Looking ahead to the 2020 offseason, the Los Angeles Rams will have their work cut out for them. In the 2020 free agency period, the Rams are slated to have a handful of important players hit the market.
Have a look at the list:
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|
There’s obviously a laundry list of guys. Some who wont make the roster this year, some who’ll spend the year on the practice squad, and some who are simply end-of-the roster type guys. Still, there are a handful of key players such as starting offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth and Austin Blythe, defensive lineman Michael Brockers and Dante Fowler Jr, and of course, the mercurial Marcus Peters (among other starters like Aqib Talib and Cory Littleton).
Let’s take a look at which starters need to prove the most to stick around in 2020. Some guys are going to part just by way of the nature of the NFL, but they’ll still have something to prove in terms of creating their own free agent markets.
Here’s the list of starters in order of most-to-least to prove:
This one was an easy one, wasn’t it? Peters’ first year with the Rams wasn’t great, though it improved as the season went on. Looking at the cornerback market, Peters is likely to demand a long-term contract somewhere in the range of $15m annually. Are the Rams comfortable committing that amount of money to a guy who hasn’t shown great football in horns? Maybe. But that’s why 2019 is crucial for Peters. He has a chance to truly rehab his value as he’s a highly talented player, though for the time being, he’s got the most to prove to earn a long-term contract.
This might seem like a strange choice for a guy who’s been a Ram for seven years, though it feels appropriate. Brockers’ play has fallen off a bit of a cliff recently, so his chance to rehab his value in 2019 is important. Brock was moved into more of a complimentary role to DT’s Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh last year, though he’ll reclaim his spot as the second interior guy with Suh gone this year.
Dante Fowler Jr
The Rams re-signed Fowler to a one-year incentive laden deal in free agency this year after trading for him at the 2018 trade deadline. Fowler is a highly-talented edge rusher, though his production has simply never matched his ability. The contract the Rams gave him speaks volumes as it proves their reluctance to invest in him long term, though the option remains open if he has a strong 2019 season.
Higbee might seem low on this list, but my belief is we know what he is at this point. People who’re still waiting for his Travis Kelce-like breakout are misguided, though his strong blocking ability and spurts of playmaking prove he’s worthy of his role as the second tight end on the roster. The pairing of Higbee and Gerald Everett is fine, though Higbee’s price is likely to determine whether he’s a Ram next year.
Blythe is a fantastic offensive lineman who the Rams essentially got for free by a waiver claim. Blythe was paid pennies ($650k) last year, and his price doesn’t sky rocket this year either as he’s only owed $2m. Blythe stepped in as the starting right guard upon Jamon Brown’s suspension, and his play ensured he never relinquished the position. Blythe has a chance to prove his only season as a starter wasn’t a fluke, and if he does, the Rams could very well invest in his future.
Littleton’s first season as a starting inside linebacker went well. He’s not perfect, he’s got real weaknesses, though he also shown plenty of ability. Littleton’s sideline-to-sideline range, speed, and knack for making big plays are all positives. If Littleton can put together another solid campaign, he’s very likely to return as the leader of the defense in 2020.
GZ is one of the best kickers in the entire league. He’s consistent, he’s got unlimited range, and he’s got balls of platinum, never-mind steel. The only question for GZ is his recent injury history. Regardless, the Rams should have zero hesitation about extending the man known as Greg the Leg.
Aqib Talib has nothing left to prove in the NFL. Talib is likely going to be a hall of famer, though he’ll have a decision to make in 2020. The decision is whether he’s ready to hang it up or does he want to return for one more shot at a ring. The Rams would be wise to employ Talib until he’s ready for retirement.
Like Talib, Whit has absolutely nothing left to prove. Whit mulled retirement this offseason, though he ultimately chose to return for one more year to play out his contract. Whitworth retiring next year almost feels like a guarantee, though if he chose to return, the Rams are likely to have a spot for him.