Heading into the 2015 regular season, the St. Louis Rams had only made six moves in free agency; fewest of any NFL team. And it certainly wasn’t because they weren’t in need of help.
Regardless, the Rams locked up three free agents of their own, signed three guys from the free agency pool, and later snagged a wide receiver in hopes of better conversion rates on third down.
Let’s have a closer look at who the Rams retained/brought in prior to 2015. Who had the most, or least, impact as a free agent?
Britt, the team’s leading receiver in 2014 [748 yards], re-upped with the Rams in mid-March, on a 2-year, $14mil [$4.3mil guaranteed] deal. The Rams, ever-hopeful for that big-bodied, deep threat receiver, were optimistic that Britt would continue to improve in the offense. In hindsight, having seen how the Rams went offensive line heavy in the draft, they were almost banking on it.
That wasn’t the case in 2015. Britt caught 12 fewer passes , on 12 fewer targets  than in 2014. He finished the season with 681 yards; fewest of any team-leading receiver in the NFL.
#Rams TE Jared Cook stands 6'5/246. He's gone 19 straight games without a touchdown. PFF charged Cook with 10 drops in '15, most among TEs.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) January 6, 2016
Scheduled to hit free agency in 2015 for the first time since being drafted in the second round in 2011, the Rams chose to lock up Kendricks with a 4-year, $18.5mil deal, good through 2018. With the Rams consistent struggles along the offensive line, and Kendricks’ sound blocking ability, re-signing him made sense. And while Jared Cook - who might as well be considered a wide receiver - was on the roster, a new quarterback [Nick Foles] and a new offensive coordinator, made you wonder if Kendricks might be in for an upgraded role in the offense.
The answer is "no." Kendricks had what could be considered his worst year statistically, finishing the season with a career-low in receptions and yards . He did score two touchdowns; his lowest figure since his rookie season.
Prior to the season, as it seemingly is every season, the Rams had several question marks along their offensive line. Center was no exception. Barnes, who the team re-signed to a 1-year, $1mil deal on March 30th, had primarily played backup roles for the Rams, but had shown the versatility to play at a few of the interior positions. With Barrett Jones and Demetrius Rhaney, who had combined for zero starts in the NFL, being the only other competition for the starting spot, re-signing Barnes, who’d been with the team since 2011, was almost a no-brainer.
Barnes didn’t set the world on fire, and I’m not sure it was expected he would, be he did a few things very well this season. 1) He stayed healthy and played in all 16 games, and 2) He fell on two fumbles in a span of three plays against the Seahawks in Week 16, which ultimately lead to the Rams winning the game. That was probably worth $1,000,000 by itself.
The New Guys
One of the more intriguing signings for the Rams’ this offseason was that of former Detroit Lion Nick Fairley. The Rams made it a one year "prove-it" deal worth $5mil, with the potential to be $7.5mil with incentives. In all likelihood, Fairley was to replace snaps lost by Kendall Langford, who left in free agency prior to signing with the Colts.
The Rams, already stout on the defensive line, were looking to add depth. And he played at Auburn, which is never a bad thing in the eyes of Jeff Fisher and Les Snead. And with so many needs at other positions, folks wondered "why?" Why spend the money on depth at the team’s strongest position, negating weaker ones. It was a fair question to ask.
Fairley played 438 defensive snaps [36.4%] in 2015, good for 6th most on the defensive line. He had 29 tackles, one sack, and one fumble recovery on the year.
A slightly more cost-friendly addition to the Rams’ defense, the team added Ayers on a two-year, $3mil deal in mid-march. The thought here was to provide competition - with JoLonn Dunbar - at the outside linebacker spot opposite Alec Ogletree. Obviously, Ayers, the 26-year old linebacker drafted 39th overall in 2011 draft won the job.
Ayers played 527 defensive snaps [45.5%] in 2015, which ranked third on the linebacker corps, behind only James Laurinaitis and Mark Barron. Ayers snaps undoubtedly increased as a result of losing Ogletree being placed on the IR designated to return list in late October.
Ayers finished the season having played in all 16 games, tallying 47 tackles, 0.5 sack, caused one fumbled and recovered three.
The second of now former-Lions’ players picked up this offseason, Reynolds was obviously brought in to add depth and experience to a very young, potentially shaky offensive line. The Rams snagged Reynolds, who’d spent his previous five seasons with the Lions, on a two-year, $1.1mil deal.
And they were wise to do so. Reynolds experience and versatility along the offensive front paid dividends for the Rams in 2015, as they lost both guards, Rodger Saffold and Jamon Brown, to season-ending injuries.
With only 27 career starts under his belt, Reynolds stepped in an performed admirably. He played in all 16 games in 2015, starting 11. He was in for 730 offensive snaps [76.0%], which trailed only Greg Robinson and Tim Barnes.
With historically low 3rd-down conversion rates, the Rams brought Welker in on a one-year, $970,000 deal in hopes that he’d help sustain offensive drives, and bring life to an awful passing game.
It didn’t work. Signed in mid-November, Welker played in the Rams last eight games, catching 13 passes for 102 yards, with no touchdowns.
It’s not likely you’ll be seeing much of Welker, at least in a Rams’ uniform, in 2016.