The Los Angeles Rams have yet to announce any offseason moves (releases, trades, extensions, re-signings, etc), as do most teams. With that being the case, projecting how much cap space the Rams will operate with to begin this offseason is tough, in turn making any free agency predictions incredibly tough to pinpoint.
The predictions and specific free agency targets will be easier to predict in a few weeks time, once the Rams begin to make decisions. With so many players scheduled to reach the open free agent market, one could make the case that the Rams could add a player at any positional group outside of quarterback, running back, or wide receiver.
I’ve scanned the entire free agency market, picking the most intriguing names and sorting them by pricing tiers from the low budget tier ($0 - $2.5m APY), the mid-tier ($2.5m - $9m APY), and the expensive tier ($9m+ APY).
Without knowing who the Rams intend to re-sign/move on from — and prior to teams cutting players (which will surely add more names to the list) — here is the current wish list:
Expensive (9M+ APY):
Obviously, as it stands, the Rams would be incredibly hard-pressed in attempting to add any of the names in the expensive tier. With only $20m in cap space currently, adding any one of these names would eat majority of the available space. The only way any of the names above become a potentially realistic option is if the Rams begin to create hoards of cap space, which they have the ability to execute if that’s their route of choice.
Scherff is a former top-five pick and three-time pro bowler with 65 career starts to his name. He’s one of the best guards in football when healthy. Thuney is a former third-round pick who’s started 16 games in four consecutive seasons, improving significantly each year. Thuney is a borderline pro bowl talent and a two-time Super Bowl champion, as well as a second-team All-Pro. Castonzo is a former first-round pick with 132 starts spanning nine NFL seasons. The veteran has become one of the most productive and consistent pass-protecting left tackles in football. Hargrave is the last name on the list, and is the least intriguing and immediate need of the bunch. Still, the interior defensive lineman has developed into a stud run stuffer and offers some juice as a pass rusher.
Mid-Tier (2.5-9M APY):
Houston Texans iDL D.J. Reader
Detroit Lions iDL A’Shawn Robinson
Detroit Lions iDL Mike Daniels
Baltimore Ravens iDL Michael Pierce
New England Patriots iDL Danny Shelton
Indianapolis Colts EDGE Jabaal Sheard
New York Giants EDGE Markus Golden
Buffalo Bills EDGE Shaq Lawson
Denver Broncos iOL Connor McGovern
Buffalo Bills iOL Quinton Spain
The mid-tier list harbors the best combination of the most intriguing and potentially realistic names. As you can see, I listed a boatload of options, ranging from the interior of the defensive line, to the edge rusher spot, to the offensive line.
If the Rams lose veteran DT Michael Brockers to free agency, they could elect to replace him with another veteran option in free agency, which there happens to be plenty of. Reader is the most likely to demand a big contract. I wrestled with putting him in the expensive tier, but ultimately landed him on this section.
After Reader, Shelton and Pierce offer the biggest run-stuffing bodies at nose tackle, a position Brockers didn’t even fill, though both could arguably kick outside to the vacated 5-technique spot.
Robinson is an up-and-comer who offers a ton of run-stuffing ability, but not much else. The last interior DL name on the list is arguably the most intriguing in Daniels. Daniels was a surprise cut by the Green Bay Packers last year prior to the start of the season, eventually latching on with the Detroit Lions (simply due to the fact that he wanted to oppose the Packers twice). Daniels ultimately struggled to stay healthy, playing in only nine games, starting only two, and playing only 204 total snaps. When healthy, Daniels is one of the best defensive lineman in football, offering a strong ability to penetrate at will and dominates interior offensive lineman with his powerful bull rush in pass rushing situations. Daniels made $8m last year and is coming off a down year, potentially presenting the Rams — or other NFL teams — an opportunity to sign an aging veteran looking to rehab his value on a cheaper one-year deal.
The edge options are strictly listed due to the impending free agent status of EDGE Dante Fowler Jr. Fowler erupted to the tune of 35 pressures and 11.5 sacks in 2019, all but pricing himself out of the Rams’ range. If that is the case, the Rams could look to replace him with one of the names listed here.
Golden has had an inconsistent career, but like Fowler, he erupted for a strong campaign in 2019, totaling 10 sacks and 44 pressures. Golden signed with the Giants for a cheap one-year $3.75m deal last year, though he’s likely in search for a long-term deal after proving himself once again.
Lawson was a former first-round pick who disappointed in his first three seasons, though he took a step forward this past year totaling 28 pressures and 6.5 sacks. Lawson is a much better fit with his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 defense, proven by his statistical improvement.
The last edge option is Sheard, a long-time and consistent yet unspectacular veteran. Sheard hasn’t topped 5.5 sacks in a season since 2015, but has been a factor in creating pressure off the edge. Sheard is coming off a down season, totaling only 20 pressures and 4.5 sacks. Both figures may be enough of a factor for the Rams to add a talented player like Sheard at a cheaper-than-usual price tag.
The last two options are the offensive lineman. There may not be a more intriguing name on this entire list than McGovern, the former Broncos center. McGovern has steadily improved over the course of his four-year career. In 2019, McGovern was flagged for zero penalties on the season and registered a 71.9 PFF grade. Not only would he offer a significant upgrade in the middle of the offensive line, but there is a connection there with newly-hired Defensive Coordinator Brandon Staley.
Spain is the other OL name in the middle tier. A former undrafted free agent, Spain settled for a one-year $2.050m deal with the Bills after starting 48 games for the Tennessee Titans. Spain isn’t a world-beater, but he offers a veteran option for what is likely going to be a decent price at a position the Rams currently lack (left guard).
Low-Budget (0-2.5M APY):
Now we reach the bargain bin of available free agents. There aren’t any actual superstar names here (obviously), but some of these guys could certainly come in and contribute if needed.
Thomas is an option for the Rams if they aren’t able to re-sign ILB Cory Littleton, though it would obviously result in a noticeable downgrade. Covington — coming from the same team — would offer a rotational body at the base defensive end (5-technique) spot in the event that Brockers leaves.
The remaining names all address the same spot: the edge position. McPhee and Means are two veterans that I’ve been high on in the past, and would welcome as rotation guys at the edge spot. Neither is likely to play a ton of snaps or start, but both offer some juice, most notably Means. Only one thing to note: Means is recovering from a torn Achilles that he suffered in May of 2019.
Clayborn is the most established name on this list, and would offer a tweener of a body between edge and 5-technique. He isn’t the player he once was, but he still offers some noticeable juice from time-to-time and has the most decorated career from the inexpensive list.
This is my current wish list of potential free agent options sorted by estimated price range. The list is going to expand with roster transactions on the horizon in the coming weeks. Look out for an updated list, and feel free to share your thoughts or players you’re interested in.