It’s December 30 on the NFL calendar. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve with the official new year beginning on Wednesday at 4pm ET as free agency opens. The rumors are going to kick into gear today and tomorrow with legal tampering beginning (and with agents and teams dropping smokescreens aplenty to inflate and deflate players’ market value...).
So with the window open and expectations higher than at any point in the last decade and a half, here are three major moves the Los Angeles Rams could make in the next few weeks:
Sign a starting ILB in free agency
The inside linebacking market isn’t expensive...well, unless you were the 2017 Los Angeles Rams. There are only six ILBs in the entire NFL making more than $5m APY. The Rams had two of them in ILB Alec Ogletree and ILB Mark Barron who would have been on the books for $20m this year. Having shipped Tree to the New York Giants, the Rams could easily find an ILB on the market for much, much less.
Tennessee Titans ILB Avery Williamson turned down a four-year, $12m offer to hit free agency. If that’s anywhere close to his market, he’d be a fine option. New York Jets ILB Demario Davis would be a solid option. I could see Dallas Cowboys ILB Anthony Hitchens fitting in as well.
Point being, the Rams were on the hook for a hell of a lot of money for Tree. They’ve got $6.4m dead on the books because of it, but in terms of the future outlook they can get starting talent much cheaper than what they were paying Tree.
Sign S Lamarcus Joyner to a long-term deal
This one might have already passed them by. Were they close enough on terms, the Rams could have used the franchise tag on WR Sammy Watkins. With suitors already being reported, I’m doubtful the Rams will be able to meet the market on him. Not sure they’re motivated to either given all the competing efforts.
The Rams undervalue DBs compared to the market, so the likelihood they reach terms with Joyner is low. But until we get to July 16, we can’t rule it out. Still, the odds are against this going down. I suppose if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in March. Once we get past the early FA period, both sides are going to be locked in on their market evaluations just like the Rams are CB Trumaine Johnson in years past.
Release CB Kayvon Webster
In a vacuum, Webster would be a solid piece in the Rams’ CB rotation for 2018. But coming off of an Achilles injury and having had shoulder surgery after the season while the Rams added CB Marcus Peters, CB Aqib Talib and CB Sam Shields to go along with CB Troy Hill who they’ve tendered? You could make an easy argument in favor of releasing Webster, eating the $500k he’s on the books for and freeing up $3.5m to spend elsewhere. He’s headed into the final year of the two-year deal he signed a year ago so there’s an inevitability to their separation in any case.