While the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots were getting ready for Super Bowl LIII, the other 30 teams in the NFL were already fully into the 2019 offseason looking ahead to the 2019 NFL Draft while making plans for free agency.
Now with the big game over, it’s time for the Rams to plunge into the fray or I suppose time for media and fans to since it’s fair to assume Chief Operating Officer & Executive Vice President of Football Operations Kevin Demoff, Vice President of Football and Business Administration Tony Pastoors, and General Manager Les Snead have been making inroads toward free agency for...well, years TBH.
So here’s where things stand on the Rams’ potential free agents starting with the unrestricted free agents in alphabetical order:
RB C.J. Anderson
NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport said the Rams’ “absolutely want [Anderson] back for 2019.” Hard not to think they can find a way to get this done seeing that he was without an employer as recently as Week 15, though the obvious thing to acknowledge here is Todd Gurley and the balance between the two in 2019...
EDGE Dominique Easley
The Rams signed Easley to a one-year deal back in March for 2018. After tearing his ACL in 2017 before the season even started, Easley re-injured the knee this year in Week 3 and was shut down for 2018 thereafter.
Having joined the Rams in 2016, Easley’s last two years have been nearly cut out entirely because of that left knee that has now undergone five operations.
Could the Rams bring him back on another one-year trial to see if the knee can hold out?
EDGE Dante Fowler, Jr.
Another interesting candidate. The Rams traded for Fowler to bring him over from the Jacksonville Jaguars heading into Week 9. While he wasn’t terribly productive, he flashed at times (crucial times even) and certainly was an improvement on the Rams’ options at the time.
I think the question here is market strength. While Anderson and Easley would be relatively cheap, short contract options, Fowler could still command a multi-year deal with a much larger impact on the salary cap.
ILB Bryce Hager
Can’t believe Hager’s already a four-year veteran.
The real key here is special teams. Hager’s a mainstay on special teams having taken more ST snaps than any other Ram in 2018. Does that along with the depth he provides at ILB make him a low-cost returnee, or do the Rams look for more linebacking skill and ask Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel to adjust to losing a core contributor?
S Lamarcus Joyner
I’d count Joyner as good as gone. Coming off of a franchise tag, the Rams delayed finding a successor much like they did for years with CB Trumaine Johnson. While it’s possible they could tag him again, I’d expect them to identify a replacement unless they’re keen on promoting from within much like they did at the outside linebacker spots to begin 2018.
OLB Matt Longacre
By bringing in Fowler and making Longacre a healthy scratch for a couple of games thereafter, the Rams signaled pretty clearly that Longacre’s time with the Rams was coming to an end.
QB Sean Mannion
One of the weirder decisions here, Mannion was brought in before the Rams drafted Jared Goff yet never really got a chance. Do the Rams see him as their long-term QB2? The Rams hired Head Coach Sean McVay halfway through Mannion’s four years, so it’s not as if Mannion was tabbed by McVay specifically. Perhaps McVay wants to get someone else, but if so, that’s a key, key, key role to fill.
LG Rodger Saffold III
Rams OL Rodger Saffold says “of course” he wants to stay with the Rams, but he has to look out for his family. Here’s him on his future as he enters free agency. @DowntownRams @usatodaynfl @CVRamsClub pic.twitter.com/X7BKABxHEW— Joe Curley (@vcsjoecurley) February 5, 2019
Saff has now wrapped up his ninth season in the NFL all of them with the Rams. He re-signed with the Rams in 2014 on a five-year deal after a brief dalliance with the Oakland Raiders that fell through. Given how often Saffold was injured early in his career, it was a risky deal, but Saff’s play especially over the last three seasons validated the cost and then some.
So what is his market? He’s 30-years old, so age has to factor in. Still, he played at a very high level this year. A multi-year deal would probably be required. Could he fetch $10m APY or more?
