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9 burning questions facing the Rams on brink of 2022 NFL free agency

The Super Bowl champions, like every other team, must figure out how to build a Super Bowl roster for next season

Super Bowl LVI - Los Angele Rams v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The last week of the NFL news cycle proves once again that sometimes bigger headlines are made during the offseason than when the games are being played. Usually, the Los Angeles Rams find themselves in the thick of those transactions, but as the reigning Super Bowl champions and with a salary cap hole they’ve yet to climb out of, Les Snead has kept quiet thus far in the process.

Just wait until free agency opens on Tuesday. The Rams, directly or by way of losing a key name to another team, will provide plenty of headlines for you to read.

There’s so much work left to do for Snead to rebuild, reconstruct, and refortify his championship roster. And at least nine questions we’re all asking as we come to the brink of another free agency/trade/cap casualty cycle.

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Is Andrew Whitworth going to retire?

He hasn’t stopped working out with his teammates.

But if Whitworth doesn’t retire or renegotiate his contract, he creates a complicated and potentially awkward decision for Snead on whether or not to release him. The 40-year-old left tackle has an $18.6 million cap hit in 2022 and while that would be a steal for a 36-year-old Whitworth, the $16 million in savings if released is probably too much for L.A. to pass up right now.

In some ways it is just as weird to expect Whitworth to retire as it is to expect him to return. Most of us assumed this is a formality. One month after winning the Super Bowl, he hasn’t given any indication to what he’s going to do.

What are Von Miller and OBJ going to do?

Worthy Super Bowl rentals or necessary keys to a dynasty?

Their situations are fairly unique. Miller is older, but more attractive on the market because of his all-around performance last season and he’s not currently injured. He also has given Rams fans plenty of reason to believe he’ll go back to the Denver Broncos, while also hinting that he’s trying to figure something out with L.A. first.

Odell Beckham Jr. had boosted his stock again, as he hoped, but then tore his ACL in the Super Bowl and isn’t likely to be ready for Week 1 of next season. A start on the PUP and a return to the field in late October or November seems likely. Will OBJ simply wait it out until it becomes crystal clear which teams are good (and will target him the ball) and which ones are not and will not?

How will Rams address center and guard this year?

It’s a whirling dervish in between Whitworth and Rob Havenstein every year and it appears 2022 will be no different; just the added complication of not knowing Whitworth and Joseph Noteboom’s futures either.

Last offseason, there was widespread expectation that L.A. would either re-sign Austin Blythe or bring in someone comparable. Instead, Sean McVay turned to Brian Allen. At guard, we’ve seen training camp/midseason rotations of players like Noteboom, David Edwards, and Austin Corbett, and two of three are free agents. Do Rams have interest in re-signing Corbett after roughly two seasons as the starter?

WHAT DO YOU WANT RAMS TO DO WITH O-LINE? ANSWER IN COMMENTS!

Is Joseph Noteboom the real answer to: Rams most valuable free agent?

He’s 26 and beginning next season, Noteboom has the potential to be a franchise’s starting left tackle for the life of whatever contract he signs... and then some. Or he’s a super utility backup. Tough question to answer with a $30-$60 million contract.

Like it or not, Joseph Noteboom may in fact be the best left tackle in free agency.

Will Rams sign any cap casualties?

There’s a growing list of players who have been released by their teams in the last week. Being released means that teams that sign them next won’t have to factor that into the compensatory pick formula and increases the value of those free agents... slightly.

Names like Cory Littleton, Rodger Saffold, and Trey Flowers may make some sense for Snead to plug holes on the roster with experienced veterans at “experienced veteran” prices.

WHAT CAP CASUALTIES OR FREE AGENTS DO YOU WANT? ANSWER IN COMMENTS!

Will Rams make a trade?

Does the fact that Snead has made the most trades make it more likely or less likely that the L.A. general manager will be dealing in the coming weeks? The Rams need to officially acquire their 2022 comp picks before they can start trading any of those and fans may be wary of already trading away 2023 draft picks.

The Rams have already traded away their first and fourth round picks next year anyway.

But swapping around day three picks or players for other players? It’s not that far fetched.

What’s Darious Williams’ market going to be like?

There are always way more good receivers available than there are good cornerbacks available, so let me pitch to you the idea that Darious Williams’ next contract is going to surprise you.

Two years ago, Trae Waynes signed a three-year, $42 million contract with the Bengals despite having a disappointing career as a first round pick of the Vikings to that point. His time in Cincinnati has been a disaster (five games played in two seasons) but they no less gave him the contract in 2020 when he was a below-average starting cornerback at roughly the same age that Williams is now.

Williams is coming off of 23 starts in the last two seasons and he’s had stretches of being really good so the 29-year-old with a Super Bowl win on his resume might have done enough to at least ask for a Trae Waynes contract, right? And that was when free agent contracts were a little depressed due to the pandemic.

With the salary cap going up the next two years, we could see deals that are maybe even 10-20% higher than the expectation. A three-year, $45 million deal seems reasonable to expect, so long as there are still GMs out there who are desperate for any cornerback who they’re confident won’t be benched.

What do the Rams do if they aren’t the ones to pay Williams? David Long and Robert Rochell will factor into the plans again, but Snead can’t stop there and drafting a player on day three won’t be the solution to needing more cornerback depth this season.

Will Matthew Stafford be extended any time soon?

Stafford is in the final year of his contract, but my take is that the Rams have no incentive to rush into a new deal. At this time, franchise tags still exist. And quarterbacks are already getting $45-$50 million per year anyway, so what’s the difference in waiting until 2023—or at least acting like you’re fine with waiting until 2023.

The emotions of winning a Super Bowl can be overwhelming, I’m sure. Taking emotions out of it, the Rams should take more time deciding on their “Super Bowl QB extension” with Stafford than they did with Jared Goff in 2019.

However, we can also expect that no matter what, Stafford is going to be the long-term answer. Is “now” better than “later” because his contract is the Queen chess piece that helps you move around the rest of the board? That’s also a take.

Will there be any cuts?

At this point, any cuts that L.A. does would come as a bit of a surprise. But it would be hardly surprising in general because this is the NFL and it is a business.

Disagree with anything you see above? Give me a shout out below!