Free agency is just two weeks away, and the Los Angeles Rams have yet to make any moves with their laundry list of players scheduled to hit the free agent market. This isn’t particularly unusual as things really ramp up at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine which just kicked off yesterday, so we should see movement shortly.
Let’s take a look at all of the Rams’ upcoming free agents and rank them in tiers of most important to re-sign:
2019 LA Rams impending free agents
|Dante Fowler, Jr.
1.) LG Rodger Saffold III (UFA)
Saffold is a 30-year old stud guard who’s been with the team since 2010. Saffold has played every position on the offensive line sans center, though he found his ideal home at left guard. Saffold is one of the best guards in the league, so he should expect to be compensated as such. The Rams cannot afford to let a quality veteran like Saffold walk, so it’d be best served for both sides to work out a fair deal to keep one of QB Jared Goff’s personal protectors in Los Angeles. With LT Andrew Whitworth and C John Sullivan entering contract years (and seemingly the end of their careers), the re-signing of Saffold becomes even more crucial.
2.) ILB Cory Littleton (RFA)
Littleton initially made his mark as a Ram as a punt-blocking specialist, though he finally got his shot to start at inside linebacker in 2018 and it paid off. Littleton had 125 tackles, four sacks and three interceptions on the season. Littleton is a restricted free agent, so the Rams have the ability to tender him at a first-round tender, second-round tender, or original-round tender. What this means is they can essentially ensure Littleton’s return because there likely aren’t any teams willing to give up a first- or second-round pick to the Rams in order to acquire his services. A second-round tender makes sense for the Rams to use.
3.) RB Malcolm Brown (RFA)
Most probably expected to see C.J. Anderson here, but not I. Brown is only 25-years old and was easily on his way to a career year prior to the shoulder injury that ended his season. Brown was extremely productive as he averaged 4.9 yards-per-carry as RB Todd Gurley’s backup. Brown should return as the primary backup, and, like Littleton, he’s also a restricted free agent.
4.) S Blake Countess (RFA)
This is probably the first curveball on the list, but I’d love to see Countess brought back. Not only has Countess played an important role on special teams, but he’s seen a handful of defensive snaps over the past two years and has generally impressed in short spurts. With starting FS Lamarcus Joyner likely gone, Countess becomes that much more important.
5.) DT Ndamukong Suh (UFA)
The chances of Suh returning to the Rams are slim-to-none as it currently stands, because the Rams just don’t have a ton of cap space. If the Rams can find a way to clear more cap space or negotiate a lower price tag than the $14m he made in 2018, he’d be a tremendous re-signing as he’s still a quality player.
6.) OLB Dante Fowler, Jr. (UFA)
Fowler was brought over in a midseason trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars on a half-year rental. Fowler is only 24-years old and was instantly the Rams’ best edge rusher, though he’s likely to command a decent chunk of change on the open market. The Rams need to weigh the options correctly here and not become desperate. Even though Fowler was a substantial upgrade to their edge group last year, he only had two sacks in eight regular season games and 3.5 sacks in 11 games including the playoffs. His play is replaceable.
7.) CB Sam Shields (UFA)
Shields is a veteran in every sense of the word at 31-years old. He didn’t get a ton of playing time as a defender, though he did have some positive plays (as well as some bad ones) when he got on the field. His main contributions came as a special teams gunner where he either made tackles on punt returners or showed off his former receiver skills as a fake-punt specialist. Shields offers great veteran depth, so the Rams should look to bring him back.
8.) CB Troy Hill (RFA)
Hill catches a ton of flak from Rams fans (deservedly) though he’s fine as a backup. Over the past two years, Hill has gotten plenty of playing time as a spot starter and depth CB. He’s an RFA, so he should be relatively easy for the Rams to return.
9.) WR JoJo Natson (ERFA)
JoJo Natson is an exclusive rights free agent. As the main kick and punt returner on the team, he should absolutely be back.
10.) DE Morgan Fox (ERFA)
Fox was actually slated to be part of the rotation at OLB, though a torn ACL finished his season before it even began. With the uncertain statuses of Fowler, Matt Longacre, and Dominique Easley, Fox should be brought back. He’s also a restricted free agent.
11.) OLB Matt Longacre (UFA)
Longacre isn’t starting quality though he had a career high 5.5 sacks in 2017. He’s not a super important player, though it also wouldn’t be a terrible idea to have a familiar face return with so much uncertainty at OLB.
12.) DT Ethan Westbrooks (UFA)
At this point, Westbrooks is a rotational defensive lineman who’s 28-years old. He’s not a game changer, but he’s not a liability either.
13.) ILB Ramik Wilson (UFA)
Wilson signed a one-year deal with the Rams in 2018. Though he made four starts with the Rams when ILB Mark Barron wasn’t available, he’ll be remembered for his forced fumble on Green Bay Packers’ kick returner Ty Montgomery.
14.) FS Lamarcus Joyner (UFA)
This is a tough one, but it seems like a divorce is all-but-certain. Joyner put together some really solid years as a Ram, though none topped his truly elite season in 2017. Joyner has a chance to secure a big contract after playing on the franchise tag for a price of $11.3m this past year with the Rams.
15.) QB Sean Mannion (UFA)
We’ve seen enough of Mannion to know at this point, he just ain’t it.
16.) RB C.J. Anderson (UFA)
This one will likely have many Rams fans scratching their heads, but Anderson is more of a luxury as opposed to a need in my opinion. Sure, he was great when he was added because Todd Gurley’s health didn’t permit him to play, but things should be fine with Gurley moving forward. Not only that, but Malcolm Brown was very productive as the #2 RB prior to injury, and Anderson is likely to be too expensive for the Rams.
17.) ILB Bryce Hager (UFA)
I’m indifferent here. If the Rams choose to have Hager return, fine. If they choose to move on, fine. There’s a reason the Rams drafted both Micah Kiser and Travin Howard in the 2018 NFL Draft though.
18.) OLB Dominique Easley (UFA)
Easley is a superbly talented player who just can’t remain healthy. At this point its fair to wonder if he’ll ever be the same player we seen at Florida and early on in the NFL.
CB Dominique Hatfield (ERFA)
WR KhaDarel Hodge (ERFA)
CB Kevin Peterson (ERFA)
OLB Garrett Sickels (ERFA)