The Monday following a loss is always tough. When that Monday is following the Los Angeles Rams first playoff game in over a decade...it’s really tough.
Life must go on. The NFL never sleeps. Much like the Rams’ fun and exciting season, the coming months also will bring us fans into new territory of a offseason built on the back of winning and real hope for the future.
When it comes to improving and sustaining the Rams recent success, the first line of business is to take a hard look at current Rams players about to hit free agency and figure out who to prioritize bringing back and who they can live without.
2018 LA Rams Free Agents
|Derek Carrier||TE||UFA||Signed with Raiders: 3yr|
|Cody Davis||S||UFA||Signed with Jaguars: 2yr|
|Dominique Easley||DT||UFA||Re-signed with Rams: 1yr|
|Trumaine Johnson||CB||UFA||Signed with Jets: 3yr|
|Jake McQuaide||LS||UFA||Re-signed with Rams: 3yr|
|Nickell Robey-Coleman||CB||UFA||Re-signed with Rams: 3yr|
|John Sullivan||C||UFA||Re-signed with Rams: 2yr|
|Sammy Watkins||WR||UFA||Signed with Chiefs: 3yr|
|Garrett Sickels||OLB||ERFA||Re-signed with Rams: TBD|
As I look at that list of UFAs, I see quite a few categories ranging from everything in between “must signs” to “hardly knew ya”. Without exact knowledge of market worth, I’m placing a higher priority on importance to future success. This is how I would tier each of the Rams Unrestricted Free Agents and why. Some players will fit into multiple categories which is part of why real free agency is so tricky to re-sign players.
S Lamarcus Joyner
Joyner jumps out immediately and is priority number one for me. Joyner thrived at safety for Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips and formed a surprisingly high quality duo with rookie John Johnson. Joyner finished the season as PFF’s 4th-highest graded safety and is clearly one of the Rams most passionate players. Losing Joyner would be a huge blow to the defense.
CB Trumaine Johnson, C John Sullivan, CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, WR Sammy Watkins
I only see one guy the Rams can’t live without, but there's absolutely more that the Rams should sign and watch heavily contribute. Johnson, Sullivan, Robey-Coleman and Watkins are all guys that had defined roles and made the Rams better in 2017. They’re all guys I don't think need much explanation in this category and players the Rams would benefit from. But you’ll see a few of these names later too.
S Cody Davis, LS Jake McQuaide, and DE Dominique Easley
Here is where the choices come down to want vs need. From here on out, these are players the Rams can bounce back from losing with minimal drop off or little trouble finding a replacement for through the draft or FA.
McQuaide has been great, and is one of the longest-tenured Rams. But is there a more replaceable position than long snapper? No. Davis and Easley both played well prior to their respective injuries with Easley never having got a chance in Phillip’s defense. It would be nice to see what both could do moving forward as key depth players but Rams have good depth at safety with Blake Countess and Marqui Christian while Easley has a lengthy injury history.
Hardly even knew you
RB Lance Dunbar, TE Derek Carrier, DT Tyrunn Walker, OT Cornelius Lucas
Thank you all for your service and contributions to the great season. But I’m not sure how else to say it; these guys are a dime a dozen. These are all depth players.
Can do without
LB Connor Barwin
This is the confusing category.
Barwin was brought in for his leadership and to help transition the defense. He’s fulfilled those obligations well but would likely stunt the growth of a LB Samson Ebukam, LB Matt Longacre or a newcomer moving forward.
I mentioned players the Rams should sign earlier. They’re all important but when push comes to $hove, there’s tough decisions to be made. Johnson, Robey-Coleman, and Watkins all should have healthy free agent markets. The Rams would be severely pressed to lose two CBs but bringing them both back could be difficult.
As for Watkins, trading a second-round pick and CB E.J. Gaines should have no bearing on any future decision made in regards to re-signing him. Let’s get that out of the way. How does he fit? Can someone else (rookie/free agent/on roster) fill his role? I’m not entirely sure about the first question but based on McVay’s offenses, I’m extremely confident the answer to the second is yes.
CB Troy Hill, LB Matt Longacre
Hill and Longacre are two guys the Rams should ensure stay Rams for 2018. Hill’s late season emergence has been a pleasant surprise for a defense faced with questions at CB. Longacre was arguably the Rams’ most effective edge defender.
With over $50 million in current cap space, the Rams have a lot of money to play with in prioritizing their own upcoming FA class. With roughly $95 million earmarked for 2019, the Rams have the ability and financial comfort to start extend players currently under contract. And we can’t forget about the looming Aaron Donald situation.
The Rams are faced with an important but exciting offseason unlike any they’ve had in years. The next step on the road to 2018 is taking care of their own players first.
I’ve told you how I'd approach it. Let us know how you would.