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Rams would be wise to target these 5 free agents next year

A way-too-early look at 2024 free agency and the latest buzz on potential Rams targets

NFL: NOV 05 Colts at Panthers Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2024 offseason will arguably be the most important offseason in the Les Snead era for the Los Angeles Rams. After taking a year to reset in 2023, this next offseason is where Snead will be expected to shine. With the potential of upwards of over $70M in cap space and a fist-round pick for the first time since 2016, the opportunity is there to build a contending level team very quickly.

As it stands, the Rams currently sit at 3-6. While their season isn’t over by any means, it’s hard not to have at least one eye on the offseason given its importance. The Rams must give out good contracts and once again have a solid draft. Both of those things are easier said than done. It will also be important to have an understanding of where the team’s current needs can be filled. For example, the edge class in free agency is much better than the edge class in the draft. Meanwhile, there are more options at offensive tackle in the draft than there are in free agency.

The Rams will have a much clearer picture of how to approach the draft based off of who they are able to sign in the free agent market. The issue with the free agent market this early is that it’s hard to know exactly who will be available. Players will sign extensions or get slapped with the franchise tag.

ESPN put out its list of the top-25 free agents heading into 2024 while Insider Jeremy Fowler provided some insider buzz on what he is currently hearing on the player’s availability and what they could command in terms of a contract. Let’s take a look at some players who could be notable for the Rams.

1. EDGE Brian Burns

For the past two years, Carolina Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns has been connected to the Rams. Los Angeles offered a huge trade package for Burns at last year’s trade deadline and then he’s been connected to them in nearly every trade deadline prediction piece since. However, it doesn’t seem like Burns will hit the open market. Here’s what Fowler had to say,

“ Burns would have a massive market in free agency, but the expectation around the league is the Panthers will franchise tag Burns at around $22 million.”

Signing Burns would be a bit of a pipe dream for Rams fans. He perfectly fits the current team-build. Not only does he provide star potential, but he’s someone who could take the torch from Aaron Donald on defense once he retires. It was thought that Burns would sign as extension before the season and that just hasn’t happened. This is a situation that could get interesting.

2. EDGE Josh Allen

If Burns doesn’t hit the open market, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rams attempt to make a run at Allen. The Jaguars are notorious for not spending money to keep their own players. That’s why Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue were both traded. Fowler had this to say about Allen,

“The franchise tag could be on the table here. The Jaguars will likely make efforts to re-sign him, either before free agency or at the July deadline for franchise-tagged players (should they go that route).”

With a lot of money to spend, it would not be surprising to see the Rams spend that on an edge rusher. Again, Allen makes a lot of sense as a player who fits the team-build. He has star potential as he will still be young at just 27-years old entering the 2024 season. The biggest question is whether or not he becomes available.

3. CB Jaylon Johnson

The Bears were on the verge of trading Johnson at the trade deadline, but didn’t get offered a package in return to make it worth it. Johnson may end up getting the franchise tag as it would be very difficult for Chicago to allow him to leave. There is interest from Johnson to stay with the Bears, but he also wants to get paid. Fowler added this on the Johnson situation,

“Negotiations between Johnson and the Bears cratered before the trade deadline, and Johnson holds leverage if the Bears want to keep him. Chicago can franchise tag him at somewhere above $19 million or come with a strong offer...Two free agencies ago, corners like Carlton Davis III and J.C. Jackson commanded deals worth between $14.8-16.5 million per season. That kind of pact could be coming for Johnson — and with interest, due to cap inflation.”

This may end up being a situation where Johnson gets franchise tagged before eventually getting extended. Outside of edge rusher, Johnson would be the ultimate prize in free agency for the Rams. They need a number one cornerback on the outside to replace Jalen Ramsey and Johnson would provide just that. The issue is that it seems highly unlikely that Johnson is allowed to become a free agent.

4. RB Josh Jacobs

Would the Rams actually spend on the running back position? I believe that they would if it’s the right player and Jacobs is just that. He had his best season a year ago under former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden who has been a mentor to McVay in the past. After changing up the scheme this past offseason, McVay may be looking for a running back to complement Kyren Williams and execute the new scheme. Williams may just not be a guy that carry the full load. Said Fowler,

“His game has perked up in recent weeks, but that aforementioned average of 3.3 yards per carry could affect his bottom line. Jacobs is still a lead back who’s perfect for a team dedicated to the run.”

Paying running backs in frowned upon, but Jacobs will be just 26 heading into next season. If the Rams decide to pay a running back, keep a close eye on Jacobs. He simply makes too much sense as a threat as a runner and pass-catcher.

5. OT Jonah Williams

Simply put, the offensive tackle group in free agency isn’t very good. The Rams will be much better off addressing the position in the draft, especially if they’re looking for a player on the left side. However, I can’t put together this list of free agents without also including the top offensive tackle, even if Jonah Williams has played all of his snaps this season on the right side. Here’s what Fowler had to say on Williams,

“Functional offensive tackles typically do well in free agency, and Williams, a 2019 first-round pick, has been solid after his move to right tackle. He might not reach the Mike McGlinchey threshold from this spring ($17.5 million annually) but will definitely post a double-digit number.”

The last time that the Rams paid a left tackle in free agency out of Cincinnati, it worked out pretty well. The issue with Williams is that he is a little lighter at just 312-pounds. Los Angeles has gotten bigger on the offensive line over the last year. While Williams does have experience on the left side, he’s been better this season as a right tackle. In 2021 and 2022, Williams allowed double-digits sacks at left tackle. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Cincinnati Bengals let Williams walk in free agency and draft a replacement. At the same time, he may not be a fit for the Rams and where the offensive line is moving.

Honorable Mentions: EDGE Danielle Hunter, WR Tee Higgins, EDGE Chase Young

Chase Young and Danielle Hunter are two players that will be talked about as potential targets for the Rams at edge rusher. However, these two may be the least likely out of the group. Hunter made sense as a potential trade target two years ago. Now, he’ll be 29 and doesn’t bring that same “star-level”, young player prototype that the Rams will be looking to bring in. He simply no longer fits the team-build.

On the other hand, Young has an injury history. With that comes risk. It may simply not be a risk worth taking for the Rams as they have to get free agency right.

Higgins is an interesting option at wide receiver. With Puka Nacua performing so well, you could argue that the Rams don’t need a third wide receiver. At the same time, Higgins is young and Kupp is nearing 30 and has an injury history. Additionally, while Atwell has taken a step forward, his open score of 30 ranks 109th out of 114 wide receivers and tight ends. He’s also averaging just 1.3 yards per route which ranks 80th. The Rams need an explosive playmaker outside of Kupp.