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Which Rams are safe and who is really on the bubble?

Getting down to a 53-man roster is not just about talent and need, it’s a numbers game that no coach can avoid

Rams, Texans, NFL Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

There are many factors to consider when cutting down a roster from 90 to 53 over the course of two weeks. There’s the talent of each individual, the positional needs, the contractual situations, the salary cap, and the health of the players on the roster. But more than anything else—and this is where other 53-man roster projections can get tripped up sometimes—it is a numbers game.

Making an NFL final roster is convincing the head coach that you are an irreplaceable number.

So when folks want to keep any player who wasn’t expected to make the final roster the day before I always ask them the same question: “Okay, who are you cutting?

It’s a numbers game. You can’t add one without subtracting one. And you can’t add an outside wide receiver by subtracting the backup center or the kick returner or the fifth defensive lineman. It just doesn’t work that way. You want to add Lance McCutcheon, you have to subtract somebody and it probably has to be a receiver.

Not always, but usually.

Instead of going over the entire roster at once by looking at the names, let’s instead look at the NUMBERS. Start with 53 openings and then find out how many openings you have left after you’ve kept everybody who you need to keep. Because Rams fans, it is a numbers game. Always has been, always will be.

Through two rounds of cuts, Sean McVay has the roster down to 80 players. He must cut/reserve at least 27 of them by next Tuesday. This is one way I would suggest looking at how the Rams will go from 80 to 53 in a week.

Safe (Contract)

QB Matthew Stafford, WR Allen Robinson, WR Cooper Kupp, TE Tyler Higbee, LT Joe Noteboom, RT Rob Havenstein, C Brian Allen, DT Aaron Donald, DE A’Shawn Robinson, ILB Bobby Wagner, OLB Leonard Floyd, CB Jalen Ramsey, K Matt Gay

Total: 13

While the designation here is “contract”, I only use that as a technicality even though the real reason they are safe is that they’re good-to-great starters. These 13 players are going to be on the Rams and that leaves 40 roster spots open.

Los Angeles Rams Training Camp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Safe (On Rookie Contract)

RB Cam Akers, WR Van Jefferson, WR Tutu Atwell, WR Ben Skowronek, TE Brycen Hopkins, LG David Edwards, RG Coleman Shelton, TE/WR Jacob Harris, OL Tremayne Anchrum, RB Darrell Henderson, RB Kyren Williams, OT A.J. Arcuri, CB Derion Kendrick, CB Cobie Durant, CB David Long Jr., CB Robert Rochell, S Nick Scott, S Jordan Fuller, S Taylor Rapp, OLB Terrell Lewis, ILB Ernest Jones, NT Greg Gaines, DL Jonah Williams

Total: 23

While these players have varying levels of importance, from Cam Akers to A.J. Arcuri, I would denote them as safe because of a combination of talent, need, and contract. While it’s not guaranteed every year that day three picks will make the roster, I think Arcuri, Kendrick, and Durant have done enough to be locked in. If these are correct assessments, then we’ve gone from 40 open roster spots to just 17.

Nick Scott & Richmond Tigers Media Opportunity Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Safe (Need)

P Riley Dixon, LS Matt Orzech, PR Brandon Powell, CB Troy Hill, OT A.J. Jackson, C Jeremiah Kolone, OLB Justin Hollins

Total: 7

It’s pretty much just safe for A.J. Jackson and Kolone because for now, there’s nobody else really competing as the backup left tackle and the backup center. Maybe Sean McVay grabs an outside option but at the moment, I would say these seven players fit a role that the Rams have to have in 2022. Now we’re down to just 10 openings for the final 37 players on the 80-man roster.

Total Safe: 43

Total Openings: 10

Of the 37 remaining players on the roster, I would not say that all of them have a chance to make it to the 53. Examples like Landen Akers, Anthony Hines, and T.J. Carter. But probably a little more than half of the 37 are on the bubble and fighting for one of the 10 remaining spots. It all comes down to filling out L.A.’s needs and assessing which talents the team really doesn’t want to lose.

QB: John Wolford and/or Bryce Perkins

Definitely one of the top-ranked controversies in training camp: Wolford, Perkins, or both? Or neither? Obviously I think we can expect at least one of these players because it’s a little late to pivot to a different backup. I think McVay still prefers Wolford, that doesn’t mean he won’t keep Perkins. For now, I’ll say that the Rams keep Wolford as the backup and we’ll come back to Perkins.

Openings: 9


Who should be QB2?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    John Wolford
    (293 votes)
  • 74%
    Bryce Perkins
    (841 votes)
1134 votes total Vote Now

RB4: Jake Funk and/or Trey Ragas OR nobody

The Rams do not necessarily need four running backs. Funk hasn’t looked very fast to me in the preseason and if the team is locked into keeping Brandon Powell, is it necessary to keep Funk as a kick returner? I’m not sold on either of these running backs yet.

