Brace yourself for a list of free agents that will not excite you. That may also make it a more realistic group of players to consider for the LA Rams.
So long as the Rams restructure all of Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald, Matthew Stafford, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp, they might actually be able to retain a couple of their own and pick up the phone for two or three veterans who are willing to play for $4 million or less.
In 2019, this meant going after Eric Weddle and Clay Matthews and the results weren’t anywhere near what all sides were hoping for. But Weddle and Matthews were relied upon as starters and in some of the cases below the addition should only be considered as low-cost role players.
ProFootballFocus has a list of their top 200 free agents and I plucked four names out of it who are NOT in the top 100. That’s the only rule.
114. Justin Houston, Edge
It was two years ago that Houston hit free agency and was barely mentioned until signing a two-year, $20 million contract with the Colts. He responded with 11 sacks and 18 QB hits in his first year and another eight sacks in 2020. Houston didn’t miss a game with Indianapolis either.
Houston still flashes his ability, as he can get offensive tackles off-balanced with his length and good technique, but the days of accumulating 50-plus pressures in a season appear to be in the past. Even in the run game, Houston took a step back in 2020. On the other hand, Houston is just one year removed from an 87.1 overall grade while playing just over 40 plays per game, and he may have something to offer in a rotational role.
The Rams may have a rotational role opening up with Leonard Floyd hitting free agency and potentially pricing himself out of the range that LA is comfortable paying him. If Houston happens to be shopping for his best opportunity to win a Super Bowl and not to make a lot more money, maybe the Rams would interest him.
128. Darqueze Dennard, CB
When I spoke to Dave Choate from the Falcons blog on Pod-TST last week, we talked about a lot of secondary players who have a connection to Raheem Morris. One of those is Dennard, a former first round pick of the Bengals who’s never managed to win a permanent starting role in the NFL and most recently played in eight games for Atlanta with six starts.
Choate found that small sample size from Dennard to be promising, but he has missed 15 games in the last two years.
Primarily a slot corner, Dennard can play outside in a pinch but has allowed a 96.4 passer rating for his entire career and rarely makes plays on the football, with 18 pass breakups and four picks in seven seasons.
If the Rams lose Troy Hill, Dennard could potentially compete with David Long, Jr. and perhaps Terrell Burgess to play alongside Darious Williams and Ramsey. Of course, he hasn’t done anything to earn a raise from the one-year, $1 million deal he signed a year ago.
135. Rex Burkhead, RB
I understand why people would probably be compelled to replace Malcolm Brown with Xavier Jones or another cheap, young player, but the Rams are already starting a cheap young running back as is. And his backup is also fairly inexperienced. I don’t fall for the hype that the running back position isn’t worth investing experience into.
Neither do the Chiefs, who signed Le’Veon Bell. Neither do the Bucs, who signed LeSean McCoy. And neither does Bill Belichick, who relied heavily on Burkhead over the last four seasons in a role similar to what LA could use around the goal line.
He scored six touchdowns in 10 games last year prior to tearing his ACL.
I hope you properly tempered your expectations.
But Burkhead seems to be preparing to play next season and the 31-year-old back wouldn’t have to do much to prove his worth on whatever deal he signs.
138. Kenny Stills, WR
It is understandably difficult to get excited about Stills at this stage of his career but surprisingly he is only turning 29 this year. The NFL’s leader in yards per catch as a rookie with the Saints in 2013, Stills is coming off of the worst season of his career by far:
11 catches, 144 yards and one touchdown in 10 games.
Contract Analysis: Stills came along to Houston as a part of the Laremy Tunsil blockbuster and has since gotten lost in the shuffle in a deep wide receiver room. He can still be a productive deep threat when healthy, and you can’t teach speed. He ended the season on the Bills’ practice squad after getting waived by the Texans late in the year, and he’ll look to bounce back in 2021.
The Rams are expected to lose Josh Reynolds and one thing that might interest them is speed. Another thing is a veteran receiver who might cost no more than $2 million. Stills could fit in both of those categories. In 2019, Stills had 40 catches for 561 yards in 13 games, averaging 10.2 yards per target.