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Los Angeles Rams roster review heading into Day 2 of free agency

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Now that the smoke has cleared from NFL New Years Day, let’s take a look at the roster.

The Los Angeles Rams come out of the tunnel against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field
The Los Angeles Rams come out of the tunnel against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

QB

Jared Goff
Sean Mannion
Brandon Allen

I’ve spoken about the backup position earlier this offseason and how I think the Los Angeles Rams would be wise to make an investment in it before camp either through free agency or the 2018 NFL Draft. Mannion’s just not a suitable solution; moreover, he was a 2015 NFL Draft pick from the previous regime prior to the Rams taking Goff. There’s fair reason to think the roster purge continues for Rams Head Coach Sean McVay. Moving on is a win-win. The Rams can get either more upside or more experience at the position while allowing Mannion to find a suitor who could offer him an opportunity for playing time.

Chances to add an FA: 8/10

The Rams toyed with QB Aaron Murray and QB Dan Orlovsky last year, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to tinker with the backend of the position depth chart. And Mannion’s hardly a lock. The Rams would open up more than $700k by releasing him as he heads into the last season of his rookie deal. The prudent course of action may be to just get to the draft and let it play out. If you end up with a rookie QB, either via selection or a UDFA, you’ve got a new arm to work with. If not, maybe that’s the time to shop the market.

RB

Todd Gurley
Malcolm Brown
Justin Davis
Lenard Tillery

This one’s really interesting.

Obviously, Just Todd Gurley’s got the RB1 spot locked down following an Offensive Player of the Year season. It’s the backup battle that’s full of intrigue.

A year ago, the Rams signed RB Lance Dunbar to challenge for snaps as a scatback, passing game threat. Suffice to say, it did not work; the Rams released Dunbar last week. In his stead, Brown stepped up as the primary backup logging 150 offensive snaps and carrying the ball 63 times. Brown was tendered this week, so he’s back on a one-year deal.

I suppose the question is whether Brown’s performances both in games but also in practice has dissuaded the staff from seeking a new challenger to the backup position. The Dunbar signing suggests at least that a year ago, they weren’t fully comfortable with the group listed above. I’m not sure that sentiment has changed.

Chances to add an FA: 2.5/10

There are plenty of options in free agency should the Rams feel so inclined, but given the Rams’ Day 3-heavy draft order, there’s a value fit for RB as a position that has really taken a hit over the last decade.

WR

Robert Woods
Cooper Kupp
Tavon Austin
Josh Reynolds
Pharoh Cooper
Mike Thomas
Fred Brown

No, WR Sammy Watkins will not be a Ram in 2018. As soon as the Rams decided to tag S Lamarcus Joyner, that was a foregone conclusion despite their protestations of “actively” or “aggressively” trying to re-sign him. That leaves the Rams either seeking someone to fill the WR1 role (Terrelle Pryor perhaps?) or #ReynoldsSZN. And yes, I’m including Tavon here because he’s still on the roster...for now.

Chances to add an FA: 5/10

There are two ways to look at this. One, the Rams could sign a Pryor or someone of that ilk to come in and take over Watkins’ role to leave Woods and Kupp in the roles they occupied in 2017 and occupied well. But two, the Rams could bump Woods and maybe others up on the ladder to add a middle-of-the-ladder guy. Combined, I’d put the odds at about 50/50.

The real X-factor here is General Manager Les Snead’s advocacy for draft day trades. The strength of this WR class in the draft is not at the top. Man alive is it not. But there’s plenty of inviting options on Day 2 and into the fourth round. As it stands, the Rams don’t hold a second-round pick. As it stands... The chances of that changing? I mean, yall know Lester P. Snead’s lifestyles. Rams could add two picks between 50 and 125 when it’s all said and done, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least. That’s prime real estate for a WR this year. So if the right FA option just doesn’t present itself for contract value, perhaps there’s a deal to be made that puts the Rams in the thick of the WR class in a month and a half’s time.

TE

Tyler Higbee
Gerald Everett
Temarrick Hemingway
Henry Krieger-Coble
Johnny Mundt

I don’t know that there was a position group more disappointing in 2017 than the tight ends. Well, perhaps not “disappointing,” but maybe underperforming. I really expected this group to produce more in McVay’s system, ESPECIALLY after Young Gerald’s first two games of the year in which he totaled four receptions for 134 yards. Over the rest of the season, he caught just 12 more passes for another 110 yards spread out over 14 games.

With TE3 Derek Carrier heading to the Oakland Raiders, there’s an opening here for Hemingway to return from last year’s broken leg in the Rams’ third preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Chances to add an FA: 1/10

The Higbee-Everett combo should be plenty to staff the top of the position depth chart. The Rams already have the back end filled.

OT

Andrew Whitworth
Rob Havenstein
Michael Dunn

This is the scariest position on the entire roster. Whitworth just turned 36-years old. Havenstein is headed into a contract year. The Rams’ primary backup at LT, Cornelius Lucas, is an unrestricted free agent. The backup at RT, Darrell Williams, is a restricted free agent.

Chances to add an FA: 6.5/10

Whether it’s free agency or the draft, the Rams need to get talent here. Fast.

