Shop Local.

That’s what folks were encouraged to do while purchasing gifts this holiday season.

And, maybe, it’s what the St. Louis Rams should do in the free agent season.

The Rams face an interesting offseason as a number of good free agents are expected to be out there. It also will be interesting to see which veterans get cut as a part of restructuring for the NFL salary cap.

Additionally, the Rams have two first-round draft picks (No. 2 and No. 13) for the upcoming NFL draft.

First, let’s address free agency. With the Rams having a good, young nucleus, there aren’t too many impact players on the list for next year and I’m sure the Rams will look to ink who they can from that list. I would expect the team to also cut ties with some expensive veterans as well to free up salary cap space.

With 2014 being the 20th season for the team in St. Louis, here are three players with St. Louis ties who would be worthy of pursuing for next season.

• Jairus Byrd would be the toughest of the three to sign as he’s going to pull in a ton of offers in the off-season. It’s not going to be cheap to ink the Associated Press All-Pro safety.

Byrd is a graduate of Clayton High School and he led the Greyhounds to the 2004 MSHSAA Class 4 state title in overtime against Webb City, 27-26 (Clayton beat St. Clair in the semifinals). His father, former Pro Bowl defensive back Gill Byrd, coached with the Rams when Jairus was going to high school.

Byrd would be a signing which would help to solidify the Rams secondary, which seemed to be the weak area in the defense this past season. He also could be a mentor for younger safeties, T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod.

• Jeremy Maclin would be another tough player to convince to come home. The former Kirkwood High School and University of Missouri standout is expected to become an unrestricted free agent.

Maclin missed the 2013 season following knee surgery, but is expected to return for the 2014 spring training sessions. The Rams need a veteran receiver who can mentor younger receivers and be a top target for Sam Bradford. Maclin would fit that profile.

If the Rams could convince Maclin to accept an incentive-laden short contract, that would not only help the bottom line, but also would give Maclin the chance to show he’s back from his injury to pull in a bigger deal for 2015.

• Blaine Gabbert is not expected to be a free agent in 2014, but it’s possible that the Jacksonville Jaguars could cut ties with the former Parkway West and Mizzou player, a first-round draft pick who didn’t pan out in Florida.

If Gabbert would get released, the Rams might be able to ink him as a backup to Bradford and someone who could challenge Kellen Clemens for the second-string job. Maybe Gabbert could rediscover his mojo in his hometown under less pressure to perform. If the Rams could bring him in under a one-year deal with plenty of incentives, that might be a good deal for both sides.

At worst, you bring three St. Louis area pros into the fold and increase attendance.

At best, Byrd becomes the missing piece to the defensive puzzle and that makes the rest of the defense that much more effective; Maclin becomes that go-to receiver who passes his knowledge to the younger wideouts; and Gabbert becomes a solid and effective backup who could step in at a moment’s notice for Bradford.

As for the draft, many think the Rams will try to trade the pick they got from the Washington Redskins (No. 2 overall) for additional picks.

The last time the Rams had the second overall pick, two seasons ago, they were able to stockpile a number of picks for giving the Redskins the chance to draft Robert Griffin III. The Rams definitely got the better of that deal as the Redskins were horrible in 2013.

I saw one mock draft over the weekend where the Rams received an exchange of first-round spots and a second-round pick for the second overall spot. That’s not going to happen. I can’t imagine the Rams settling for anything less than two first-round picks, even if they aren’t all in this draft.

Les Snead has proven to be a shrewd general manager and has drafted effectively, so I think he would make the best deal for the future of the team, whether it be by keeping the spot or dealing it for additional picks.

So, who would the Rams take this spring?

If the Rams keep the second pick, many mock drafts like Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews. The Rams need help at that spot with Jake Long recovering from knee surgery and Rodger Saffold likely to go elsewhere. One just would hope that Matthews has a better rookie season than Luke Joeckel, last year’s standout from Texas A&M. He suffered a high ankle fracture in St. Louis while playing for Jacksonville.

As things go right now, the Rams face a very difficult situation in 2014 in trying to catch up to the other three teams in the NFC West. Two teams, Seattle and San Francisco, are still alive in the playoffs and the Arizona Cardinals just missed making it to this year’s postseason.

However, the NFL provides the best chance for a team to make a vast improvement in one season. There’s so much roster turnover due to contracts, the salary cap and general player turnover. There seems to be about 20-30 percent turnover each season for every team, but it wouldn’t shock me if that number went higher in 2014 due to continuing reports on concussions and their long-term effects.


Great win for the Mizzou Tigers Saturday night in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Mizzou defeated Oklahoma State, 41-31. The key play was a sack and forced fumble by All-American Michael Sam, which was returned for a touchdown by Shane Ray with 55 seconds to play. Prior to that, the Cowboys were driving and looked to at least tie the game again.

The win, coupled with a number of higher-ranked teams losing bowl games, saw the Tigers promoted to fifth in the final Associated Press poll. However, that was only third among SEC teams, behind No. 2 Auburn and No. 4 South Carolina.

Being ranked behind Auburn isn’t a question. However, the Tigers now are behind South Carolina, a team it led going into the Bowl season. While South Carolina edged Mizzou in overtime this year, I still would lean toward the Tigers as the higher-ranked team based on winning the SEC East title.

The Tigers deserved better. Looking at, three rankings had the Tigers as high as second (Fleming, Roundtable BCS and Baker Bradley-Terry). The Tigers were third in the regular Massey and fourth in the Massey BCS.

Through the 47 different rankings, Mizzou still ranked fifth overall and third in the SEC. Florida State was unanimous as the No. 1 choice with Auburn second, Alabama third, Michigan State fourth and Mizzou fifth.

I think many feel the Big Ten Conference is overrated, but I’m sure the voters didn’t want to have three SEC teams in a row following Florida State.


Some thoughts on the local sports scene:

• Borgia senior guard Janie Arand recorded her 1,000th point Thursday in a 56-24 home win over Bishop DuBourg in an Archdiocesan Athletic Association Large Division game. Arand reached the milestone on a free throw with 4:24 left in the second quarter.

Hitting 1,000 on a free throw was fitting for Arand, who has hit a number of clutch free throws for the Lady Knights during her four seasons on the varsity. She hit some big free throws as a freshman in 2011 as the Lady Knights posted their highest-ever state finish, taking third in Class 4 over Farmington, 53-43.