In the last two NFL Draft’s, the Los Angeles Rams have chosen one offensive lineman, Tremayne Anchrum at #250 of the 7th round in 2020. For all of Les Snead’s explosive moves, he hasn’t lit the fuse on any big offensive line moves since adding Andrew Whitworth back in 2017.
If the Rams decide to add line help at #104 or #142, there will still be talented prospects on the board. As day three winds down (Rounds 4,5,6,7) and in the day-after-draft flurry of free agent signings, LA can add developmental depth pieces. While the odds are stacked against finding starting level talent this late, cultivating depth to serve important reserve roles and fill out the bottom third of the roster are, although not splashy, vital nonetheless.
If LA decides that they can afford to wait, it will be because of their wide zone run schemes. As a general rule, this scheme does not require dominant blockers for success. Athleticism, technique, and coach-ability are the skill sets that set up a player for success.
Jeff Grimes, Baylor Offensive Coordinator and long-time, successful coach/proponent of the wide zone weighed in on a press conference last spring,
“It’s something that I feel like, as long as you have guys that are coachable and athletic you don’t necessarily have to have a guy that can completely dominate a three-technique in the B-gap or a nose guard or a running back that runs a 4.3 forty. You have to have guys that can move their feet, that can be coachable, and that can move fast.”
The incumbents and how many spots, if any, are up for grabs
According to Overthecap,the Rams have 13 linemen on contract, and that includes center Drake Jackson. I have seen reports that Jackson has retired and been hired as a college coach, so I’m going to call it 12 players in the unit. The team needs at least 15 bodies for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd string training camp groups, so the Rams will need to add three lineman, at the minimum. Which spots left open on the final roster are left up to fans speculation and imagination. Here’s quick review of each holdover’s contract status.
LT- Joseph Noteboom is signed through 2024 with three void years following.
LG- David Edwards will be a unrestricted free agent (UFA) after the 2022 season.
C- Brian Allen is signed through 2024 with two void years following.
RG- Of the top contenders vying for the open spot, Bobby Evans is a UFA following the “22 season. Coleman Shelton and Anchrum are contracted through 2023.
RT- Rob Havenstein will be a UFA following the “22 season.
As for the bottom half of the unit, swing tackle Alaric Jackson and practice squaders, Chandler Brewer, Jeremiah Kolone, Adrian Ealy, and Max Pircher are signed through ‘23 and tied to the Rams after that as exclusive rights and restricted free agents.
Continuity is a large part of offensive line success...but
Overall, under the Les Snead/Sean McVay regime, LA has done a good job of maintaining continuity and has shown the patience to allow the unit to develop and gel. Last season the Rams kept 10 linemen on the roster and between injuries and COVID19, that was barely enough. Hopefully, both will not rear their ugly heads in 2022. If LA decides to keep both 10 players and continuity from the 2021 active roster, then only two spots would remain to be filled.
Realistically, The Rams could add as many as four new linemen. Already this season, continuity has been abridged, two big holes emerged after the Super Bowl win. One at left tackle was easily filled in-house, but right guard remains a question mark. I’d rank it a minor rebuild. If it was simply plugging in Noteboom for Andrew Whitworth at left tackle, it would rate as a reload. But the replacements at left guard, although having been around awhile, are still unproven. This unfilled hole is very good reason, supported by four more below, why 2022 may be the year to restock the offensive line for the near future
- Now that new line coach Kevin Carberry has a year under his belt, he may want his “type” of player. He comes from Stanford and they like them long and athletic on The Farm.
- Only Noteboom and Allen are signed long term. Anchrum is half way through his rookie contract and has logged three offensive snaps. Of the final nine, ALL OF THEM could move on, or be moved on from, after 2022 with very little or zero dead money.
- Expanding on the contracts situation. Giving that Sean McVay likes to allow his draft picks a year to acclimate to the pro game, there’s no need to lock the team into a large rebuild box after 2022.
- In replacing the reserves, there would not be much lost draft capital. It is a group of six UDFA’s and a 7th rounder. Plus, roster churn at the bottom of any unit is not uncommon.
"Just people that I love being around and love going to work with."— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) March 26, 2022
Following two years of adversity, C Brian Allen is locked in with a new contract.
NFL Draft or free agency?
Unless left guard becomes a real problem, the Rams should stick to the draft. If none of current group step up and claim the role, there a many aging retreads like Richie Incognito, Ereck Flowers, or Bryan Buluga that could be brought in on an emergency basis. Most of these older guys will still be available during/after the preseason games, if need be.
I like this draft for offensive linemen. Although LA won’t be able to grab a top talent, there are some really nice players in the second tier that will still be around for their 3rd and 4th round picks. Small school tackles like Matt Waletzko and Luke Goedeke, guards Cole Strange and Chris Paul, or versatile pieces like Zach Tom and Luke Fortner should be available and offer some solid leverage in the decision process.
The recent signing of linebacker Bobby Wagner shuffles offensive line and cornerback to the top of the Rams draft needs. There are whispers and rumors about the Rams signing a big name secondary star and that move would make 2022 the year to restock the offensive line.