G

Rodger Saffold
Jamon Brown
Jake Eldrenkamp

Yup. Change comin here too.

Chances to add an FA: 7.5/10

Either or.

C

Austin Blythe
Aaron Neary

I wouldn’t be against giving Blythe a shot. I would be against giving him a shot without coming up with a better mitigation plan.

Chances to add an FA: 6/10

Might just re-sign C John Sullivan and call it a day.

NT

Michael Brockers
Omarius Bryant

With DL Tyrunn Walker an unrestricted free agent, the Rams have to make a calculated decision on how to play Brockers. The Rams moved their defensive linemen all over the place. While that caused some unpredictability to force opponents to respond to, it also never really allowed guys to lean into one position or role. A true NT might help do that.

Chances to add an FA: 6/10

Some good options here on the cheap that are more about role fit than anything. Much like Watkins’ addition to the WR corps created favorable matchups down the ladder, a NT would do the same (not that Aaron Donald needs any help...). That the Rams had dinner last night with Virginia Tech NT Tim Settle at least tells us they’re on track to fill the need one way or the other.

DE

Aaron Donald
Ethan Westbrooks
Morgan Fox
Tanzel Smart

This one’s tough. A year ago, it was all locked up with Donald and Dominique Easley set to wreck. When Easley tore his ACL in training camp prior to the preseason, it certainly took a valuable player out of the mix.

Easley’s now a UFA, but perhaps he’ll come back on a cheaper deal to get his career restarted.

Chances to add an FA: 2.5/10

This is a solid enough group with Donald at the top to ride into the draft and then take stock of the roster.

OLB

Samson Ebukam
Matt Longacre
Carlos Thompson
Ejuan Price
Garrett Sickels

With OLB Robert Quinn getting traded to the Miami Dolphins and OLB Connor Barwin a UFA (though he certainly could return), there’s obviously a vacuum at the top to be filled. That the Rams are high on Ebukam helps his chances, but I doubt this group looks much like this when camp opens.

Chances to add an FA: 5/10

The EDGE market is quite costly in free agency. Obviously, getting draft talent here is the optimal solution, though it’s not always so easy. Leaning in on Barwin’s experience for another year might be the easy out.

ILB

Mark Barron
Cory Littleton
Bryce Hager

ILB Alec Ogletree is now with the New York Giants, so there’s room for promotion. I think there are two unresolved questions. Is Barron still a potential cap casualty? That we’ve crossed the threshold into the NFL new year and he’s still around would suggest not, but we’ve seen weirder things happen. Second, what is that staff’s feeling on Littleton? Their evaluations of Ebukam and Littleton are everything when it comes to deciding how to work the market.

Chances to add an FA: 9/10

For me, I would have bet on something getting done yesterday. The market’s not terribly out of whack for value. There are still plenty of options.

CB

Marcus Peters
Aqib Talib
Kayvon Webster
Nickell Robey-Coleman
Sam Shields
Troy Hill
Dominique Hatfield
Kevin Peterson
Taurean Nixon
Marcus Sayles

Yeah, we’re good here.

The trades for Peters and Talib were made official yesterday as the Rams also re-signed NRC on a three-year deal.

Pour one out for Snead’s infamous “Priority A.” With CB Trumaine Johnson landing a megadeal with the New York Jets, all four members of the secondary that were the Rams’ top priority to re-sign ultimately left the Rams all without a deal.

Chances to add an FA: 0.5/10

We got bigger fish to fry.

S

Lamarcus Joyner
John Johnson
Blake Countess
Marqui Christian

With Joyner tagged, the group is set for 2018. Beyond that? Well, the Rams have had their opportunity to ink Joyner to a deal. But as they undervalue DBs compared to market rates, it may be a top issue a year from now.

Chances to add an FA: 2.5/10

Maybe a special teams leader to be had here, though UDFAs often fill that role best (and cheapest).

ST

K Greg Zuerlein
P Johnny Hekker
LS Jake McQuaide
K Sam Ficken

This one’s all about GZ. He was on pace for the single-season scoring record before a lingering back injury ended his season. Is he on track to be fully healthy for Week 1? If so, we’re all locked up having inked McQuaide to continue to the team’s long snapper for the next three years. If Legatron’s schedule isn’t lining up to be 100% heading into late August, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rams bring in someone to test Ficken. Yes, the Rams just tendered him on a very inexpensive one-year deal, but they brought him in on the fly last year. Now, they’ve got an entire offseason to evaluate a Plan B if Greg the Leg is going to need time.

Chances to add an FA: 1.5/10

I’m going to cross my fingers that GZ’s back is all healed up and ready to go for camp. They might add someone to take some snaps off of Hekker’s leg like they have in recent years.


Overall, the roster’s in great shape. There are a couple positions that are far too heavy for my liking (see: the offensive line), but no roster in the NFL is without its issues. The bigger and more difficult roster decisions lie ahead for the Rams with so many key players still on their rookie deals. That’s why so much of the Rams’ activity this year was built upon preparing for those decisions now rather than waiting until that point.

But as free agency rolls on and we near the 2018 NFL Draft, we’ll have to see what changes the 90-man roster incurs and how things are shaping up for Year 2 under McBae.