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L.A. Rams roster overview: Which free agents can stay, who must go, and how they fit under the cap

Why OBJ is a must-keep, why Sony Michel must go, and which Rams free agents remain on the fence

Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl LVI Victory Parade & Rally Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Many people doubted that Les Snead would be able to build a Super Bowl champion roster in 2021, and whether or not we are overrating the process by focusing too much on the result, there’s no question where the Los Angeles Rams stand today. As Super Bowl champions.

One of the main roadblocks between the 2020 Rams and the 2021 Super Bowl was the seemingly impossible contracts to escape and a shrinking amount of cap space, but Snead managed to navigate through those hurdles to win the Lombardi.

In this offseason series, you will read about L.A.’s roadblocks—and how they plan to get around them—to hopefully win another Super Bowl with most of the same roster.

This week I will dive into the Rams pending free agents, their market values, and the Rams likelihood of retaining assets.

This is Week 2 of my offseason series of the Los Angeles Rams Roster Overview and last week I kicked things off with a look at how the Rams will likely adjust their salary cap, through restructures. If you didn’t have a chance to read it, check it out here because it will set the stage for how Snead can afford the outgoing free agents this month.

Building off of the previous article, LA would have $21,144,836 in cap space, with Andrew Whitworth’s retirement decision/salary still not factored. With that fluid cap space, there is plenty of room for the Rams to get creative in bringing back key assets to run it back. Unfortunately with 20 pending free agents, Snead will not be able to retain everyone. Here are the names:

LA Rams 2022 Pending Free Agents

Players: FA Type: Market Value:
Players: FA Type: Market Value:
John Wolford, QB ERFA Veteran Minimum
Sony Michel, RB UFA $5 million / AAV
Buddy Howell, RB UFA Minimum
Odell Beckham Jr, WR UFA $13 million / AAV
Brandon Powell, WR/KR UFA Minimum
Johnny Mundt, TE UFA Veteran Minimum
Joe Noteboom, LT UFA $12 million / AAV
Coleman Shelton, OG/C RFA $1 million / AAV
Jamil Demby, OG RFA Veteran Minimum
Brian Allen, C UFA $5.5 million / AAV
Austin Corbett, RG UFA $9 million / AAV
Sebastian Joseph-Day, iDL UFA $6 million / AAV
Troy Reeder, ILB RFA $1 million / AAV
Travin Howard, ILB RFA $1 million / AAV
Von Miller, EDGE UFA $15 million / AAV
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, EDGE UFA $6 million / AAV
Darious Williams, CB UFA $10 million / AAV
Jake Gervase, S Signed (Futures) $0.8 million / AAV
Antoine Brooks, S Signed (Futures) $0.8 million / AAV
Matt Gay, K RFA $2.5 million / AAV

There are a pair of names from the 20 names that have already been retained. Jake Gervase and Antoine Brooks signed futures deals: $837,500 (Gervase) and $895,000 (Brooks). Those numbers were already included in my initial cap space number.

LET THEM WALK (5)

  • Sony Michel
  • Buddy Howell
  • Jamil Demby
  • Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
  • Darious Williams

With high confidence, there are a number of names that are unlikely to be pursued by the team either because of past performance, financial constraints, and other roster needs/pursuits.

Sony Michel was a great trade and he served a huge role for the Rams, but when Akers and Henderson were healthy, we saw where Michel ranked when they’re healthy. He only saw one carry in the Super Bowl after rushing for over 400 yards in the month of December. That indicates to me that LA is comfortable with Akers and Henderson as RB1 and RB2. Jake Funk will likely be the RB3 with a late draft pick or cheap FA serving as competition. Howell falls in this category because the Rams have his replacement in Funk. Howell’s only chance would likely be Special Teams.

Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Jamil Demby failed to see the field this entire year (not a bad thing) after being on IR. He also hasn’t been a reliable lineman over his past four years. I personally would welcome Okoronkwo back on a minimum deal, but I think we saw Samson Ebukam net a sizable deal with the 49ers for his small sample size. I think Okoronkwo is better and can manage the same amount.

Darious Williams will be sought after by CB-needy teams on the free agent market. The Rams don’t need to overpay to keep a corner that took a step back in 2021 after a solid 2020 season. They also have David Long Jr and Robert Rochell as options across from Jalen Ramsey already.

LOCKS TO STAY (5)

  • Joe Noteboom
  • Odell Beckham Jr
  • Coleman Shelton
  • Matt Gay
  • John Wolford

This time, I am admittingly stretching my unbiased take. But here’s why: as much as I would love to see Andrew Whitworth play another year, I do think he will be retiring. That leaves Joe Noteboom as the clear cut option moving forward at left tackle. Unless Sean McVay feels incredibly confident making Alaric Jackson, a 2021 rookie, or another free agent the new left tackle in 2022, then Joe Noteboom will be returning and finally get his opportunity to be the blindside blocker for this franchise. If Snead/McVay want to run it back and win with this core, then they can’t risk losing two left tackles in free agency. You have to keep one.

Odell Beckham Jr is retained because of a few factors: 1) His second ACL tear on the same knee significantly affects the market he was likely to draw. 2) OBJ wanted to be in LA and he felt comfortable and at home. 3) With his rehab likely to keep him out until October at earliest, OBJ’s best chance at building his value again is with a QB that he has a rapport with and an offense he can be successful in…in other words, Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams.

