For some, it’s a long time coming, as the Rams jumped headfirst into the 2008 offseason by naming Billy Devaney as executive vice president of player personnel.
Said Jay Zygmunt, the team’s president of football operations-general manager, “I really like the people (he’s) worked for. He’s been around a lot of winning programs. From a football operations standpoint, he’s been in about every area. And he’s very detail oriented.”
Devaney worked under Bobby Beathard in Washington and San Diego, and most recently was assistant general manager of the Atlanta Falcons. He became available when Falcons owner Arthur Blank hired Thomas Dimitroff as general manager.
Aside from running the Rams’ personnel operations, Devaney said he was attracted by the team’s tradition and the people he knew in the organization.
When his agent originally told him of the Rams’ interest and what the job would entail, Devaney said, “When I realized what (the job) was going to be, who I was going to be working with and the people that were going to be here, that really got me excited.
“There’s a good feeling, coming in, that we’ve had relationships over the years professionally and socially where I’ve gotten to know guys. Right now, this feels like a really good fit.”
Despite the team’s 3-13 season in 2007 and the perception that coach Scott Linehan is on the hot seat, Devaney said he came away impressed with what he heard about Linehan.
“Scott’s got a tremendous reputation in league circles,” Devaney said. “I did a lot of research and talked (about him) to a lot of people that I have great respect for. … I think it’s going to be a great working relationship. Just tapping into his knowledge already, the way he’s up on things—he’s up on everything—is really impressive.”
Devaney was hired 11 days before the start of the scouting combine and 20 days before the start of free agency.
He was working mainly in pro personnel with the Falcons, so he will be getting up to speed quickly on the draft. Devaney knows that remains the lifeblood of roster building.
“It could set you up for a long time if you put a couple of good draft classes together, or it could really set you back if you miss out,” he said. “I’m not talking about a player or two. If you have a couple of drafts that really aren’t productive, what it forces you to do, and I’ve seen this happen, you start playing catch-up. You start going the free-agency route and trying to compensate for the lack of nucleus of young players.
“You start signing marginal NFL players to compensate for it. So, like you said, I think everybody has come to that conclusion. You don’t build a championship team through free agency; it’s the draft and it’s a couple of consecutive drafts together. That’s not real enlightening, but I feel strongly about that.”
• Most of the changes are over in the team’s coaching staff after the promotion of Ron Milus to secondary coach. Milus was the assistant there last season under Willy Robinson, who was fired following the season. He would up as defensive coordinator at Arkansas.
Mike Cox might become the assistant secondary coach after being the defensive quality control coach last season. With Doug Nussmeier expected to be named offensive coordinator at Fresno State, Terry Shea will be his replacement. Shea was Miami’s quarterbacks coach in 2007, and previously was in Kansas City when new offensive coordinator Al Saunders was with the Chiefs.
There have also been rumblings that Bob Saunders, son of Al Saunders, will have a spot on the Rams’ staff. Both were with the Redskins last season.
The Rams also have a potential opening for an assistant strength and conditioning coach after Brad Roll left for the Raiders.
• Samir Suleiman, the team’s director of football administration, was considered for a job as the Packers’ lead contract negotiator, but Green Bay hired Russ Ball of the Saints. Suleiman was also said to have interest from the Ravens.
Quote To Note: “I think I got Jay nervous. Because the first thing I said was, ‘Have we traded that first-round pick yet? What the heck, what’s taking you so long?’”—New executive vice president of player personnel Billy Devaney, joking with president of football operations-general manager Jay Zygmunt and referring to his days working with Bobby Beathard, who would frequently trade out of the first round.
Strategy And Personnel
With K Jeff Wilkins uncertain about returning for another season, the Rams signed Justin Medlock, who was Kansas City’s fifth-round pick in 2007. Medlock was released after the season opener when he missed a short field goal.
TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY
With the second pick in the draft, the Rams have to figure out how to get value from a player that will command a large amount of guaranteed money. With much debate revolving around players like DE Chris Long and OT Jake Long, the Rams wonder if they are true difference-makers worthy of being selected that high.
They also have several offensive linemen returning from injuries, so it complicates the decisions to be made in the coming weeks. They would like to add a veteran offensive lineman to the mix that would also bring some leadership. There could be an interest in Steelers guard Alan Faneca, depending on what the market is for him.
2. Offensive line: So many players are coming back from injury, it’s impossible to know who will be healthy for 2008. But some depth is needed at tackle, and don’t be surprised if the Rams pursue guard Alan Faneca, especially for his leadership.
Medical Watch: LT Orlando Pace has been working out at the team facility and is said to be 80 percent recovered from a torn labrum in his shoulder, suffered in the 2007 season opener … LG Mark Setterstrom is also estimated to be about 75-80 percent after undergoing knee surgery for an injury suffered in the third game of the season … RG Richie Incognito is nearly totally back from a knee injury that ended his season. … DE Leonard Little is expected to begin jogging soon following toe surgery that ended his 2007 season … CB Tye Hill is expected to have the pins removed from his broken wrist this month and will then be able to start concentrating on rehabbing.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
• G Milford Brown started at three different positions during the 2007 season, and was at left guard for most of the second half of the season. He was in Arizona when new line coach Steve Loney was there.
• LB Brandon Chillar made tremendous progress in his fourth season and could hit it big in free agency. The Rams would like him back, but not at an outrageous price.
• T/G Adam Goldberg is a solid backup, but suffered a knee injury in Week 4 against Dallas and missed the rest of the season.
• T Brandon Gorin started on the right side at the end of the season because of massive injuries on the line. Might be brought back for depth.
• DE Trevor Johnson made some contributions during the 2007 season, and could be re-signed for depth.
• C/G Andy McCollum started at left guard and center during the ‘07 season, but hasn’t made a decision whether he wants to play another season.
• S Hanik Milligan played mostly on special teams when he was on the field.
• RB Travis Minor was one of the team’s best special teams players until a knee injury ended his season late in the year.
• C Brett Romberg won the starting job from Andy McCollum in last year’s training camp, but was hampered a good part of the season by an ankle injury. New offensive line coach Steve Loney might want to go in a different direction.
• LB Raonall Smith is a solid special teams player and backup linebacker, but ended the ‘07 season on injured reserve with a knee injury.
• T/G Todd Steussie wants to return for another season, but it’s unknown where he fits on the line. Suffered a broken foot at the end of the preseason and came back for the final six games of the season.
• TE Aaron Walker is a decent blocker who saw his season end because of a shoulder injury.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
• S Oshiomogho Atogwe tied for the NFC lead with eight interceptions, and could be pursued by other teams unless the Rams put a first-round tender on him.
• S Jerome Carter has never been the hitter the Rams expected, but he has been solid on special teams. Ended the ‘07 season on injured reserve.