If the Los Angeles Rams didn’t already have their work cut out for them, releasing veterans Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, and Jared Cook just added a few more things to their to-do list.
Here’s my take on how the Rams’ should approach the remainder of the offseason to fill those holes, fix* [shout out Jeff Fisher] their issues, and put a quality product on the field in Week 1 of the 2016 NFL season:
Free Agency Moves [Internal]
Re-Sign the Cornerbacks
Even without E.J. Gaines for the entirety of the 2015 season, the Rams had a good thing going with cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. As they recently hinted on Instagram, they’ll come as a package deal in free agency this year. The Rams would be wise to make these two their top priority.
Re-Sign the Defensive Ends
Chris Long is gone, and - aside from Robert Quinn - that leaves the Rams with Eugene Sims [29 years old] and William Hayes  as viable replacements for the left defensive end spot. Both have done well for the Rams, whether it be giving the starters a breather or filling in when Long or Quinn were injured. These don’t need to be long-term deals, as both are about to be on the wrong side of 30, but they can’t afford to deteriorate completely at defensive end. Signing these two to short-term deals would be a good start.
Re-Sign the Safeties
To be fair, Mark Barron isn’t a true safety in the Rams' defense, but he does have a very important role as a linebacker. And, as Nick Wagoner points out, he may lose the "safety" tag permanently in 2016:
Have mentioned this a few times this offseason but Rams hope is to move Alec Ogletree to MLB and re-sign Mark Barron to play WIL.— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) February 19, 2016
Rodney McLeod may not set the world on fire, but he’s played admirably for the Rams since being taken as an undrafted free agent in 2012, and has played in all 64 games since then. His 2015 season was his best as pro, tallying 82 tackles, forcing three fumbles, recovering one and snagging an INT. The Rams don’t have a viable starter behind McLeod, and shouldn’t go looking to spend money on one in free agency.
Free Agency Moves [External]
Sign a Tight End
Jared Cook is gone. That’s a good thing, but tight end, more now than before, is a weak point on the Rams’ already bland offense, a weak point which now features only Lance Kendricks and Justice Cunningham. The Rams would be wise to go out, not blowing the bank, but spending a little bit of money on a promising young tight end, one who can step in and contribute from day one.
My Take: Go after Chargers’ Ladarius Green or Colts’ Dwayne Allen. Both have been playing second fiddle for their respective teams, are capable of being starters, and won’t cost much.
Sign a Quarterback
Whether wrong or right, I’m not of the mindset that the 2016 NFL Draft is the way to go if the Rams are to fix the quarterback position. Make no mistake about it, it is the most dire of the team’s needs.
I don’t think the Rams find themselves in a position - at 15 - to draft a viable Week 1 starter, and I think they could use their picks more wisely than bundling them in an effort to trade up.
Nick Foles isn’t their guy. Case Keenum isn’t their guy. Sean Mannion probably isn’t their guy.
My Take: Go after Robert Griffin III when he hits free agency. He’ll want to be a starter, so I think you can rule out team’s [like the Cowboys] who expect him to sit and watch football for another year. Sure there are concerns with his character, and his ability to stay healthy. I covered those here.
The 2016 NFL Draft
Draft a Defensive End
What I do think the Rams should do with their first round pick is take Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence when they’re on the clock at 15. As aforementioned, Chris Long is gone, and they may or may not look to retain the services of both Sims and Hayes, so they find themselves in need of another dominant edge rusher. I think Spence is their guy for years to come.
Draft a Pair of Wide Receivers
With the defense being their strong suit, I can understand the hesitancy to take a defensive player in the first round. And therefore I think the Rams need to make it a focus - as they did last year drafting offensive lineman - to get the Rams’ QB some weapons. I lobbed up the idea on TST the other day, but I’ve become a fan of the idea of double-dipping on wide receivers in the 2nd round.
With picks 43 and 45 in the second round, the Rams could do some serious damage with taking two wideouts. Kenny Britt is what he thought he was, Tavon Austin is heading into year four, and his future with the team is uncertain. Stedman Bailey is working to get back to football...but will he play in 2016? Will he ever play?
Think about the Rams taking Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd and TCU’s Josh Doctson in the 2nd. For the next four years, minimally, the Rams could look forward to those luxuries.