The Los Angeles Rams have been relatively active in the early stages of the 2017 NFL Free Agency period. They’ve made some necessary cuts, signed a few players they hope to help bolster their roster, and have been rumored to have interest in others.
But opinions vary on just how well the Rams are doing. The Turf Show Times staff weigh in with their grades for the Rams in free agency thus far...
Blaine Grisak: C-
The Rams have put their faith in a 35-year old offensive lineman, a now overpaid receiver that had just 49 more yards than Brian Quick last season, and a cornerback that played special teams. But hey, at least Lance Kendricks won't have to worry about the sun in Green Bay.
On Day 1 of free agency, the Rams landed a pair of starters on the offensive side: Pro Bowl LT Andrew Whitworth and WR Robert Woods. Whitworth is a significant upgrade over Greg Robinson at LT, and will provide veteran leadership on the OL. Woods will be a high-volume player in McVay's offense, similar to Pierre Garcon's role in WAS. His contract is reasonable considering it is heavily incentive-based and $15M guaranteed is fine for a 25 year-old player in his prime.
The trade of William Hayes was interesting. He didn't appear to have a clear fit in the Rams' new DL, especially with the Rams serious about Easley in the 3-tech role. The Rams got a 6th round pick, which will allow them to select the next Antonio Brown.
The cuts of Eugene Sims, Tim Barnes and Lance Kendricks were inevitable.
I'm not going to comment on the Groy deal, because the Bills have not yet matched the offer. But he represents a talented center who has worked with new OL coach Kromer.
Kayvon Webster provides much-needed depth at CB. His familiarity with Phillips will only help the secondary learn the new system. His ST value is excellent.
We do not know if they will pan out, but the Rams have done well with the additions thus far. The team addresses multiple needs (LT, WR, C tentatively, CB) and has trimmed off some of the fat (Kendricks, Sims, Barnes).
Mike Dietrich: C+
The best move was releasing the dead weight and some of the non-performers. I like Whitworth, but not many 35 year-olds keep that high level of play, so there is a concern. Woods is a nice gamble since he is 24, and only has a $15M guaranteed. Webster may be a tad pricey for a guy who has not seen the field much, but I will trust Wade on this one. The reason for the overall grade is the short-sightedness of giving Tru Johnson the franchise tag. He is way overpaid on the 1-year deal and the angle that they have to see how he fits in the system is as weak as it can get — that is what coaches and scouts are for. If they wanted him long term they should have signed him last year. The Rams will not be competing for the playoffs so I would rather throw that money at a few young free agents longer term. A 1-year huge money deal is bad for everyone and not productive.
Elijah Kim: B
While the Rams are still in limbo with Trumaine Johnson and have made a few additions, the Rams have done a decent job in filling needs while not entirely breaking the bank. Neither Kayvon Webster, Robert Woods, Greg Zuerlein, or Andrew Whitworth (potentially Ryan Groy) are "perfect" players for various reason but each player does fit a need. Webster is a good special teams player in a cornerback logjam in Denver. While, never an every-down player, in flashes, Webster has shown the ability to defend passes even with a paltry interception rate (only 1 in his career). Woods is a possession type receiver who is a great blocker. However, he received a lot of money on the potential to grow (like many Rams decisions at WR or TE). With the re-signing of Greg Zuerlein, it seems he has earned the good graces of the new coaching staff after a solid bounceback year with 0 missed PATs (granted there were only 23 attempts). Whitworth is a top-5 left tackle for the past couple of years but his age is a concern. He will at the very least bring stability for at least one good year and maybe two. The Rams will have to figure out what other holes they will fill from the scrap heap (they are almost capped out) or find creative ways to make more room (maybe trade a cornerback).
The Whitworth signing was an A. Woods was a B but gets knocked down to a C+ due to the money spent. Thought he could be had for about $10M cheaper. Webster is a C signing. And Groy could be a B+ if Buffalo doesn't match. But I definitely like that they are aggressively attacking positions of need. Very interested in seeing how the next month plays out before the draft. They've made some necessary and some long overdue cuts. Good job thus far, McSnead.
Sean Wilkinson: B-
The Rams cut a lot of dead weight and scheme mismatches when they parted ways with Kendricks, Sims, Barnes, and Hayes. None of those players fit into the Rams post-Fisher plans and they were right to remove them from the equation. If I were grading simply on these cuts and the Hayes trade, it'd be a B+.....but there's more to this equation.
I give the Rams props for addressing areas of need, but these are all risky signings. The B- is a reflection that there are major questions around every free agency signing the Rams have made.
Andrew Whitworth is a premium LT, but he's 35. Webster, Woods, and Groy (if the Bills don't match the Rams offer) are heading into their primes, but are largely unproven talents. I'm optimistic, but still maintaining a realistic view of what these four players can collectively offer the Rams both in the short and long term.
Talk to me after OTAs and this grade will be different. Whether it goes up or down though remains to be seen.
Eric Nagel: B+
The Rams made some good moves in free agency. They brought in quality players to fill specific role and depth requirements that McVay and Phillips have and for the most part, they didn't overpay or stretch for veteran players. I'm okay with the moves they've made so far. The problem with me giving the team a higher grade is that they HAD to make these moves. Les Snead and Kevin Demoff have handed out terrible contracts (Tavon Austin) and didn't draft quality players (Greg Robinson).
Is it fair they are graded on their past mistakes? Maybe not. But those past mistakes will affect this year's record, so here we are.
Joe McAtee: A-
They made some very sensible cuts and a trade to begin moving on from a Jeff Fisher-approved roster. The Rams are legally required to spend 89% of the $167m salary cap, and are on track to do that.
Knowing that free agency is nowhere as important as the draft and that the 2017 season is only as important as it sets up the 2018 season, none of the free agent moves preclude the Rams from drafting talent in the next two drafts at the positions they’ve addressed: left tackle, wide receiver and cornerback or safety. A center is still needed, and if Groy leaves Buffalo, it’s the only move that has significant long-term impact.
Overall, I really like this free agency period...because it doesn’t really matter much.
Brandon Bate: C+
I give the Rams an A+ for the cuts they’ve made — Lance Kendricks and Tim Barnes desperately needed to go. And I don’t blame them for letting T.J. McDonald walk.
I give them a B for player acquisition. I like, not love, the signings of Whitworth and Woods. From the sounds of it, Kayvon Webster could be a very solid addition to the Rams secondary. And, assuming they land Ryan Groy, I’m opting to take the wait-and-see approach — though he appears to be an upgrade at the position. Aaron Murray and a backup long-snapper do absolutely nothing for me. Greg Zuerlein...sure, whatever.
I give them a D- for the handling of the Trumaine Johnson situation. Tagging him wasn’t the right move. Telling the world he doesn’t fit their defensive scheme wasn’t the right move. And then dangling him out there as trade-bait, while asking too much in return, wasn’t the right move. As it stands, the Rams have a $17M cornerback - who is certainly not elite - potentially playing for a team that he knows doesn’t want him around. Perfect.
I’ll finish with this: it’s been some time since I’ve been this optimistic heading into an offseason, so while my C+ may read “unimpressed,” it shouldn’t. There is still time for the Rams to acquire talent, fill holes, and gain depth. But, as we’ve seen in years past, none of it really matters if the rubber doesn’t meet the road in September. But with McVay and a new staff in place, things appear to be heading in the right direction in the early stages of the 2017 offseason.