The 2020 NFL Offseason is fully underway as we kickoff the beginning of the NFL Scouting Combine today. The Los Angeles Rams are one of many teams who have a litany of options heading into this offseason, ranging from the coaching staff changes, to roster management, and everything in between.
Let’s get right into the questions that surround the Rams this offseason, and how the answers to those questions will affect their decision making moving forward.
Is RB Todd Gurley the guy moving forward?
Much has been made about the questions surrounding Gurley’s status moving forward, and though we don’t have any clarity on that situation yet, NFL Networks Ian Rapaport reported the Rams and Gurley would meet to discuss his future with the team, usage, and plan moving forward. Now, the report was quite vague and didn’t predict or suggest anything, so we’re still grasping at straws.
Regardless, the Rams need to decide what the plan at running back is. Gurley had the second-worst season of his five-year career in 2019, totaling only 857 rushing yards for an average of 3.8 yards-per-carry and a total of 1,064 yards from scrimmage. Gurley’s usage was scaled back considerably, as he totaled 61 less touches (even with one more game played) this past season, likely due to the issues surrounding the health of his knee.
Moving on from Gurley is a tough endeavor for the Rams to execute this offseason, because cutting him isn’t an option (-$2.9m saved) and trading him ($4.65m saved) wont be an easy task to pull off. If the Rams do decide they are ready to advance with third-round pick Darrell Henderson at RB, they may decide to “sweeten the pot” by attaching a potential asset to Gurley, in hopes of finding a trade partner.
Either way, the Rams need to decide what the plan is here. The choices are to have Gurley return and build a timeshare between he and Henderson next season, or to find a way to move the expensive contract by shipping Gurley off elsewhere and proceeding with Henderson and Malcolm Brown in the backfield, while using the saved cap space to improve the team elswhere.
Who is the choice at right tackle: Rob Havenstein or Bobby Evans?
This question is arguably the most interesting in my opinion, simply due to the fact that there is validity and a realistic component to both sides of the question.
A former second-round pick, Havenstein has developed into a very good right tackle throughout his five NFL seasons. Over those years, Havenstein registered 68 starts and 4,343 snaps total offensive snaps. 2019 did not go as planned for Big Hav, playing in only nine games, registering eight total penalties (up from three in 2018), and seeing his performance take a sharp decline.
The situation isn’t all bad.
Big Hav is still under contract for three more seasons, all of which come at a very fair price. Not only does he have financial security, but Havenstein is still only 27-years-old, has a bevy of good NFL tape, and has all the talent needed to succeed.
With the 2019 offensive line struggling with injuries, the Rams didn’t have much of a choice other than to start rookie Bobby Evans at right tackle. Evans was a revelation, securing the starting RT spot even when Havenstein returned to health. Now, Evans did receive plenty of help by way of TE/RB chips, sliding protections, and overall gameplans, but his play was still impressive and was a factor in the turnaround in performance for the Rams’ offense.
The Rams now need to decide which guy they want to move forward with to protect QB Jared Goff’s frontside. Havenstein is the superior player and talent, though the Rams may believe that the difference in money isn’t significant enough to continue to start Havenstein and leave Evans on the bench.
If the Rams do elect to trade Big Hav, they’d save $5.4m in cap space, and would likely recoup a significant day two draft selection for a good player in an offensive line-starved league.
How active do the Rams plan to be in the free agency market?
The answer to this question will help craft the remainder of the offseason. If the Rams do anticipate on being active in free agency (whether that means re-signing their own guys or others), they’ll obviously need to open up cap space. Currently, the Rams have only $20m in cap space and a bevy of guys slated to reach free agency in a few weeks.
The good news is the Rams have plenty of ways to open up a lot of cap space. At the top of the list is restructuring the contracts of either Goff or DT Aaron Donald. If that isn’t enough to help supplement the team, potential trades of TE Tyler Higbee, Havenstein, and/or Gurley could come into play.
What are the schemes going to look like on all three phases of the game?
Not only will the roster change significantly moving forward for the Rams, but the coaching staff also had some major shakeups. The Rams hired Offensive Coordinator Kevin O’Connell, Defensive Coordinator Brandon Staley, and Special Teams Coordinator John Bonamego.
With so much movement on the coaching level, we really aren’t sure what to expect from the team moving forward as it pertains to schemes. What little we do know is that Head Coach Sean McVay will remain the offensive playcaller, though O’Connell will help design gameplans during the week. Staley is more of a darkhorse, though we do know he said he preferred the 3-4 defense and that would continue to be the base defense the Rams deploy, in addition to adding the same schematics as Denver Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio. Next to nothing is known about Bonamego or what he plans with his special teams units, but the Rams have been notorious as “risk takers” and trick-play innovators on ST’s under former Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel. Will that continue?
These are the four major questions surrounding the Rams as they look to maneuver their way throughout this offseason. Answering these questions will firmly mold the plan to attack the offseason. Now we wait for the first domino to fall.