Rams enter free agency with tight end needs

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The free-agent market is scheduled to open March 9 and teams may begin negotiations with those poised to hit the market beginning March 7. We'll count down to that with a position-by-position look at what the Los Angeles Rams have in place, who is set to hit the market, what they might need and who might fit the bill.

Position: Tight end

Under contract: Lance Kendricks, Justice Cunningham

Pending free agents: Jared Cook (released), Cory Harkey

What's needed: A year ago, the Rams signed Kendricks to a lucrative four-year contract to keep him with the team, sending a message that they viewed him as an integral part of the offense moving forward. One year later, there's a chance Kendricks will be the only holdover the Rams have at the position. They already released Cook to free up salary-cap space and Harkey is set to become an unrestricted free agent after his role diminished some in 2015. Cunningham is a solid blocker who has been with the team for a couple of years and bounced between the practice squad and active roster. If he's ever going to stick, this would be the year. But even if that happens, the Rams need to find some help. Kendricks is a useful player, who can and will do anything asked of him but the Rams could use a pass-catching tight end to complement what they have. Harkey has developed into an emotional leader and the team has expressed interest in bringing him back. After the season, he expressed a desire to stay with the team but an awareness that such a deal might not happen. One way or another, the Rams will need to bring in at least one more tight end, if not two.

Possible fits: Play-making tight ends are generally hard to find in the NFL and the ones that exist -- think Rob Gronkowski -- never make it to the free-agent market. But this year's crop actually offers some players who could be intriguing fits at what probably won't be terribly high prices. Chicago's Zach Miller, Indianapolis' Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, New Orleans' Benjamin Watson and San Diego's Ladarius Green are among the tight ends who could draw interest from multiple teams. At 35, Watson is the elder statesman of the group but had his best year in 2015 and would probably be a cheap short-term option who also has some blocking ability. Miller also had his best year in 2015, including a big game against the Rams and doesn't figure to cost much, either, as he seeks his second NFL contract. Fleener and Allen offer different things but both have flashed potential with the Colts. Fleener is more of a true receiving tight end, posting 183 catches for 2,154 yards and 17 touchdowns in four seasons. Allen is a bigger, more physical option who has had some injury issues but has a good reputation as a blocker despite some struggles there last season and was productive in the passing game as a rookie and in 2014, when he caught eight touchdowns. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Green has the size and athleticism to be a productive pass-catcher but has never exceeded 429 receiving yards or 37 catches in a season. Getting him out from beneath the shadow of Antonio Gates could help him take a step forward. The Rams probably won't be willing to spend much money on outside free agents because they have so many of their own to re-sign but it's possible they could find a good fit at a reasonable price at this position.