Without a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, free agency marks the only place the Rams will be able to pick up immediate potential impact players. With a roster that has as many holes as the Rams’ does right now, it’s crucial they get those impact players and they get it right, something General Manager Les Snead hasn't done to this point.
Pro Football Focus released their top 50 free agents of 2017 recently, and the list includes several players the Rams could target when free agency arrives. What needs to be remembered however, is that a decent amount of at least the top players will get re-signed by their current team or at least given the franchise tag. It’s rare that a franchise-caliber player hits the open market.
Of note for Rams fans is the player on the list that comes in at number 24: Trumaine Johnson.
Trumaine Johnson has the size (6-foot-2, 204 pounds) that the NFL covets at the cornerback position, but he just hasn’t been able to consistently put his best play on the field, and should be considered a solid No. 2 corner more than a No. 1 at this point. Over the past two seasons, Johnson has surrendered an average of 591 receiving yards and 2.5 touchdowns while allowing receivers to catch over 60 percent of passes thrown into his coverage.
It’s very interesting what Monson has to say about Johnson because the Rams elected to franchise him over Janoris Jenkins last offseason. The Rams payed Johnson $14-million because of that and if they decide to franchise him again, it would cost them around $16-million.
“Tru” is going to be one of the most coveted cornerbacks on the market and will get the money, the only question is, is he worth it? Is a guy that has allowed a 60% completion percentage when the ball is thrown in his direction worth $14-16-million, or does it make more sense to pay two guys $7-8-million instead?
That’s a big question McVay, Phillips, and Snead will have to answer when it comes to Trumaine Johnson.
Most notably on the list for the Rams as a target is Pierre Garcon at number 32:
Pierre Garçon’s issue is advancing age, because on play alone, he would be far higher. He ended 2016 with a PFF grade of 85.8, good enough for eighth among all wideouts, and he has a complete skill-set, able to beat people with speed, power and gain yards after the catch. He dropped only one pass in 2016 from 110 targets, and even had a solid blocking grade. He won’t be a long-term answer for anybody, but may be among the better immediate-impact signings.
Garcon makes a lot of sense for the Rams as ”chances are” that they let Kenny Britt walk. While Britt was a Jeff Fisher guy, Garcon is a Sean McVay guy who played under him in his system with Washington.
Like PFF says, Garcon isn't the long-term solution, but he’s a stop gap until the Rams are able to develop or draft a guy that can take his place. That’s all they need right now as there are plenty of other holes to fill.
Without signing a guy in free agency, the Rams head into the draft with a wide receiver group consisting of Tavon Austin, Pharoh Cooper, Nelson Spruce, Bradley Marquez, and Mike Thomas. Jared Goff doesn’t stand a chance.
Speaking of Kenny Britt, he makes the list one notch after Garcon at 33:
Kenny Britt gained over 1,000 receiving yards with Case Keenum and Jared Goff throwing him the football in 2016. That alone is worth some pretty serious respect. Britt caught 62.4 percent of the passes thrown his way (higher than the completion percentage from either QB overall on the year) and was excellent at making contested catches. 2016 was the first season in his career that Britt has really been heavily targeted, and he rose to meet the increased workload.
Signing players is only half of free agency, the other half is trusting Snead to sign the right guys for the right price, and as of this point with players like Cortland Finnegan and Jared Cook, that hasn't been proven either.