Heading into the 2017 season, Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff had a lot to deal with. He had the stink of his rookie season following him around, a new coach in Sean McVay that was going to implement a completely new offense to learn, and he had a crop of new receivers in WR Robert Woods, WR Sammy Watkins, and WR Cooper Kupp.
But there was one person that helped Goff’s transition much smoother than it otherwise would have been: LT Andrew Whitworth.
The veteran left tackle was a big signing for the Rams two years ago, and as Ol’ AW heads into the final year of his three-year, $36m dollar contract, it’s abundantly clear that the acquisition was a huge success. However, there is now speculation that Whitworth could retire instead of going through another year of wear and tear on his body.
And with OL Rodger Saffold III due to become a free agent and C John Sullivan potentially at his career’s end as well,there could be a scenario where the only returning players to the LA Rams next season would be OL Austin Blythe and OL Rob Havenstein. Solid guys, for sure — but are they leaders that can push the offense to new heights?
Simply put, the Rams need to begin executing a plan for a future without Whitworth, Saffold and Sullivan.
With Whitworth being a natural leader in the locker room and in the community, it’s no easy task. It’s just that so much of the success of this team rides on the effectiveness of the blocking. Goff needs a pocket that’ll hold for several seconds. RB Todd Gurley needs some holes on the left side.
The Rams used the 2018 NFL Draft to shore up the O-line unit with some youth. OL Joseph Noteboom and C Brian Allen could be central contributors in the years to come. Noteboom’s future will likely be somewhere on the left side of the line while Allen might be pushed into a starting role next year with Sullivan’s potential departure. Even with those two, the Rams will need more.
As the 2019 offseason kicks into gear, one thing is clear — the offensive line will be changing drastically — if not this year, then in 2020. The free agency market for offensive lineman is always difficult to work with, because guys like LT Trent Brown will most likely be overpaid by a desperate team. So, the question is: are the Rams that desperate team if Whitworth does decide to hang up his cleats?
Any team that makes it to the Super Bowl struggles to keep up that level of success in the following seasons. It’s almost impossible to keep the roster together with the limitations of the salary cap.
But if the Rams are able to extend their window once Jared Goff completes his rookie contract, the team is going to need a new Andrew Whitworth.
Easier said than done.