The Los Angeles Rams have work to do.
While the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine coming in two weeks will have much of the NFL world’s focus on the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft, it’s the free agency period opening March 14 that will determine the personnel outlook for the Rams this season.
Here are the Rams currently on expiring contracts:
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|
Here are my rankings for who the Rams need to bring back specifically for 2018:
1.) WR Sammy Watkins
The Rams had the #2 overall scoring offense in the NFL (Author’s note: I actually had referenced the Rams having the #1 overall scoring offense, but as TST staff writer BMule pointed out to me, that was including defense & special teams points. The Rams had six D/ST touchdowns and a safety, so we aren’t the offensive scoring champ from last season. Boo.). They have the opportunity to bring back the entire starting 11. This seems easy enough, especially considering the opportunity to use the tag and keep him around for at least a year. Doing so pushes back the potential need for another WR a year and allows for another full season to evaluate his performance in this offense.
2.) S Lamarcus Joyner
Joyner was ranked the 52nd-best player in the NFL in 2017 by Pro Football Focus, the only potential Rams FA to do so. Per talent alone, he’d be #1 on this list.
3.) C John Sullivan
Being able to keep the offensive line, and the offense entirely, together from 2017 to 2018 is such a potential boon to QB Jared Goff’s development. Given that this season is going to revolve largely around his individual improvement or lack thereof, I’d prioritize stabilizing the offensive depth chart amid coaching staff turnover that will see Goff working with his third offensive coordinator and QB coach in three NFL seasons.
4.) CB Trumaine Johnson
I considered dropping this even lower. It’s not that Tru isn’t a fine NFL corner. It’s that the risk at the position for a talent drop-off for position value is lower than the three players above. Losing any of the top three on these rankings would create a HUGE risk for replacement. Losing Tru would invite much less if the Rams couple a draft pick with a free agent signing. Consider that back in 2014 when he injured his MCL, CB E.J. Gaines filled in very well. This season when CB Kayvon Webster tore his Achilles, CB Troy Hill was a superb substitution down the stretch. It’s not that Tru isn’t a fine cornerback. It’s that the alternatives aren’t nearly as substandard as they could be elsewhere.
5.) CB Nickell Robey-Coleman
The more I type, the more I’m gonna convince myself to put NRC at 4 and Tru here. Let’s move on.
6.) LS Jake McQuaide
You could make an argument for Jake “American God” McQuaide to be #1 overall, and I’m not joking. He’s been pretty much perfect in his career.
7.) CB Troy Hill/LB Matt Longacre
Doubling up here for the two RFAs. No reason for them to leave, so it’s not a high priority in terms of effort. Both were exceptional in rotation.
8.) DE Dominique Easley
This one’s got a ton of upside. Would obviously come down to medical evaluation in early March. If he’s on track to return from his ACL injury in early August 2017 without complication, this could be a sleeper hit signing.
9.) DT Tyrunn Walker
For value, Walker had a pretty good 2017 season. I could see him getting challenged in camp should he return, but based on last year’s results I’d have no problem with him coming back.
10.) RB Malcolm Brown
I like Brown in the RB rotation, but still think the Rams need a one-cut speed back. I think that’s what they had designs for for RB Lance Dunbar and why RB Justin Davis made the initial 53-man this year. Not sure either is safe for that role, but I’m comfortable with Brown as the sub package for third downs or goalline situations.
11.) OLB Connor Barwin
Barwin was an on-field deputy for Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips last year. And as good as he is for his leadership and expertise, the Rams need more talent at OLB. Badly.
12.) S Cody Davis
With the pairing of Joyner and rookie John Johnson atop the safety chart, Davis’ role was limited both at safety and on special teams this year. He’s been a good soldier, but the road might have ended.
13.) TE Derek Carrier
Carrier saw quite a bit of the field in 2017 both on offense and on special teams. Much of that was his familiarity with Head Coach Sean McVay’s offense. No reason not to demand a similar level of familiarity for TEs Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett now having had a full year in the system.
14.) RB Lance Dunbar
The third running back position should be an interesting training camp battle in 2018, but I’m not sure it’s worth the $1.5m they paid him in 2017 to bring him back.
15.) OT Cornelius Lucas/OT Darrell Williams
The Rams need a successor for LT Andrew Whitworth soon. It’s not either of these two. That Lucas was Big Whit’s primary backup with Williams the backup at right tackle isn’t a sufficient out here.
16.) FB Zach Laskey
Should the Rams ever get serious about employing a fullback, they just signed FB Sam Rogers to a reserves/future contract in January as their go-to.