The inaugural draft class of the Les Snead / Jeff Fisher regime will be hitting free agency this offseason. The roster change this offseason has the potential to dramatically alter several areas of the Rams roster. The secondary and DL rotation in particular could look significantly different after free agency shakes itself out.
2015 Cap Numbers (via Over the Cap) are provided with each player as a reference for potential future contract demands.
Nick Fairley ($4.9M)
Fairley was somewhat of a surprise signing for the Rams last offseason - and no doubt a nicety as a rotational DT behind Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. NFL player's earning potential is inherently limited by age. At 27, Fairley could be looking for his big contract of his career.
His season with the Rams was fairly comparable with his production with the Lions, so it'd be hard for him to inspire more interest than was shown last offseason before signing his 'prove-it' deal with the Rams.
Aaron Donald is going to be eligible for an extension at the end of the 2016 season. Lets not tie up too many funds with his back up...
Verdict - GO
William Hayes ($4.5M)
Hayes is one of - if not the only - Tennessee import that has panned out for the Rams. He has become a stalwart as the 3rd DE in the Rams rotation. He has filled in multiple times for Robert Quinn and Chris Long as both have fought through injuries.
That being said, Hayes will turn 31 in May and most players that age turn to chasing a championship as opposed to continuity or money. When you throw his leadership into the picture, the decision becomes much simpler.
Vertict- STAY, but on team friendly deal
Eugene Sims ($2.4M)
Immediately behind Hayes on the pecking order of DEs is Sims. He's a solid - if unspectacular - rotational DE. The type who's $2.4M salary could be replaced. Maybe Matt Longacre?
Verdict - GO
Mark Barron ($2.4M)
It's hard to fault the Rams for declining Barron's $8.26 million option prior to last season. At that point, he hadn't had the opportunity to prove his worth with the team. I'm not saying that the Rams want that decision back, because that's a lot of cheddar for a backup/rotational player without a 'true' position.
Gregg Williams was able to successfully utilize Barron's versatility in a hybrid role early in the 2015 season. After Alec Ogletree went down with a fractured fibula, Barron filled 'Tree's shoes nicely and ended the season as the Rams leading tackler.
Barron was an unsung here for the Rams Defense in 2015. Seeing him AND Ogletree at OLB in 2016 would bring an insane amount of athleticism to the LB corps.
Verdict - STAY
Brian Quick ($1.7M)
My adoration of Quick has been well documented on TST. It's also been proven to be misplaced. This is pretty cut and dry
Trumaine Johnson ($1.7M) and Janoris Jenkins ($1.6M)
This is the most interesting situation of the Rams offseason. On one hand, you have Jenkins... full of bravado and willing to make a mistake or two in the hopes of causing a turnover. On the other hand, you have Johnson...who has steadily improved each season and (per Pro Football Focus) eclipsed Jenkins in year 4. Regardless of which flavor you prefer, both are very solid CBs.
The season wasn't over for 12 hours when Jenkins tweeted about his offseason intentions.
Business is business so don't take it personal..— Mr.Pix6Sh*t/Clamps (@JjenkzLockdown) January 4, 2016
Now I'm not an expert in the world of Twitter, but that sounds an awful lot like a player chasing a big payday. Toss in the Rams new digs in LA and I'm concerned. JJ has largely shook his troublemaker moniker he had in college and has kept his nose clean since being drafted. Save for missing a game for violating team rules his rookie year, he's been a model citizen. But one still has to be concerned about giving him the keys to a Brink's truck in the nation's second largest market.
Tru seems to be the anti-Jenkins - at least on the field. He had similar issues with marijuana in college and has had several (very) minor run ins with the law since entering the NFL. Hell, you could argue that JJ has a cleaner record as a professional than Tru, but I digress. On the field, Tru doesn't play with as much risk as his counterpart while making just as many big plays.
In a perfect world, the Rams would sign both to long-term contracts and have a solid secondary for years to come. With a few minor roster movers, the Rams could find themselves with significant cap space. But with so many holes to fill on offense, can the Rams afford to approach $20M for their starting CBs? Given the Rams DB depth, I'm willing to bet that they only re-sign one of the two.
In the end, this decision likely comes down to preference. Do the Rams prefer Jenkins' playmaking abilities or Tru's continual improvement?
Verdict - Pony Up to Keep One
Greg Zuerlein ($723K)
After bursting onto the scene as a rookie with his tremendous kicking power, Legatron has since faded. He has had severe consistency issues and ended the 2015 season LAST in the NFL in FG percentage at 66.7%. Next closest bad kicker? Atlanta's Matt Bryant at 77.8%. Sure Zuerlein can hit a 61 yarder, but when you're missing one out of every 3 FGs, you're not going to keep your job.
Verdict - GO
Tim Barnes ($710K)
Nothing against Barnes, but he's more of a depth player than a starter. If the Rams are serious about making the playoffs, they'd be better off upgrading the Center position. I'm all for keeping Barnes around, just in a reserve role (with a contract that matches that status).
- STAY, but on the cheap (~$1M)
Wes Welker ($275K, prorated)
Welker was brought in as a last ditch effort to help fix the Rams 3rd down woes. How'd he deliver? 13 catches for 102 yards - but he did prove some doubters wrong by avoiding the concussion bug. There is no reason for the Rams to bring him back.
Verdict - Go