The LA Rams finished 9-7 in 2019 and it seemed to me as though most people prioritized the franchise’s number one “need” last offseason as “fixing the offensive line.” The team re-signed Andrew Whitworth and Austin Blythe, but didn’t do anything to mix up the names who’d be competing to start alongside those two and right tackle Rob Havenstein.
Instead, Sean McVay and Les Snead kept faith in the names that they acquired prior to 2019 — like Austin Corbett, David Edwards, Joseph Noteboom and Bobby Evans — and as it turns out, that was the correct decision.
The Rams didn’t draft an offensive lineman of note, only selecting Tremayne Anchrum in round seven. They didn’t acquire a project who was discarded by another team, as they did in 2019 with Corbett. They ignored how people like me perceived their “needs” and then came back with a much better offensive line anyway.
Then again, LA practically did nothing to address their opening at kicker last year and we saw how that went.
So let’s keep that in mind as I rundown every position they have and then put in order my own personal view of how crucial that “need” is to address this offseason. I’ll probably be wrong in a few areas.
How many areas will the Rams get wrong?
Needy (From most to least)
The first priority and position filled will be that of a new defensive coordinator now that Brandon Staley has left to become head coach of the LA Chargers. Sean McVay has now seen three former assistants get head coaching positions in the last three years, so there’s an expectation that he’ll be able to recruit the best of the best to replace Staley. However, a defensive coordinator “prospect” is no different than an NFL Draft prospect in that promising names can disappoint. So it will be an important decision.
Whether or not QB becomes a pressing “need” or not is up to McVay, but we know that the situation with Jared Goff remains open-ended for now. The Rams are not likely going to be able to draft a quarterback this year who experts would expect to become a starter right away given that LA doesn’t have a first rounder. Will they take one in round two? Will they sign or trade for a quarterback? Will they give John Wolford an opportunity to compete to start?
Austin Blythe is a free agent. Can the Rams afford to upgrade the position? I think center is an underrated spot on the offense and it is possible that the team wants to get even better there. Or that they’ll struggle to retain Blythe if a few other teams desperately want to upgrade their own center position. I think center could be a low-key position that comes in and becomes one of the team’s top priorities, whether that’s a day two draft pick or a free agent signing. Or they could convince Blythe to return.
The Rams lost Dante Fowler, Jr in 2020 (but should receive a third round compensatory pick for it) and replaced him with Leonard Floyd, who had 10.5 sacks and 19 QB hits. I think letting Floyd walk is an acceptable risk and it may also come with another early compensatory pick in 2022. The team drafted Terrell Lewis in the third round because he slipped due to injury concerns — and those concerns were founded in his rookie season. Will Ogbonnia Okoronkwo or Justin Hollins be able to fill Floyd’s void? Or is it an offseason priority again? I’m afraid that counting on Lewis could lead to a disappointing result.
LA re-signed Michael Brockers and he played in 61% of the snaps, but Morgan Fox slid into the mix with 39% of the snaps and six sacks. Fox is a free agent who seems like he could get better money elsewhere, so where do the Rams turn to replace him? Late season pickup Derek Rivers is also a free agent.
Josh Reynolds is a free agent. Who will be the Rams deep threat? Is Van Jefferson going to pan out as a quality NFL regular? That wasn’t proven in his first season. LA has two quality starters, but Cooper Kupp hasn’t been a stranger to the inactive list.
Gerald Everett is a free agent and Tyler Higbee doesn’t seem to have any more “ceiling” left. This is what Higbee seems to be, which isn’t going to take much pressure off of Goff, Kupp, Akers or Robert Woods. Fourth round pick Brycen Hopkins played not-at-all this year.
If the Rams re-sign restricted free agent Darious Williams, which they will, then they’ll have two starting cornerbacks of note. Perhaps the best tandem in the NFL right now because of Jalen Ramsey. But Troy Hill is a free agent and little is known about 2019 third round pick David Long, Jr. If LA keeps Hill, then this position seems set.
Cam Akers has come out of the gate as an exciting player that McVay can form his offense around next season. But both Akers and Darrell Henderson dealt with injury issues in 2020 and Malcolm Brown is a free agent. At the very least, the Rams need a “Malcolm Brown type” on a rookie type salary. At most, they want another running back fully capable of starting in case Akers gets injured.
With Andrew Whitworth nearing 40 — but ready to return next season anyway — the Rams must still consider the future of the left tackle position at any given moment. Even if they liked what they saw from Joseph Noteboom at left tackle this year, Noteboom isn’t signed past 2021. I wouldn’t put tackle as a high priority for 2021, but given the importance of the position, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the top draft pick invested into it.
Jake McQuaide is a free agent, so the Rams will need to do something about that.
What impact does John Johnson really have on the defense? We know that he’s not one of the two biggest stars, but he could be the third-biggest and he was also quarterbacking that side of the ball. Johnson is a free agent, which could become an issue for the Rams next season if he leaves. However, by drafting Terrell Burgess and Jordan Fuller in 2020, plus Taylor Rapp in 2019, safety doesn’t seem like it should be a “need” in 2021.
Austin Corbett made some mistakes this year, but overall the play there was much improved. David Edwards slotted in nicely at left guard. Last year, there was a lot made about upgrading the interior offensive line and yet the Rams opted to fix those issues internally. And things turned out fine! Better than fine. Long term, is LA going to commit to Corbett with an extension this year?
With Micah Kiser, Troy Reeder, and Kenny Young returning, plus Travin Howard as an ERFA likely to return, this is not an expected offseason need.
Interior Defensive Line
If we’re counting Aaron Donald among them, they’ve also got A’Shawn Robinson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Greg Gaines. Seems like enough.
What is the Rams’ greatest position need in 2021?
This poll is closed