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LA Rams free agency: Who stays and who goes?

Tough decisions face Les Snead and Sean McVay

LA Rams Arizona Cardinals NFL Playoffs Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Team continuity and filling needs are invaluable to keeping a winning team on top. Los Angeles Rams General Manager Les Snead and Head Coach Sean McVay have done a stellar job of keeping productive players, anticipating team needs, and adding players that mesh into the scheme.

As each season winds down, tough decisions on which players to re-sign must be made. After determining how much cap space the team can has available, the Rams front office and coaching staff need to juggle the differing categories of free agency, where the individual players fit into those categories, and place importance on each re-signing.

Free agency categories

According to NFL Operations, these are the categories of free agents:

#1 Exclusive rights free agent- A player with less than three accrued seasons in the NFL. Player is bound to his team and is normally signed for the league minimum. If the Rams offer a minimum contract, the player has to accept or sit out the season.

#2 Restricted free agent- For players with three accrued seasons only. The Rams submit an offer and the player gets to negotiate all other teams for his best deal. LA then gets the final decision to match another teams offer under these standards:

  • The right of first refusal at a salary of $2.1 mil.
  • An original round drafted tender at a salary of $2.2 mil or the Rams would receive a compensatory draft pick equal to the players original draft slot.
  • A second round tender at a salary of $3.4 mil or the Rams would receive a compensatory 2nd round pick.
  • A first round tender at a salary of $4.8 mil or the Rams would receive a compensatory 1st round pick

#3 Unrestricted free agent- A player with four accrued seasons and can negotiate and sign with any team. There is a formula for the compensation of lost free agents.

Who are the LA Rams 2022 free agents and who should be re-signed?

QB John Wolford (ERFA)- Will the Rams value two backup QB’s enough to ink Wolford? It’s only the minimum, but In a tight cap situation, Bryce Perkins is already under contract.

RB Sony Michel (UFA)- LA has got their $2.4 mil’s worth out of Michel. There is no telling how much the Rams running game would have struggled without him. An NFL RB’s life-cycle is short and he will surely want to be paid. While Michel’s all-round skills should be appreciated, his battering ram style of running doesn’t truly mesh with Sean McVay’s zone running game concepts and there are a grip of backs in the draft who can offer value at a big price discount.

RB Buddy Howell (UFA)- A bottom quarter of the roster player whose value as a special teamer is easily replaced.

WR Odell Beckham Jr (UFA)- A true NFL game-breaker, every attempt to re-sign him should be made and if he comes in around $15 mil, it’s a total steal. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are excellent players and a flawless fit into the Rams offensive scheme, but OBJ is a special talent.

NFL: NFC Wild Card Playoffs-Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

WR Brandon Powell (UFA)- Another player who was a great mid-season pick up. He can certainly offer value as a punt returner and his ticket back will be predicated on the growth/emergence of Tutu Atwell and whether or not other teams teams value his skill set. Probably cost prohibitive at $1 mil +.

TE Johnny Mundt (UFA)- The Rams keep bringing him back but in 2022 he will be set for a raise. His 10-15 offensive snaps per game are not worth $1 mil.

OL Austin Corbett (UFA)- A solid, but not special performer. If other teams don’t run up the price past $7 mil, then he should re-upped.

OL Joseph Noteboom (UFA)- It would seem that the Rams have to decide whether to squeeze another year out of Andrew Whitworth or give the position to Noteboom. Paying out $4-5 mil for a swing tackle shouldn’t be out of the question, but in the Rams current financial situation, it may boil down to him or Whit.

C’s Brian Allen (UFA) and Coleman Shelton (RFA)- Shelton actually had the higher salary in 2021. The Rams wouldn’t cough up $900.00 for Austin Blythe, a decent and versatile interior player, Shelton has not shown he is any better. Hopefully Allen will repay the loyalty that LA showed him and sign a “prove it” contract. I cannot see a realistic scenario for the Rams to upgrade on Allen, if he comes back at $2 mil.

OL Jamil Demby (RFA)- No reason to consider his return.

K Matt Gay (RFA)- If he can’t be signed to a multi-year contract, Gay would be worth a 2nd round tender. He has really stepped in and stabilized the Rams place kicking game. Kicker salaries have shot up and paying Gay $3.4 mil is fair to both sides.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

DL Sebastian Joseph-Day (UFA)- His injury may scare off potential suitors, so the Rams may be able to get him back at a good price. He is still in line for a nice pay raise in any case. Joseph-Day has been a value at $660,000, but coming off of a major injury, the Rams should be conservative.

E Von Miller (UFA)- Just cannot see how the Rams can afford him unless he wants to stay in LA and signs an extraordinarily team-friendly deal. At this point in their respective careers, I would rather see LA sign OBJ. He would add the most value.

E Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (UFA)- His flashes are not enough to make bringing him back a priority.

LB’s Troy Reeder (RFA) and Travin Howard (RFA)- Both are tweeners, they add value on special teams and as backup/situational players. Let them become free agents and try to sign them around the league minimum, 900k each.

CB Darious Williams (UFA)- Lots of struggles this year, not sure if he’s a bad scheme fit or he’s at his ceiling. One possible scenario is another team offering him a pile of cash and the Rams getting a nice compensatory pick but one I like best is the Rams signing him to a “show me” contract and moving to a more aggressive coverage scheme that plays to his strength.

CB Dont’e Deayon (UFA)- I guess he’s a fan favorite, but he lets opposing WR’s run right past him too often. David Long Jr. is already on contract for 2022, this position needs some new blood.

So, to wrap it, WR OBJ, G Corbett, T Noteboom, and K Gay are the “must haves”. C Allen, DL Joseph-Day, ILB Reeder, and ILB Howard are contributors that may offer contactual value. The others are luxury items or are easily replaced.

What do fans think?

Without much cap space and plenty of holes to fill, particularly on the offensive line and the defensive secondary, which free agents should Les Snead and Sean McVay prioritize bringing back, if any? Is it time for a rebuild?