According to beat reporters Jim Thomas and Howard Balzer, the St Louis Rams stopped parading free agents through their hallways long enough to sign one - center Scott Wells, formerly of the Green Bay Packers. Preliminary reports of terms suggest that the deal is worth up to $25 million over four years, with about half that guaranteed. With Wells north of 30 years of age, those terms are more reasonable than the mega-contract given out by Billy Devaney to the perennially disappointing Jason Brown.
What kind of player are we getting in Wells? Aaron Nagler, founder of Cheesehead.tv and avid Packers analyst, tells us:
@Aaron_Nagler:Really good player. Smart and tough, knows how to use leverage against bigger DTs. Excellent at sorting out pre-snap protection
Let me just reiterate that last point - "Excellent at sorting out pre-snap protection." Last year, Josh McDaniels took protection calls away from Brown and put them on Bradford's shoulders, a necessary function of his highly complex, highly variable quarterback-read-driven offense. Putting those protections back in the center's domain should help simplify Bradford's responsibilities and help him digest plays with less hesitation.
In fact, I went so far to suggest that if Bradford didn't have to make these calls at all, his game could skyrocket, an opinion that was quickly corrected by one of my favorite new Twitter commentators, former Rams fullback Mike Karney.
@Karney44: @RamsHerd needs to know where all the pressure is coming from. Needs to have the ability to redirect protection call
Karney elaborated, saying that "the center should always make calls," but the quarterback needs to know when to "trump" the protection and make it better for both protection and execution. This makes perfect sense, but provides a more reasoned balance of responsibilities as well as grounds for a partnership between quarterback and center.
It's also worth noting on Wells that he has steadily gotten better with age, rising in Pro Football Focus' positional rankings each of the last three years. And while the Packers are not a run-first team, when they have run it has been primarily right up the middle, directly to either side of Wells. This may reflect a high-percentage of draw plays as a natural misdirection off of a shotgun-based passing offense, but it shows a lot of trust in Wells' run-blocking abilities.
By comparison, Brown either a good pass-blocker or a good run-blocker, but never both, in 2009 and 2010. He followed those Jeckyll-and-Hyde seasons up by being bad at both in 2011. Matters got even worse when he was moved to guard, following a mid-season benching.
Wells promises to be an upgrade, and should pair well with Harvey Dahl on the inside to give Sam Bradford at least one rushing lane that he doesn't have to worry about. Now to fix the other five...