Rams acquire defensive end; two free agents visit
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
So much for that slow start for the Rams in the free agency and trading period.
By mid-afternoon today at Rams Park, the team had already traded for Detroit defensive end James Hall, and brought in wide receiver Drew Bennett of Tennessee and defensive end-linebacker Tully Banta-Cain of New England for free agent visits.
The Rams acquired Hall for a fifth-round draft pick in the 2006 draft. The Lions traded Hall rather than paying a $500,000 roster bonus, which was due this month. Hall registered five sacks last season in seven games. He missed the last nine games of '06 because of a shoulder injury, which required surgery.
Rams coach Scott Linehan said Hall should be able to do non-contact work during the spring minicamps and OTAs.
Hall, 30, entered the NFL in 2000 as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan. He registered 11 sacks in 2004, but has had only 10 total over the past two seasons. Critics of Hall say he is prone to flashes of big plays, but then "disappears" for games at a time.
But from a Rams standpoint, anything would be better than the Rams' play at right defensive end last year. Other than left end Leonard Little, the Rams got only two sacks at defensive end in '06. By the end of the season, teams were consciously running at the right side of the Rams' defensive front.
At 6-2, 280, Hall is an all-around end who can play the run as well as get to the passer.
The Rams inherit his Detroit contract, which has two years remaining. Hall is scheduled to make $2.75 million in '07 in base salary and $3 million in '08. He is also due a $500,000 roster bonus prior to the start of free agency.
Speaking of pass rushers, Banta-Cain could provide an immediate boost. Getting to the passer is what he does best. The fourth-year pro from Cal had 5½ sacks and 40 tackles as a part-time starter in New England.
Banta-Cain, 6-2, 250, can play outside linebacker and defensive end. The Rams foresee using him in the "Buck end" role manned by Raonall Smith last season.
Bennett is perhaps the best wide receiver on the market. His arrival at Rams Park on the first day of free agency signals that the team already is moving on from free agent Kevin Curtis, who was scheduled to visit Minnesota Friday.
At 6-5, 206, Bennett would provide the kind of size that Linehan likes in a slot receiver. Bennett, 28, led the Titans with 46 catches for 737 yards last season. He caught 58 balls in '05. His best season was '04, when he caught 80 passes for 1,247 yards and 11 touchdowns.