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Los Angeles Rams offer enticing options on the Athletic’s top 50 free agents of 2020

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We’ve got plenty of football left to play, but some big decisions are looming in March.

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Los Angeles Rams EDGE Dante Fowler Jr. celebrates a sack of Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan in Week 7, Oct. 20, 2019.
Los Angeles Rams EDGE Dante Fowler Jr. celebrates a sack of Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan in Week 7, Oct. 20, 2019.
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

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

Player POS Type Outcome
Player POS Type Outcome
Malcolm Brown RB UFA Re-signed, 2-yr $3.25m
Blake Countess DB UFA Waived
Jared Goff QB UFA Optioned
Tyler Higbee TE UFA Re-signed, 4 yr $31m
Troy Hill CB UFA Re-signed, 2-yr $8.25m
Marcus Peters CB UFA Traded
Aqib Talib CB UFA Traded
Austin Blythe OL UFA
Blake Bortles QB UFA
Michael Brockers DL UFA
Marqui Christian DB UFA
Dante Fowler, Jr. EDGE UFA
Bryce Hager ILB UFA
Cory Littleton LB UFA
Mike Thomas WR UFA
Andrew Whitworth LT UFA
Greg Zuerlein K UFA
Morgan Fox DE RFA
Jojo Natson KR/PR RFA
Adonis Alexander CB ERFA
Josh Carraway OLB ERFA
Kendall Blanton TE ERFA
Chandler Brewer OL ERFA
Josh Carraway LB ERFA
Marquise Copeland DL ERFA
Donte Deayon CB ERFA
Greg Dortch WR ERFA
Landis Durham LB ERFA
Dominique Hatfield CB ERFA
Jeff Holland OLB ERFA
Jeremiah Kolone OL ERFA
Johnny Mundt TE ERFA
Jachai Polite EDGE ERFA
Coleman Shelton OL ERFA
Nate Trewyn OL ERFA
Nsimba Webster WR ERFA
Ethan Wolf TE ERFA
John Wolford QB ERFA

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).

And:

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...