piece of real estate," Les Snead said of the team's four picks in the top 75 slots in May's draft. The GM's high-octane swap with the Redskins two offseasons ago is the gift that keeps on giving for the Rams. Cap issues might prevent St. Louis from adding talent through free agency, but the front office has an opportunity to energize both sides with rookie additions.