CB Sam Shields
Shields’ return out of retirement went about as well as Rams fans should have hoped. He had some memorable moments while avoiding a catastrophic concussion. Do the Rams spin the wheel for another year? Does Shields still want to go at it?
DL Ndamukong Suh
Hard to see Suh back in horns in 2019. The Rams were able to afford him (and Joyner’s franchise tag) this year because they had QB Jared Goff and DL Aaron Donald still on rookie deals. Donald’s extension along with some roster gaps likely squeeze him out of consideration for the future.
DE Ethan Westbrooks
The Rams extended Westy back in 2017 to avoid having to make a decision on him until now, but he saw the least opportunity and thus put up the least production of his career this year. Squeezed out by the addition of Suh and rookie John Franklin-Myers, Westbrooks isn’t as crucial to the depth chart as he has been in years past. Could he be the mitigation plan if/when Suh walks?
ILB Ramik Wilson
Wilson was the go-to early on this season while ILB Mark Barron was still coming to full health. An inexpensive free agency addition in 2018, it’d be easy to just re-up and keep it going, though there’s a contingent of Rams fans who would be eager to see if rookie ILB Micah Kiser could hold down the spot.
Restricted free agents
RB Malcolm Brown
His value to the Rams certainly plummeted with the arrival of Anderson. Assuming Meatball is back, I don’t know that the Rams are going to want to spend to bring Brown back as a backup to Anderson in such a specialized role.
DB Blake Countess
A strong contributor for a RFA. I could see a low tender here.
CB Troy Hill
Hill yet again played a ton of football for the Rams. I’ve seen him listed as an unrestricted free agent on some sites, but I think he has just three accrued seasons now. Either way, he’s been (much to the chagrin of many Rams fans) a core contributor. Hill was the go to in 2017 when CB Kayvon Webster went out and similarly he was the first man up when CB Aqib Talib missed time this year. If the Rams opt to move on, this one would be a key rotational role that shouldn’t be undervalued.
ILB Cory Littleton
Exclusive rights free agents
DE/OLB Morgan Fox
Fox might have edged out OLB Matt Longacre for the spot across from OLB Samson Ebukam if it weren’t for an ACL injury in May during organized team activities.
Is he an afterthought at this point simply because of the injury?
CB Dominique Hatfield
WR KhaDarel Hodge
CB Kevin Peterson
OLB Garrett Sickels
KR/PR JoJo Natson
Lil’ JoJo gotta come back, right?
So, clearly the Rams have some tough decisions to make on their own guys before even getting to the point of considering replacements from the market.
Gonna be a hell of an offseason to reload and see if the Rams can get back to the Super Bowl.
2019 Los Angeles Rams Free Agents
|Marcus Peters||CB||UFA (option)||Optioned|
|Brandin Cooks||WR||UFA||Re-signed, 5-yr, $80m|
|Aaron Donald||DT||UFA||Re-signed, 6-yr, $135m|
|Dante Fowler, Jr.||EGDE||UFA||Re-signed, 1-yr, $14m|
|Todd Gurley||RB||UFA (option)||Re-signed, 4-yr, $60m|
|Rob Havenstein||OL||UFA||Re-signed, 4-yr, $32.5m|
|Cory Littleton||ILB||RFA||Tendered (2nd round)|
|Malcolm Brown||RB||RFA||Tendered (original round)|
|Blake Countess||DB||RFA||Tendered (original round)|
|Troy Hill||CB||RFA||Tendered (original round)|
|Morgan Fox||DE||ERFA||Tendered (ERFA)|
|Dominique Hatfield||CB||ERFA||Tendered (ERFA)|
|KhaDarel Hodge||WR||ERFA||Tendered (ERFA)|
|JoJo Natson||KR/PR||ERFA||Tendered (ERFA)|
|Kevin Peterson||CB||ERFA||Tendered (ERFA)|
|Lamarcus Joyner||S||UFA||Signed by OAK|
|Rodger Saffold||OL||UFA||Signed by TEN|