Of the many problems that plagued the St. Louis Rams in the 2011 season, perhaps the biggest was depth at cornerback. Injuries to starters Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher, along with Jerome Murphy, forced the Rams to start the likes of Roderick Hood and Josh Gordy by season’s end.
To ensure they didn’t experience similar problems in 2012, the Rams locked up the biggest name among cornerbacks on the free agent market, signing Cortland Finnegan to a five-year, $50 million contract.
Finnegan, 28, comes to the Rams after spending his first six years in the league with new head coach Jeff Fisher’s former team, the Tennessee Titans. Finnegan was the Titans seventh-round pick out of Samford University in the 2006 NFL Draft but took little time to claim a starting role. Finnegan started all 16 games in his sophomore season en route to starting 77 of the team’s next 80 games.
Finnegan was named an NFL All-Pro in 2008 after recording 70 tackles and five interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. For his efforts, Finnegan started for the AFC in the Pro Bowl. In total, Finnegan has 14 interceptions, returning three for touchdowns in his NFL career.
Making plays isn’t Finnegan’s calling card, though. He’s better known as one of the league’s premier shutdown corners. Often matched up against the opposing team’s top receiver, Finnegan’s best games are usually the ones in which his name is rarely said.
He also plays with a mean streak that is well-known across the league. The most infamous incident involved Finnegan and Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson. In 2010, Finnegan and Johnson were involved in an on-field fight that resulted in both players’ helmets being removed. Both Johnson and Finnegan were fined $25,000 for their part in the incident.
Fisher and new Rams GM Les Snead hope Finnegan will bring that same attitude and toughness to the Rams defensive secondary this year. Finnegan will be the veteran presence in a group that looks very different from this time in 2011. The Rams let Bartell and Murphy go and brought in rookies Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson in their place. Finnegan’s experience will be vital in helping the young corners make the transition to the NFL.
Cornerback was a weakness for the Rams in 2011. With the addition of the wily veteran Finnegan, they’re hoping it quickly becomes a position of strength.