The Los Angeles Rams shipped CB Aqib Talib off to the Miami Dolphins today to clear some cap space at the expense of a fifth-round pick. The move would seemingly offer an opportunity to house some money in 2019 toward an extension for CB Jalen Ramsey allowing them to not put all of it into the future outlook.
Getting Ramsey extended was a requirement in order to try and match the value of what the Rams gave up to get him as he will need to provide multiple Pro Bowl-caliber (or close to as much) seasons to justify the move.
I think there’s only one other player scheduled to be a free agent over the next two seasons that the Rams absolutely have to lock up: WR Cooper Kupp. Like Ramsey, Kupp is under contract through next season but will only be 27-years old in 2021’s free agency period.
But the Rams have some very difficult decisions on some current players to make in the next two offseasons and that’s before seeing how they perform on the field for the rest of this season let alone those who are contracted through 2020. Already, the Rams are on the hook for more than $90m in 2021 for QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley, WR Brandin Cooks and DL Aaron Donald. Ramsey and Kupp would perhaps near another $40m on the books annually forming a top 6 on the roster beyond 2021. That’s not leaving a ton of room to address the likely vacancies let alone any that might pop up if the Rams decide not to renew some of the upcoming free agents.
And the Rams don’t have a ton in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft to adjust personnel all that much:
LA Rams’ 2020 NFL Draft order with comp pick projections
|3 (c)||TBD||TBD||Rams pick (projected)|
The first-round pick was part of the package in the trade for Ramsey (2020 1st, 2021 1st, 2021 4th). The Rams’ original fifth was part of the trade for EDGE Dante Fowler Jr. The fifth they picked up in the deal that sent Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens is the one shipped with Talib to Miami.
Here’s some of the flashpoints looking at the roster situation over the next two offseasons:
2020 LA Rams Free Agents
|Malcolm Brown||RB||UFA||Re-signed, 2-yr $3.25m|
|Tyler Higbee||TE||UFA||Re-signed, 4 yr $31m|
|Troy Hill||CB||UFA||Re-signed, 2-yr $8.25m|
|Dante Fowler, Jr.||EDGE||UFA|
2021 LA Rams Free Agents
|Jared Goff||QB||UFA||Re-signed, 4-yr $134m|
LT Andrew Whitworth is retiring. RG Austin Blythe is an impending free agent. Many Rams fans were worried the departure of LG Rodger Saffold III and C John Sullivan would mean the line would be unreliable. How much moreso would it be with two more departures? And bear in mind that with Kupp and Ramsey extensions, the Rams likely won’t be able to fill left tackle on the market. Internal upgrades or draft picks and or UDFAs would be the likely solution, and I’m not sure that’s going to make anyone very comfortable given how good Whitworth has been since arriving and the attempted solutions between he and Orlando Pace’s time as the Rams premier blocker.
The edge rusher depth chart
Fowler is on a one-year prove-it deal. We’ll have to see how he does down the stretch, but if he ends up “proving it” that means he’s going to earn more than the $12m he got this year.
EDGE Clay Matthews is on the books through next season, but he’s all but certain to hang them up after 2020.
OLB Samson Ebukam plays out his rookie contract next year.
Suffice to say, change is coming here. A premium investment is probably unlikely given how much the position commands and the commitments the Rams already have in their top 6.
S John Johnson III
Talib’s departure marks the ninth consecutive defensive back the Rams haven’t re-signed (slot CB Nickell Robey-Coleman is an outlier here given his role). S Darian Stewart, CB Janoris Jenkins, S Rodney McLeod, S T.J. McDonald, CB Trumaine Johnson, CB E.J. Gaines, DB Lamarcus Joyner, CB Marcus Peters and Talib have all come and gone without the Rams expressing a willingness to commit to their services in the long term. Ramsey obviously has to be re-signed, but that could be an outlier comparatively especially if the Rams opt to move on from John Jonathan Johnson Johnston after next season.
ILB Cory Littleton
He was a special teams star. He transitioned into a talented starting inside linebacker. As a former restricted free agent, the Rams were able to keep him on an inexpensive tender in 2019. He’s unrestricted after this season. He’ll command more than the $3m he’s getting this year.
DL Michael Brockers
The Rams’ youth revolution probably means Brockers is headed for a similar fate as Saffold’s. That’s not the worst for him personally, but it does mean another starting position to address.
TE Gerald Everett
The Rams already splashed for TE Tyler Higbee through 2023. With the top 6 soaking up space, the Rams might move on from Young Gerald.
The Rams have a lot of decisions coming their way the next two offseasons, and the top 6 means they’re going to have to be selective about the way ahead. Without assuming anything from the youth that haven’t really affirmed their status yet, here’s a rough sketch of the 2021 Week 1 starters who are already on the roster including the Kupp and Ramsey deals:
- QB Jared Goff
- RB Todd Gurley/RB2 Darrell Henderson Jr.
- WR1 Brandin Cooks
- WR2 Robert Woods
- WR3 Cooper Kupp
- TE Tyler Higbee/TE2?
- LT ?
- LG Joseph Noteboom
- C Brian Allen
- RG ?
- RT Rob Havenstein
- DL Aaron Donald
- DL ?
- DL Sebastian Joseph-Day
- EDGE ?
- EDGE ?
- ILB ?
- LB Troy Reeder?
- CB Jalen Ramsey
- CB ?
- S Taylor Rapp
- S ?
That’s a lot of question marks for a team without a first-round pick the next two years that has as much committed on the books as the Rams will with deals for Ramsey and Kupp. That’s not to say the roster’s going to fall apart, but it does mean the Rams will be relying heavily on the names already penciled in on that least as well as relying on their own ability to identify non-premium solutions in the two years ahead.