We know what the Los Angeles Rams needed as of Friday morning: 2021 salary cap space. But that will take care of itself soon enough. What do the Rams need — or don’t need — that we can’t reliably predict will happen at this moment?
I have a few thoughts on that.
What I think the Rams need: A difficult conversation about their tackles
With the Chiefs releasing Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz this week, it emphasized how deep this free agent class of tackles is going to be. Are any of the options going to be upgrades over the Andrew Whitworth that we’ve come to know over most of the last four seasons? Are there going to be right tackles that move the needle significantly more than Rob Havenstein?
Probably not. But at $11.1 million for Whitworth and $8.3 million for Havenstein, the Rams have to ask if they’re getting solid value for that $19.4 million in cap space when the market might dictate that they could get an adequate replacement for either. Or that Joseph Noteboom could do the job at left tackle well enough. Or that LA might have an opportunity to upgrade on the right side if Schwartz, a native of Pacific Palisades, is interested in moving back to Southern California.
I think that the Rams will do well with Whitworth and Havenstein as their tackles next season, but it’s not a question of whether or not those players are adequate. It’s a conversation about whether or not the alternative to either would be overall better for the team.
What I don’t think the Rams need: An overreaction at guard and/or center
Conversely, the Rams seem to have their biggest needs on the interior of the offensive line: Austin Blythe is a free agent, while Jamil Demby and Brian Allen “headline” concerning interior depth among veterans. However, Austin Corbett and David Edwards represent two quality pieces to place on the inside, while 2020 seventh rounder Tremayne Anchrum may have earned an opportunity to compete to start given recent comments by Les Snead.
Snead also spoke highly of Chandler Brewer, who opted out of the 2020 season and will return next season.
Adding up the players that they do have, even without re-signing Blythe, the Rams could find three interior starters among Edwards, Corbett, Anchrum, Noteboom, Shelton, and Bobby Evans. But they could also draft a center or guard on day two and I think that player would most likely be placed in a position, like Anchrum, to sit and wait for his chance. I wouldn’t expect LA to draft an offensive lineman who is expected to contribute significant snaps in 2020, however.
What I think the Rams need: To test the market of one-year veterans
LA is in the perfect position at the perfect time to be selling their 2021 chances to prospective free agents. Because the salary cap is taking such a major hit this year, players are expected to be favoring one-year contracts that will allow them to test the market in 2022, and teams are expected to be able to get creative with how they’ll be able to afford them by spreading the hit over several seasons.
The Rams won’t have the most money to spend, but I expect them to be able to free up enough millions to take advantage of this moment. That moment being that the Rams:
- Have Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, and Jalen Ramsey
- Play in the stadium that will be hosting the next Super Bowl
- Have made the most obvious statement to the other 31 teams that they’re going for it
- Have a head coach who is still one of the most respected in the game
- Have a defensive coordinator who is one of the most respected assistants in the game
- Have consistently helped players become more valuable after they joined the Rams
Building off of that final point, consider the two most recent cases of Dante Fowler and Leonard Floyd. Both have experienced new highs while playing alongside Donald. Morgan Fox has felt the same and will also get paid. LA is a fantastic option as a one-year destination and there is an interesting market of veterans hitting free agency because of that lowered cap.
What I don’t think the Rams need: Leonard Floyd’s next contract
I’m sure that the Rams aren’t offering enough to keep Floyd from testing free agency. If they are offering him enough for that to happen, I would think that is a mistake.
Floyd was inconsistent as a pass rusher and what positive qualities he does bring to a defense — run defense, veteran experience at a position lacking that for LA — probably won’t be worth whatever he’ll receive based on a 10.5-sack season.
What I think the Rams need: A clear number one receiver — between Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp
Similar to the difficult conversation about tackles, I think that Snead and Sean McVay must come to a decision on not only who their top two receivers will be in 2021, but who it will be in 2022. Both Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods signed extensions last year and they’ll probably need one of those players to restructure, further tying him to the club. We could debate endlessly about which receiver is actually more valuable to the team over the next 2-3 years, but ultimately I’m not sure that it can be both.
Once the Rams know which receiver they prefer (and obviously, I’m sure they already do, but we don’t exactly know — and that decision could come down to Stafford) then they know which receiver is expendable. And as difficult as that conversation would be, LA could gain a lot from knowing which receiver they could potentially trade at some point. Or which one might be the first to get his release.
Not that they need to rush into it or that it needs to happen this year.
What I think the Rams need: A clear number three pass-catcher
So once the Rams know who their number one is, then they’ll need to figure out who the number three is. I don’t think they can rely on it being a player who is already on the roster — even if it does become true that Van Jefferson or Brycen Hopkins or Trishton Jackson are diamonds waiting for their moment on the ring.
As said earlier with veterans, the Rams should be in an envious position while competing for free agent receivers and tight ends. They have the quarterback, they have the running back, they have the offensive line (probably), they have the coaches, they have other weapons who can free up a third receiver for opportunities. It should be attractive to prospective receivers and tight ends and I won’t be surprised if LA’s biggest offseason acquisition is a number three receiver.