Openings: 9

TE3: Jared Pinkney OR Roger Carter Jr. OR Jacob Harris OR outside option

We’ve already kept Harris (see above’s rookie contracts) but is he going to be TE3? The good news is that TE3 may never see the field anyway. It didn’t happen for the Rams last year until deep into the playoffs. The bad news is that there’s no way Harris will play meaningful snaps as an in-line tight end for the L.A. Rams in 2022. McVay could look for a tight end over the next week. For now, I’m keeping Carter.

Openings: 8

WR6: Lance McCutcheon or else

Though he is technically the seventh wide receiver (eight, if you’re including Harris alongside Powell), there’s just no way that the Rams should let McCutcheon go. He could be a huge steal out of this 2022 draft—and every year I’m the opposite of the guy who says that a preseason wide receiver “star” should be kept. It’s so rare that I’ll ever support that idea because preseason is a time for practice squad receivers to shine. McCutcheon doesn’t look like a practice squad receiver to me. He looks legit.

Openings: 7

OL10: Bobby Evans and/or Chandler Brewer or Jack Snyder OR Nobody

At this point, I’ve got my starting five, plus Anchrum, Jackson, Arcuri, and Kolone. We could stop here, nine offensive linemen is enough. I think we’ve reached the end for Evans. All of these guys, or Max Pircher, should be able to slide through waivers too. I’m going “Nobody” for now.

Openings: 7

DL5: Michael Hoecht OR Earnest Brown IV OR Marquise Copeland

I’ve kept four defensive linemen so far but McVay wants to keep either six or seven of them. I think Hoecht is in again.

Openings: 6

DL6: Earnest Brown IV OR Copeland OR Elijah Garcia OR T.J. Carter

We don’t know anything about Garcia other than he does drills in practice. I’ve no idea if the team prefers Brown or Copeland. It could be both! I’ll go with Copeland.

Openings: 5

OLB4 & OLB5: Daniel Hardy and/or Chris Garrett and/or Keir Thomas and/or Benton Whitley

My Rams roster to this point is really lacking in linebackers. Only Wagner, Floyd, Jones, Hollins, and Lewis seem to have guaranteed spots. Travis Howard is on PUP and should start the year there. Hardy has a high ankle sprain and that rules him out for the start of the season too. That should keep him off the official 53-man roster to open things and be good news for Garrett. Problem is, he’s had a groin injury keep him off the field. Keir Thomas may have defaulted himself into a 53 spot, but he’s also played well. I’m putting him in.

Openings: 4

I’ll get back to the others.

ILB 3 & 4: Christian Rozeboom and/or Jake Gervase and/or Jake Hummel OR outside options

Rams need at least two players to backup at inside linebacker and so far I have zero. Rozeboom hasn’t had to play the preseason, he seems to be locked in for need.

Openings: 3

Maybe I’ll give Gervase the nod based on a forced fumble.

Openings: 2

CB7: Russ Yeast OR Nobody?

With Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill, David Long, Robert Rochell, Derion Kendrick, and Cobie Durant all solidified onto the roster, is there room for Russ Yeast, Tyler Hall, or Grant Haley? I only have two more roster spots remaining. I’m not ready to put Yeast in until I see who else isn’t in.

S4: Terrell Burgess OR Quentin Lake OR Dan Isom OR outside option

There has to be a fourth safety. If Lake is kept on PUP/Reserve, then the Rams don’t need a roster spot for him at final cuts. That means that unless Burgess has just been wrecked in practices or one of the UDFAs is showing out, I think he’s safe. Remember how down people have been on players like David Long, Bobby Evans, or Brian Allen making the roster in the past? McVay isn’t as likely to give up on a recent ~third round pick.

Burgess is in.

Openings: 1

The final bubble players: Bryce Perkins, Russ Yeast, Jake Hummel, Chris Garrett, Earnest Brown IV, Bobby Evans, Chandler Brewer, Jake Funk...

This is why I think the “it’s a numbers game” approach is so much better than the traditional way of cutting down to a 53. If my breakdown was near correct, then you’ve basically got all these players fighting for one spot, rather than going position-by-position and hoping to keep all the “talent” you can. It’s simply the numbers: there are only 53 availabilities and when you really get down to it, more than 40 of them were spoken for on day one of training camp.

Now here’s the really funked up part: If I HAD to choose out of these eight players for the last roster spot I would go with... None of them.

The Rams need to go out there and find an outside linebacker. Unless Garrett is ready to go or the team is very high on Benton Whitley, Brayden Thomas, I think that an OLB from outside the organization could be the right move. Of course, you could also cut Roger Carter Jr from my list (or someone else) and try to add another opening that way. There are many ways to do it but there’s one thing you can’t avoid.

Which is that final cuts is always going to be a numbers game.