Coleman Shelton is an interesting free agent name on the list. Why is he prioritized? He’s a restricted free agent. The Rams will have the advantage in contract talks compared to other teams if they feel like his market is expanding. But in this case, I think it will be quiet and Snead will want to retain another offensive lineman that saw starter snaps in 2021. Shelton could even find himself as the starting center for 2022.

With how consistent Matt Gay has been as the placekicker, LA will bring him back. His 2021 season was overlooked by many. Yes, he had an odd stretch in the playoffs with a short field goal miss at Tampa Bay and a miss in the conference championship. Gay has also gone 46-of-50 as a Ram. The front office will keep him as an RFA by either using an original round tender or right of first refusal tender ($2.1 - $2.4 million).

I’m personally a fan of John Wolford. I think he sticks with LA for at least one more year because of his ERFA designation. Being able to keep a backup QB in the same system for another year at the league minimum is a good deal for Los Angeles when strapped for cash to fill out the roster.

CHANCES OF RETENTION ABOVE 50% (4)

  • Brandon Powell, WR/KR
  • Brian Allen, C
  • Von Miller, EDGE
  • Travin Howard, ILB

I think the Rams found a quality punt returner in Brandon Powell. It shouldn’t be hard to retain him with right around a minimum deal.

I think Snead will try to bring back Brian Allen. I don’t necessarily agree with that decision. It’s right around 50/50 for me. Brian Allen showed glimpses of being reliable, but then he also looks very bad and commits silly holding penalties where he essentially tackles defenders. Considering it was his first year, his ability could get better (he made good progress from 2019 to 2021). This will likely come down to the market of how many other teams need a center and if Allen is willing to keep his starting job but taking less money.

Same case with Allen, that the Rams are probably prioritizing Von Miller; considering Aaron Donald has vocalized keeping the future Hall of Famer. I think LA’s free agent priorities should be 1A) Noteboom, 1B) V. Miller, and 3) OBJ in terms of the splashier moves. This will come down to Von Miller deciding between Denver and Los Angeles. And with that: it could come down to whether or not Denver is able to secure a veteran/franchise quarterback like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson. If not, Miller might elect the safer route of playing for a Lombardi in LA again.

Travin Howard is probably the sleeper of all the pending free agents. He was one of the highest graded defenders this season. Yes, he only played 8.7% of the defensive snaps, but his impact when on the field was significant. Considering his limited usage and significant contribution, the Rams should easily pull the trigger on keeping the RFA over Troy Reeder. The only reason they elect Reeder over Howard is if they prioritize Reeder’s run defense. But even, Reeder’s tackling isn’t a sure thing, as fans know.

RETENTION BELOW 50% (4)

  • Johnny Mundt, TE
  • Austin Corbett, RG
  • Sebastian Joseph-Day, iDL
  • Troy Reeder, ILB

With Brycen Hopkins and Kendall Blanton making some waves down the stretch, Johnny Mundt finds himself on the outside looking in this free agency despite being TE2 after training camp. With Mundt’s pass catching being the weakest of all the tight-ends, I think the Rams ultimately take a pass.

Trading for Austin Corbett was a great deal by Les Snead. But it’s not a deal where you commit long term to an offensive lineman that is inconsistent. Too many times this season, Corbett was inconsistent in his pass blocking and run blocking grades. That unpredictability after a Super Bowl run doesn’t inspire confidence for 2022. I think you let other teams bid for him on the open market and you hope to recoup a compensatory pick for 2023.

Ugh, a fan favorite. Sebastian Joseph-Day was beginning to evolve after his third year and in the start of 2021. Unfortunately, a pec tear kept him out for more than half the season. He returned for the Super Bowl, but in a small capacity. As a space eater, teams that need run-defense will likely call him on Day 1 or 2 of free agency. The Chargers and Steelers are likely fits. And with A’Shawn Robinson returning and Bobby Brown III going into Year 2, it’s hard to justify a contract offer for SJD.

As mentioned in Howard’s blurb, Reeder’s tackling makes it hard to argue to keep him. Yes, he is a special teams player and wore the green dot a few times, but you have to believe Ernest Jones takes over as the 3-down ILB. Reeder’s pass coverage is also significantly behind Howard’s and in a passing league, I would take as many cover guys as you can find.

It all boils down to Snead’s and Rams’ chief negotiator Tony Pastoors’ ability to manipulate the cap. I think there is a way to keep Noteboom, Miller, and OBJ for 2022 along with a few “Robins” (as Snead calls the depth guys). Between the Locks and the Above 50% groups (except Brian Allen), LA would potentially be looking at this spending breakdown..

John Wolford: $0.9 million

Odell Beckham Jr: $6.0 million

Brandon Powell: $0.9 million

Joe Noteboom: $13.0 million

Coleman Shelton: $1.0 million

Von Miller: $15.0 million

Travin Howard: $1.0 million

Matt Gay: $2.5 million

That number comes out to $40.3 million in 2022 spending from an annual average perspective. The Rams will also have the ability to frontload and backload contracts to get within their framework. A guy like OBJ’s contract is more likely to be backloaded (if greater than one year), thus decreasing the amount of money spent for 2022. And lastly, the LA Rams can find additional money through extensions to players on the roster currently... which I will cover in next week’s roster overview!

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Which moves above would you cheer for and which ones do you vehemently disagree with? I can’t know unless you comment, so let us know below!