While we could easily speculate that the Los Angeles Rams would lose a number of key players in the offseason, we now have a pretty good idea of where the roster will stand going into the NFL draft this year.
We know that Andrew Whitworth and Austin Blythe were re-signed but that the offensive line still has concerns, perhaps even related to those signings.
We know that Cory Littleton and Dante Fowler both signed with other teams, while Leonard Floyd replaced Fowler and John Johnson can return to replace the retired Eric Weddle.
We know that Michael Brockers is gone too and he also has a direct swap replacement: A’Shawn Robinson.
Finally, free agent speculation turns to NFL draft rosterbation. The Rams hold no first round pick but pick 52nd, 84th, and 104th on day two. Sean McVay and Les Snead may feel comfortable to move forward with their replacements for Fowler and Brockers, but what about elsewhere?
Nothing would be finer than improving the o-liner.
When the Rams really exploded on offense in 2017 and 2018, much credit was due to the play of the offensive line, especially from additions Andrew Whitworth at left tackle and John Sullivan at center. But they parted with Sullivan and Rodger Saffold in 2019, the play of Blythe, Rob Havenstein, and even Whitworth fell off in the season thereafter. The team signed Whitworth to a new three-year deal but he’ll be 39 in December as the “Tom Brady of tackles.”
Let’s hope he plays better in 2020 than Brady played in 2019.
The team is hoping that Whitworth, Blythe, and Havenstein all rebound while searching for hopeful progress from Bobby Evans, David Edwards, Brian Allen, Austin Corbett, Joseph Noteboom, Jamil Demby, or anyone else. Despite using third round picks in ‘18 and ‘19 on offensive line, they might be best served to do it again in ‘20. The succession plan for Whitworth is unknown, if it’s even in place at all, especially given Havenstein’s disappointing campaign at right tackle.
Once Joe Thuney and Brandon Scherff got the franchise tags it became improbable for the Rams, or any team, to make a big move at guard in free agency. Once Ereck Flowers got $30 million, you knew it was best to probably stay out of it anyway.
As of this posting, Greg Zuerlein remains a free agent. So as of this posting, the Rams have no kicker. It may not be their highest priority in the draft but if LA doesn’t re-sign Zuerlein or acquire another obvious starter, clearly kicker is a position to address. The money saved by releasing Gurley could potentially be open up now for Zuerlein to re-sign.
And pretty much a linebacker of any ilk at this point. The main missing piece here of course is Littleton and it’s hard to say if the replacement may benefit from his surroundings to show out even better than expected. Could Micah Kiser or Travin Howard or Kenny Young look really good — 130 tackles, 3 sacks, an interception — if given 1,000 snaps at inside linebacker, as Littleton was given?
That may be an answer of yes that McVay is banking on as they didn’t want to pay an inside linebacker eight figures.
LA currently has Floyd, Kiser, Young, Samson Ebukam, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Howard, Jachai Polite, Josh Carraway, Jeff Holland, and Troy Reeder. Maybe a speedy linebacker or a pass rusher with a red flag falls to them at 52 and that’s the direction to go but I could also see it being a low priority and rolling the dice with this group and some low-cost additions.
The team also parted with Nickell Robey-Coleman but are still left with Jalen Ramsey and Troy Hill. There’s David Long, a third round pick in 2019, Darious Williams, Adonis Alexander, and Donte Deayon as well. It seems safe to assume that at least one of their picks will be used on a cornerback, maybe someone who specializes in the slot. It is not as difficult to find a starting slot player on day two or three as it is someone who matches up on the outside.
They did release Gurley but this should be one of the easier positions to address for next season. Darrell Henderson is presumed to be the main guy and as a third round pick last year, he probably should be given that opportunity. Malcolm Brown is still on the roster too, as is John Kelly. Available free agents include Devonta Freeman, Carlos Hyde, and ... Marshawn Lynch. But that pool of available backs will only grow over the offseason and at final cuts. Trades too.
That doesn’t mean that the Rams won’t address running back in the draft though and if they really loved one at pick 52, whose to say that Snead wouldn’t make that move? He didn’t mind taking Gurley at 10.
Knowing that the team could hit a breaking point with Cooks and that they’re facing a future of three very expensive wide receivers if they don’t break them up at some point, it’s feasible that LA wouldn’t pass on a quality player at this position, especially in this loaded draft class.
The starters should be set but the depth isn’t where it needs to be and Johnson will be attempting to return from an injury already. A safety would make sense, perhaps later on day three.
More Defensive Line
I like where the Rams stand with Aaron Donald, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Robinson, Morgan Fox, Greg Gaines, Tanzel Smart, and Marquise Copeland. But adding another wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.
Well, the current backup is John Wolford. Maybe that works out or they sign someone else or bring back Blake Bortles but for now, a development QB isn’t off the board.