Now that majority of the offseason has passed, we can take a look at the totality of the plan for the 2019 offseason put together by General Manager Les Snead and company.
With many moves being made (both adding/subtracting guys, the draft, etc), we can assign the importance of every move in terms of the 2019 season.
Let’s jump right into it:
19. Letting LG Rodger Saffold walk in free agency
I disliked this move when it happened, and still do. Saffold was a stalwart on the Rams’ offensive line, and losing an elite protector is never a positive. The worst part of the loss of Saffold was that he was lost over a very fair four-year $44m contract.
18. Letting DT Ndamukong Suh walk in free agency
Another walk, Suh was just signed a few days ago by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the release of long-time DT Gerald McCoy. Suh was thought to be a one-year rental when he signed with the Rams, and unfortunately that turned out to be true.
17. Re-signing Edge Dante Fowler Jr. to a one-year contract
I didn’t hate the idea of bring Fowler back, but the price was simply too high. Fowler — who has played on an almost exactly identical level as fellow free agent pass rusher Shaq Barrett — is going to get paid $8-10m more than Barrett in 2019. Fowler simply isn’t a $12-14m player, though the Rams were clearly desperate when it came to the edge position.
16. Signing Edge Clay Matthews to a two-year contract in free agency
This move was rather “boring”, though it could turn out to be a decent addition if all things workout as planned. Matthews’ deal is a two-year $9.25m contract, though that number can skyrocket to $16.75m by way of incentives. Matthews simply isn’t the same player he once was, but he’s still a definite upgrade over former starter Samson Ebukam.
15. Declining C John Sullivan’s option
Letting Sully walk saved the Rams $5.25m, though the move means a veteran is replaced by essentially a redshirted rookie. Brian Allen has the chance to step in and replace Sully, though it’ll be tough for a young guy to recreate the experience of a 125-game starter.
14. Cutting S Blake Countess
Countess was a mainstay on the Rams’ special teams units, though the additions of Eric Weddle and Taylor Rapp ensured he was no longer needed. Countess will bring value to his new team (Philadelphia Eagles), but his time ran out in horns.
13. Drafting OL Bobby Evans with the 97th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft
Evans may or may not be a good player. What he will be is the sixth offensive lineman and the first backup to be called upon in case of injury. Evans will prove to have plenty of value in 2019 as he could very well see the field in jumbo lineups, or by way of injury.
12. Matching RB Malcolm Brown’s offer sheet from Detroit Lions
The Lions offered Brown a two-year $3.25m when he was tendered at the original round level. The Rams decided to match the offer sheet, meaning Brown returned to the Rams. The amount of money is very minimal, and Brown has plenty of experience in this system. His return is a positive move.
11. Letting RB C.J. Anderson walk
The Lions ended up signing Anderson after the Rams matched the offer sheet for Malcolm Brown, and I had no issues with letting CJA walk. Anderson was a major spark for the Rams in 2018, though they had a clear plan to lessen Todd Gurley’s workload moving forward, and CJA wasn’t a part of it.
10. Drafting Greg Gaines with the 134th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft
Gaines immediately steps in as the Rams’ starting nose tackle, and he’s not likely to have much legit competition on the roster. Gaines’ ability to stuff the run will immediately improve the run defense, and his role ensures a healthy amount of playing time in 2019.
9. Drafting S Taylor Rapp with the 61st pick in the 2019 NFL Draft
Rapp probably isn’t going to have a massive impact in 2019, though he’ll likely be an impact player every time he does touch the field. Rapp will likely see a handful of snaps on defense, coupled with as much as he can absorb on special teams. The duo of Marqui Christian and Blake Countess logged 400 defensive snaps in 2018, meaning playing time will present itself for Rapp.
8. Letting S Lamarcus Joyner Walk
Joyner was not good in 2018, it’s really that simple. The Rams were not going to pay him after the season he had, so it was best to let him move on. The Oakland Raiders also paid an astronomically high amount in the average of $10.5m per year over four years.
7. Cutting ILB Mark Barron
Barron hasn’t been healthy in years, and it showed when he was on the field. Not only that, but his contract suggested he was one of the best linebackers in the NFL, and he simply wasn’t. The Rams saved $7.6m on the cap by letting Barron go.
6. Placing second-round restricted free agent tender on ILB Cory Littleton
Littleton was going to be back regardless, though the selection of the tender was the cherry on top. The Rams could have panicked and placed a first-round tender on Littleton, though the difference was roughly $2m in cap space. Knowing the chances were low of a team sacrificing a second-round pick as well as a contract, the Rams made a fantastic decision by only placing a second-round tender on their defensive captain.
5. Letting QB Sean Mannion Walk
Uhmmmm, yeah. Mannion was very bad. This was easy.
4. Signing QB Blake Bortles
After letting one of the worst backup QB’s in the NFL walk, the Rams replaced Mannion with one of the best in Bortles. Not only that, but they got Bortles inked on a one-year $1m contract. Not many teams can say their backup quarterback started in a conference championship game.
3. Accepting 5th-year option on CB Marcus Peters
This move was a no-brainer, though it was still a solid one. Peters’ first season with the Rams was a strange one as the first half of the season was very bad, though the second half/playoffs was a complete turnaround. Peters will be paid a touch under $9.1m on the option in 2019, buying the Rams another year of time to evaluate Peters’ fit in Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense.
2. Drafting RB Darrell Henderson with the 70th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft
I cannot overstate how much I like this move. It’s a demonstration of a fantastic move for a multitude of reasons. First, it means Todd Gurley can decrease his workload with little to no drop-off in production in the run game. Second, the Rams didn’t invest in a running back with a very high pick. Third, Henderson is the perfect zone-scheme running back, and the Rams deploy outside zone runs more than any other NFL team.
1. Signing S Eric Weddle to a two-year contract
Weddle steps in as the starting safety next to John Johnson III, forming a fantastic duo on the backend for at least one season (likely two). Weddle is a potential future hall-of-famer who has the versatility to rotate with JJ3 in a multitude of roles. Moving on from Joyner to Weddle was a massive upgrade.