The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia has his top 50 free agents for 2020 out, and it includes just two Los Angeles Rams on the list and none in the “just missed.”
For reference, here are the Rams’ impending free agents next offseason:
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|
So who from that group does Kapadia have?
14. Dante Fowler, EDGE, Rams (26)
He signed a one-year, $12 million deal last offseason to stay with the Rams and will now get to test free agency once again. Fowler is young, plays a premium position and is on pace to set career highs in sacks (currently has 6.5) and QB hits (currently has nine).
23. Cory Littleton, LB, Rams (26)
It’s tough to watch a Rams game and not notice Littleton. He has five interceptions, 21 passes defended, 12 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and seven QB hits over the past two seasons. Since the start of 2018, Littleton’s 207 tackles rank seventh. He is young and durable (has never missed a game) and will be one of the top off-ball linebackers available.
So OL Austin Blythe, DT Michael Brockers, LT Andrew Whitworth and K Greg Zuerlein all didn’t make the cut.
A couple issues complicates the Rams’ decisions in 2020.
First, is the higher priority re-signings of WR Cooper Kupp and CB Jalen Ramsey. Both will be free agents in the 2021 offseason. Both need to be signed to contract extensions moreso than any other impending free agents in the next two seasons. While extending them won’t necessarily alter the salary cap situation in 2020, it will beyond next year. So those deals have to be factored in when considering signing any 2020 free agents if you’re doing so beyond a one-year deal.
The second major issue is position value and therefore cost. Next year alone, the Rams are currently vacating starting spots at left tackle and the edge. Those are extremely expensive positions to fill; in fact, the average left tackle salary is currently higher than the average quarterback salary. So there has to be a careful approach to spending as the Rams, once the Ramsey and Kupp deals are factored in, will be pretty tight in cap terms.
The final factor? The unknowability of market forces in the new collective bargaining agreement. The current CBA expires after the 2020 season. Any free agency decisions beyond next year extend into the new CBA’s world where the salary cap might grow more or less annually than it did in this CBA. It might change the salary constraints for rookies. It might amend veteran salary spending. It might get rid of the franchise tag or the fifth-year option or any variety of changes it could make.
All that being said, we’re looking into free agency next year without a ton of money to use and some key needs looming. So parsing the list, I’m not sure the Rams will be active spenders for potential fits for our roster gaps like Washington Offensive Lineman Employers OL Brandon Scherff (#13) Pittsburgh Steelers EDGE Bud Dupree (#20) or Indianapolis Colts LT Anthony Castonzo (#21). They’ll need to figure who can be promoted from within (like various promotions this offseason) and what less expensive options can be gleaned from the market either by bringing in low-cost options with potential or end-of-career veterans who won’t cost a premium.
Big decisions ahead...