Rams have signed free agents — just no one you’ve heard of
ST. LOUIS — You know it’s been a relatively quiet free agency period for the Rams when the biggest news is the re-signing of offensive lineman Rodger Saffold and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar. And when the second-biggest news is the addition of two guys who didn’t even play football last season.
The Rams made a couple of under-the-radar signings recently in rookie free agent cornerback Greg Reid and linebacker Etienne Sabino. Both were out of football in 2013 but will have a chance to earn a roster spot in training camp.
The 5-foot-8, 180-pound Reid was a playmaker at cornerback and as a punt and kickoff returner for three seasons at Florida State before being dismissed from the program for a violation of team rules. He transferred to Division II Valdosta State but suffered an ACL injury in the preseason in 2012. He needed a second surgery on his knee after that season and went undrafted. His back story is part Janoris Jenkins, part Tyrann Mathieu.
But Reid, 23, impressed at Florida State’s Pro Day last week. The Rams hosted him for a private workout and examined his knee, and he signed a three-year contract with St. Louis on Saturday after also drawing interest from San Francisco and Tampa Bay.
"I felt like that was the best decision for me," Reid said Tuesday. "I’ve been playing football for a while, my whole life, and not being able to play the last two years and being able to have that opportunity, I think that was the best opportunity for me and for my family as well. I ended up meeting the coaches and just talking and understanding where the program was headed. I kind of got the same feeling like when I was coming out of high school and going to Florida State. I knew where the Rams were headed. I’m just blessed to have the opportunity. I’m just willing to do whatever I have to do to get a ring and take them to the Super Bowl. I felt like the program had enough playmakers on offense and enough playmakers on defense, so I’m just here to help."
The Rams have just four cornerbacks on their current roster: starters Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson and youngsters Brandon McGee and Darren Woodard. McGee was a fifth-round draft pick in 2013, while Woodard was an undrafted rookie.
Reid could figure in the mix as a nickel cornerback and special teams contributor. He returned three punts for touchdowns in his three seasons at FSU. His size — he said he’s almost touching 5-9 — makes him a good fit covering smaller slot receivers inside.
"I might be short, but I’ve got a big heart," he said. "I’ve got a big heart for the game."
Reid said he’s planning to return to St. Louis this week to start training at the facility. After two years away from the field, he can’t wait to get after it.
"I think nickel is a big impact on a football game today," he said. "That’s what I really want to do. I can play O-line, if they wanted me to. I feel like I’m a player, I can do anything to help out my team. I won state championships in high school. Even though I wasn’t a part of Florida State’s championship (team), I think I had a part in getting the program turned around. When Jimbo (Fisher) first got there it was kind of rough. I think the group of guys that I came in with … had a lotf to do with (FSU winning). Leaving Florida State and coming to VSU and helping them with a national championship, I think I had a big impact."
Sabino, a 6-3, 240-pounder out of Ohio State, signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent before the 2013 season but was cut before the team’s final preseason game. He did not sign with anyone else for the remainder of the 2013 season.
Sabino could make an impact on special teams, like rookie linebackers Ray-Ray Armstrong and Daren Bates did last season, while backing up one of the linebacker spots. But with Armstrong and Bates back, along with starters James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree and Dunbar, competition will be fierce for those spots.
So far, the Rams’ offseason has been marked by more departures than signings. Or both in the case of Saffold, who first signed with the Raiders before his contract was voided because of a failed physical.
Offensive lineman Harvey Dahl and cornerback Cortland Finnegan were both released to save salary cap room. Dahl could still return to St. Louis on a new deal, but Finnegan joined the exodus out of town.
Finnegan, who lasted just two seasons with the Rams, signed a two-year deal with the Miami Dolphins, as did backup guard Shelley Smith. Starting guard Chris Williams signed a four-year deal with Buffalo. Backup quarterback Kellen Clemens, who started nine games this season, signed a two-year deal with the San Diego Chargers. Backup safety Darian Stewart, who started six games, signed a one-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens. Backup tight end Mike McNeill signed a two-year deal with the Carolina Panthers.
Britt was a first-round draft pick out of Rutgers by Fisher’s Tennessee Titans in 2009 and caught 82 passes for 1,476 yards and 12 touchdowns in 28 games over his first two seasons. But he hasn’t been the same player since blowing out his right knee early in the 2011 season and he’s better known for his off-the-field issues.
But the 6-3, 215-pounder is still just 25, so there is plenty of time to remake his career. Britt has reportedly visited St. Louis, Carolina, Buffalo and New England this offseason and is expected to make a decision on his next destination soon.
Hill, 34, is a veteran of eight NFL seasons. After a year in Minnesota, he played three seasons in San Francisco and just completed a four-year run in Detroit as Matthew Stafford’s backup. He is 13-13 in 26 career starts and has a career 61.9 completion percentage with 41 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
Hill, who had offseason foot surgery, would fit the bill for the Rams as a veteran backup for Sam Bradford after Kellen Clemens departed for a two-year deal with the Chargers. The only other quarterback on the Rams’ roster currently is youngster Austin Davis, who has yet to appear in his first NFL game.
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.