The Los Angeles Rams have plenty of work to do if they hope to make the leap to the top of a very tough NFC West in 2016. And while quarterback and wide receiver appear to be the team’s biggest needs, there’s still plenty of work to be done on defense.
Let’s start by taking a look at the Rams’ depth chart, from the team’s official site:
Just where do they begin?
They’ve got several decisions to make in free agency, especially if they hope to retain the several key starters, including: Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson, Mark Barron, and Rodney McLeod. Spotrac has the full list of Rams’ free agents on the defensive side of the ball.
It’s extremely unlikely they’ll be able to retain them all, so they’ve also got the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft, as well as free agency to backfill some positions.
And they’ve also got some financial matters to tend to. According to CBS Sports’ writer - and former sports agent - Joel Corry, the Rams could save a few bucks by making timely moves with Chris Long’s contract:
Defensive end Chris Long has a $2 million roster bonus payable [on March 11]. If Long is unwilling to lower his $14.25 million 2016 cap number in a pay cut, he could be a cap casualty. The Rams would pick up $11.75 million of cap space by releasing him.
Long’s name has been a popular one amongst fans looking to free up some cap space, as the 8-year veteran is not quite the player he once was. Long, a consummate professional and fan favorite, stated he’d be open to a pay cut in late-January though.
Regardless of how it all shakes out, it’s quite possible there are a few notable names who won’t be in Los Angeles with the Rams when the 2016 season kicks off. And it’s a near certainty that we see several new faces on the defensive side of the ball.
With so many notable contributors ready to test free agency, one could argue that the defense needs even more attention than offense this offseason. The Rams certainly can’t afford to watch the strongest aspect of their team unravel. Most would agree that losing the trio of Jenkins, Johnson, and Barron in free agency would be a huge setback for the team.
So what are the FIVE biggest DEFENSIVE moves the team need to make in the 2016 offseason? Whether it’s freeing up cap space, retaining key players, or trying to find Week 1 starters in the upcoming draft, the Rams have their work cut out for them. Have at it, armchair GM’s.