Free agency has begun. For the Los Angeles Rams, it opened with a bit of a whimper thanks to a limited pool of funds largely due to the increasing budget of some of the Rams’ stars along with their early acquisition of S Eric Weddle and re-signing of EDGE Dante Fowler, Jr.
Still, light action should be coming. And while the Rams’ own unrestricted free agents might provide some clues as to the way ahead along with the intel from their restricted free agents, here are 10 players that might either join the Rams or show where things are headed for the team with the 2019 NFL Draft a month and a half away.
QB Tom Savage
Savage is the perfect candidate for a backup spot for a team that has an unquestioned starting QB...or a QB that they want to remain unquestioned. A fourth-round pick from the 2014 NFL Draft, Savage capably served as the Houston Texans’ backup...among several candidates as they floundered to stabilize the position after the Matt Schaub era.
Savage isn’t a candidate who will threaten Jared Goff’s status in any way. His experience would be a valuable addition assuming QB Sean Mannion departs in free agency taking his four NFL seasons with him.
Having bounced around the New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals in 2018, his market value could be considerably low meaning the Rams won’t have to stretch much on the cap to bring him along. If he signs elsewhere, it will at least give us a sense of the veteran backup QB market for someone like Savage with game experience beyond what Mannion offers.
RB Doug Martin
I need to put some words together on the matter, but there’s a bit of confusion surrounding the Rams’ running back depth chart build.
Many have looked at RB Malcolm Brown or his successor RB C.J. Anderson as the backup for RB Todd Gurley. That’s not entirely accurate. The Rams, instead, have a backup role for Gurley’s role and both Brown and Anderson occupied that role. Think of it like a 1a/1b situation. Gurley was 1a while Brown and Anderson filled in at 1b.
That means the backups to each are really in the 2a or 2b spots. And given how reticent the coaching staff was to plug in either RB John Kelly or RB Justin Davis once Brown went down, clearly they don’t feel good about those options.
So with Brown back on a one-year tender, the 1b spot could be potentially filled. That leaves some options to be adjusted at 2a and 2b and Martin would be a fine option there, though I’m not sure at which. Perhaps that diversity is what makes him more valuable.
He’s not the Muscle Hamster he was years ago with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Anderson was hardly the workhorse of years past when he joined us and clearly made the most of his opportunities.
Speaking of candidates for role diversity that would certainly fit...
RB Benny Cunningham
This would just be fun.
Speaking of candidates for fun...
OL Eric Kush
With Rodger Saffold III gone to the Tennessee Titans, it sure would be nice for Kush to bring Fat Arm Friday back into the building...
OL Jonathan Cooper
Cooper’s career certainly hasn’t hit the mark based on his draft status as the #7 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Injuries in recent years have certainly pushed him toward the endpoint of his career.
But Cooper has valuable experience in various team situations. His market should be low based on recent seasons and not his skill set. Perhaps he could reignite those with the Rams on a short-term deal.
DT Datone Jones
No, not a headline signing. But Jones is an LA native with injuries having held him back more than anything in recent years. A Tyrunn Walker-type signing with significantly more upside.
EDGE Zach Moore
If you’re looking for a Cinderella signing with untapped potential, Moore might be it.
A sixth-round pick for the New England Patriots in the 2014 NFL Draft for the New England Patriots, Moore has bounced around the NFL for four seasons. He had a slight bit of a breakout season with the Arizona Cardinals last year. For price, he might have the highest upside of any low-salary player in the entire NFL.
ILB L.J. Fort
The Rams can’t do much better for cost at the position with ILB Cory Littleton having been tendered and ILB Ramik Wilson having come in on the cheap in 2018.
Fort’s an interesting candidate as someone who played a major role in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense last year.
The inside linebacker position is already an inexpensive one league-wide. While the Rams have Littleton and young Micah Kiser locked in for 2018, more young talent could be in the cards. What they are missing with Wilson and ILB Mark Barron gone is experience. Fort would be a strong option to cover some of the bases at ILB while allowing for more talent to come in unimpeded.
CB Bene Benwikere
The Rams have to have a serious plan to deal with the cornerback position with both CB Aqib Talib and CB Marcus Peters heading into contract years without any depth locked in long-term.
Benwikere is a Kayvon Webster/Cody Sensabaugh-type who wouldn’t be pressed into the position that both were in their time with the Rams. And with Troy Hill back for the Rams, the impetus isn’t immediate. It is obvious, though. And it is prudent to deal with before it becomes immediate.
Whatever the serious plan at CB may be, there’s room to fill in around it. Undrafted free agents, no doubt, will be part of that fill in. Benwikere could be more appropriate for 2019.
QB Blake Bortles
But the other nine at least could play into the back end of free agency which is where the Rams are positioned right now.
We’re not in play for top candidates. There aren’t a ton of opportunities to adjust cap space without creating a whack-a-mole situation that would create another roster gap. The Rams have to balance their priority for their own low-cost undrafted free agents with candidates like this across the NFL.
Whether or not they sign any of these 10 (okay, nine) options, they could set the market for any similar players they do sign whether they’re the Rams’ own or not.
And while they might not carry the headlines of free agency elsewhere, they might well play a major part in the Rams’ 2019 season.