With the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine over, franchise tags for Los Angeles Rams CB Trumaine Johnson done (again) and the free agency tampering period now just underway, the tension in the air before free agency is palpable.
This will be Rams Head Coach Sean McVay’s first free agency period and Rams General Manager Les Snead’s sixth, though it is just their first together.
In the past, free agency periods under Snead have included:
- 2012: C Scott Wells, DT Kendall Langford, CB Cortland Finnegan, DE William Hayes
- 2013: TE Jared Cook, LT Jake Long
- 2014: QB Shaun Hill, WR Kenny Britt, OG Davin Joseph
- 2015: QB Nick Foles (trade), QB Case Keenum (trade), DT Nick Fairley, LB Akeem Ayers
- 2016: CB Coty Sensabaugh, DT Dominique Easley, DL Quinton Coples
The Rams have prioritized adding defense through the market with 11 of 19 (58%) priority free agents being on the defensive side. They have also focused on building the defense from the inside out as well with 7 of those 11 being on the defensive line. Should we expect that trend to continue?
Finding the Links
Brandon Bate, Tevin Broner and I decided to go over the NFL’s Top 101 free agents with a fine-tooth comb and discover which players were affiliated with McVay’s coaching staff. Several of McVay’s staff members, such as Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips, QB Coach Greg Olson and McVay himself are affiliated with a number of impact free agents.
Let’s dive in.
RB: Latavius Murray, LeGarrette Blount, Danny Woodhead
Of this group, Danny Woodhead makes the most sense as a complimentary piece to RB Todd Gurley. Woodhead was affiliated with Linebackers Coach Joe Barry in San Diego from 2013-2016.
WR: Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Robert Woods, Kenny Stills, Brandon Marshall, Terrelle Pryor
Of this group, clearly Jeffery (with then-OC Aaron Kromer from 2013-2014), Jackson (with then-OC McVay from 2014-2016), Marshall (also with Kromer from 2013-2014) and Garcon (also with McVay and then Quarterback Coach Matt LaFleur from 2012-2016) are the biggest names. However, it’s unlikely the Rams would overpay for a WR after paying WR Tavon Austin nearly $15 million this year. That means players like Woods (with Kromer from 2015-2016) and Stills (with then Quarterbacks Coach Zac Taylor in 2015) are in play.
TE: Martellus Bennett, Vernon Davis
Of these two, Bennett (with then Head Coach Wade Phillips in DAL from 2008-2010, and then OC Kromer in CHI from 2013-2014) would be the big get. However, Davis (with McVay in WAS last season) would make the most sense as a complimentary TE should the Rams cut Lance Kendricks as a cap casualty.
OL: Kelvin Beachum
The number of OL with strong ties to the Rams’ staff is limited with Beachum (with then OC Olson in JAX last season) an option for the Rams. Beachum would be a depth addition at tackle.
DL: Datone Jones, DeMarcus Ware, Julius Peppers, Mario Williams
Clearly, there are a few veterans that could step into Wade Phillips’ defense as short-term options. Jones (with Defensive Quality Control Assistant Ejiro Evero last year) is still a young player who the Rams actually had high on their board in the 2013 draft (they took LB Alec Ogletree). Ware (with Phillips in DEN from 2015-2016), Peppers (with Evero last season) and Williams (with Phillips in HOU in 2011) would make sense for the Rams if the price was right. Those three players are all 32-years old or older.
There appear to be no strong links between the top 101 free agent linebackers and the staff.
Secondary: Jahleel Addae
Addae (with then Linebackers Coach Joe Barry in SD from 2013-2014) is a young safety who will likely command a decent contract.
The full breakdown of the top links is below:
Clearly this year’s free agency period will likely be focused on the offensive side of the ball, with Snead looking to help McVay’s offense. The draft should be used to build the defensive side of the ball with secondary prospects shining at the combine and Phillips in need of linebackers.