On Tuesday, I updated my projection for the Los Angeles Rams’ 53-man roster heading into the 2016 season. That projection assumed, for the most part, that the staff will lean toward returning fringe candidates who made the cut in years past over new blood. But what if they don’t?
Here are five major cuts that are feasible enough to happen that could shake up the roster as we head into training camp:
RB Tre Mason
Roster preview chances of making the team: 3/10
Leading off with this one since I included it in the 53-man projection. A month-and-a-half ago, I asked if Mason has played his last snap for the Rams. We haven’t gotten any clarity since which is worrisome for a player the Rams spent a 2014 NFL Draft third-round pick on...
WR Brian Quick
Roster preview chances of making the team: 6/10
Quick re-signed on a one-year deal in free agency, but the question as to whether he can contribute to the Rams in 2016 could be answered early on. Quick posted his lowest stat totals in receptions (10), receiving yards (102) and receiving touchdowns (0) in 2015 after sitting out the first three games. If the coaching staff is picking up signals that he’s still suffering from the injuries he suffered midway through the 2014 season and if rookie franchise QB Jared Goff is developing a stronger rapport with other wideouts, it may be time for the Rams, and Quick, to move on.
K Greg Zuerlein
Roster preview chances of making the team: 7/10
Greg Zuerlein was one of the NFL’s worst kickers in 2015. The only kickers to have the same FG% or worst (Kai Forbath and Kyle Brindza) were both released by their teams. In other words, Greg Zuerlein was the NFL’s worst kicker who wasn’t fired by his employer. That certainly says something about the Rams who brought GZ back on a one-year deal this offseason. Having brought Texas A&M product Tyler Bertolet into camp as part of the "comptetition" Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher promised, perhaps there’s a bit of added pressure on Legatron to get back on track...quickly.
S T.J. McDonald
Roster preview chances of making the team: TBD
This one perhaps leans on the off-field issues more heavily than on-field ones as opposed to say Mason.
McDonald was arrested in mid-May on a non-alcohol DUI charge. Since then, he, like Mason, hasn’t participated in OTAs. And as the LA Daily News’ Vinny Bonsigniore reported, McDonald, like Mason, isn’t certain to be involved when training camp starts, a status "unrelated" to their off-field incidents...so yeah, not sure what the hell’s going on there.
The key difference between McDonald and Mason? Their status on the Rams’ depth chart.
Todd Gurley pushed Mason to RB2 status at best after seeing his carries drop 58% from 2014 to 2015. McDonald, on the other hand, not only is established as the team’s top safety, but with Rodney McLeod having departed via free agency, TJ is the only sure component at the back of the secondary. If his TBD status continues, the Rams will have to begin considering an entirely different duo at safety for 2016 compared to the year prior. And once they start considering it, the assumption of McDonald’s return gets much, much shakier.
CB E.J. Gaines
Roster preview chances of making the team: 10/10
Gaines is perhaps the most enigmatic product on the Rams’ roster going into training camp.
In 2014, he filled in for an injured Trumaine Johnson as the CB2 opposite Janoris Jenkins. Last year, he suffered a Lisfranc injury before the preseason even began and missed all of the 2015 season. So now, he comes back with the CB2 spot vacated as Tru takes on the promotion to fill the slot vacated because of Jenkins’ departure in free agency.
Does he enjoy a return to form after missing out on actual NFL football for more than 20 months or does the injury and the layoff carry over into 2016? If the latter takes place, the concern will be to what degree it affects his ability to play to his potential and at what point those concerns take over his availability in general.