Bill Barnwell has his list of five moves for every NFC West team over at ESPN. It’s a worthwhile read overall, but we’re just going to address the Rams moves here.
Pick up Aaron Donald's fifth-year option
This is the big personnel marker on the horizon as Donald’s initial four-year rookie deal expires after this season. Exercising the fifth-year option would at least ensure he’s around for 2018.
As we’ve explained in years past:
The fifth-year salary for the top 10 picks is the transition tender (average of the 10 highest salaries) for a player's position in the fourth year of his contract. With players selected outside of the top 10 (picks 11-32), the fifth-year salary is the average of the third- through 25th-highest salaries at a player's position.
As Donald was drafted 13th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, he’d fit the latter category which would offer some obvious savings for 2018 as Donald’s market value would be much higher than the average of the third- through 25th-highest DT salaries. As for beyond the option, the Rams could well have to prove to Donald (and his representation) that there’s an on-field product worth staying around for.
Add that to the pile of pressure first-year Head Coach Sean McVay will be facing this year.
Re-sign Trumaine Johnson
Barnwell makes the logical case for Tru, a case which several TST staffers made this morning in our roundtable regarding who the Rams “must” re-sign.
I’d disagree that it’s a “must”, but as a top-five option? I can buy it. I’d buy into it with much more vigor if we changed “re-sign Trumaine Johnson” to “re-sign the players whom McVay and new Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips see as fits for their systems,” but I guess I can only ask for so much.
Whether that includes Tru or S T.J. McDonald or WR Kenny Britt or RB Benny Cunningham or anyone else among the current crop of upcoming free agents will likely remain an in-house determination. That determination alone doesn’t mean that player/s will remain a Ram (see: 2016’s “Priority A”).
This roster is thinner on talent than in recent years prior. If there are any players hitting the market that the Rams’ staff sees as good fits, keeping them in house is key to starting off on the right foot.
Try to gather compensatory picks
Yeah, I’d expand this to “try to gather picks” in general. Shedding some of the middling talent on the roster through free agency in the hopes for comp picks in return? Fine. Making at least one draft trade to load up at least one more pick for McVay and Phillips? Also fine. More fine? Maybe, but at least equal fine.
The Rams aren’t going to fix what ails them personnel-wise through free agency. It’s going to take the draft. More precisely, it’s going to take more than one draft. Building up capital can only help a team that is much more than one player away.
Build an offensive line around Goff
This might be in competition with locking up Aaron Donald for the most important personnel challenge ahead.
It’s no easy feat, but it’s a requirement if the Rams are going to be able to operate any kind of successful offense.
The final paragraph here is the big takeaway as we head toward free agency and the 2017 NFL Draft and begin to set expectations for the upcoming season:
Whatever the Rams do this offseason probably isn't going to make a huge difference, and that should be OK. Goff will be better as a sophomore. [RB Todd] Gurley will break off more big runs in 2017. [WR Tavon] Austin might thrive in the Jamison Crowder role under McVay. They still have a great defensive line, and in Phillips, they have arguably the best defensive coordinator in the league. Los Angeles will probably be better in 2017. That should be enough for now.
Saner heads would suggest it would be enough for Year 1 of the post-Jeff Fisher landscape. Saner heads often have their voices drowned out come July. I fully expect the #toonegative train to start chugging along as usual as the season draws near.
Be patient is the most important of this list as it relates to fans. It’s also the least realistic.
This offseason isn’t the make-or-break year for McVay. This is the opening chapter. His success or failure as head coach will rest on decisions and actions more crucial than the ones coming over the next five months or so.
But no doubt, the five Barnwell highlighted are likely the top requirements as we head toward the 2017 offseason in earnest.
Perhaps some success on this fivesome will help catapult the franchise into more consistently successful endeavors off the field. Perhaps those off-field victories will translate into on-field successes.