The Los Angeles Rams effectively wrapped up their efforts in free agency 2019 when they extended DL Aaron Donald in August 2018. In doing so, they effectively choked off most of their available salary cap in 2019 save for the number of role players they had to assess and their 2019 NFL Draft class.
The Rams decided to let ILB Mark Barron and C John Sullivan head off which gave the Rams a bit of room to get, effectively, a discounted franchise tag on EDGE Dante Fowler, Jr. With that discount, the Rams were able to bring in S Eric Weddle for a chance to ride his career into the sun with a Lombardi Trophy on his back.
And while many fans are carping that the Rams aren’t doing more in free agency, the rationale behind not doing as much is simple.
They good enough to not need to.
The Rams are coming out of an era having built up a young and inexpensive core on their roster that they buttressed with talent via trades and unique signings like DL Ndamukong Suh that they could afford thanks to the rookie discounts they racked up. But now, those deals are quickly being torn up for more lucrative agreements and the Rams have had to begin the transition into a new era.
Already, Sullivan and Barron were pushed out. OL Rodger Saffold III, DL Ndamukong Suh and S Lamarcus Joyner are all headed elsewhere via free agency. Those three will net the Rams compensatory picks in the 2020 NFL Draft which underscores the transition afoot.
At this point, the Rams don’t need much of anything in free agency. The deals for Fowler and Weddle are bridge deals to delay replacements that will accelerate the transition into a new era, a transition that began in earnest in last year’s draft when the Rams began to bring in pieces for their offensive line of the future with prospects like OL Joseph Noteboom and OL Brian Allen.
But now consider what the Rams are looking at after the 2019 season in free agency next year:
2020 LA Rams Free Agents
|Malcolm Brown||RB||UFA||Re-signed, 2-yr $3.25m|
|Tyler Higbee||TE||UFA||Re-signed, 4 yr $31m|
|Troy Hill||CB||UFA||Re-signed, 2-yr $8.25m|
|Dante Fowler, Jr.||EDGE||UFA|
Unlike this year in which free agency was built upon the lackluster effort to retain role players across the middle of the roster, next year’s offseason will be about reshaping the starting roster to support the Rams’ long-term core of RB Todd Gurley, WR Brandin Cooks, RT Rob Havenstein and DL Aaron Donald (and presumably QB Jared Goff).
The Rams will have plenty of money available. As of right now, OverTheCap has the Rams with more than $93m next year while Spotrac puts it over $82m. And unlike a year ago when the Rams were locking up guys to eat into their 2019 cap space, there just aren’t that many unrestricted free agents the Rams will need to retain as part of the transition.
DL Michael Brockers, Fowler, CB Aqib Talib and LT Andrew Whitworth are all likely playing their last season for the Rams and, at least in Whitworth’s case and perhaps Talib’s, maybe playing their last season in the NFL. The Rams don’t even have many restricted or exclusive-rights free agents that will be necessary to retain.
For 2019, the draft is simply much, much, much more important than free agency. The Rams currently have seven picks in this year’s draft that will help address roster gaps over the next four seasons and in the case of a potential first-round pick the next five. Those selections weigh much more heavily on the roster build than any moves the Rams could have made this week or next in free agency.
So fret not, Rams fans. The roster is in fantastic shape. We’re coming off of a Super Bowl appearance with a fantastic core locked up into the future. The bandaid that is free agency isn’t all that valuable to the Rams right now if only because we’ve been so good at building our roster up to this point.