The Los Angeles Rams have embraced the youth movement and enter the 2023 season with 40 wide-eyed rookies. Gone are key defensive players that helped LA get over the hump and earn a historic victory in Super Bowl LVI: Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd, Greg Gaines, A’Shawn Robinson, Nick Scott, and Taylor Rapp. The entire special teams core of kicker Matt Gay, punter Riley Dixon, and long snapper Matt Orzech also moved on.
These departures signal a sea change for Los Angeles. The team is returning to its roots of fostering competition and relying on young players to outplay their draft position. Certainly there will be growing pains along the way, and some individual losses will sting much more than others.
These are the 2023 offseason departures that could hurt the Rams the most next year:
1 - Jalen Ramsey, CB
Robert Rochell is the only remaining player that has a chance to fill Ramsey’s skillset as a big bodied corner that can match up against true number one receivers, though after two years he’s more enigmatic than promising. Cobie Durant and Tre Tomlinson have inside-outside versatility that will provide flexibility and help LA create team-specific game plans, but their lack of size will likely limit their ceilings as pro players. Derion Kendrick must take significant steps forward from his rookie year in order to stay ahead on the depth chart, and it’s fair to question whether he has the speed to hold up as a starter.
Not only are the Rams short-handed in terms of shear numbers at corner, but there are significant questions about each of the players left over. Durant, Tomlinson, Rochell, and Kendrick have big shoes to fill after Ramsey’s departure.
2 - Troy Hill, CB
Hill is still a free agent and it’s possible that he joins the Rams ahead of training camp; however, his experience in the Fangio-Staley style of defense will be valued by the growing number of teams that run the scheme he’s familiar with. Would Hill prefer to join a contender in the later stages of his career?
The Rams will miss Hill’s inside-outside versatility, but that skillset might be less important when they will no longer move Ramsey around like a chess piece. With that said. the veteran corner has made a number of key plays for this team over his career despite entering the league as an undrafted free agent—and he’s also a valuable player in terms of run defense. His experience would be welcomed in a room full of youngsters that are still learning the NFL ropes.
3 - Baker Mayfield, QB
Mayfield elected to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he will compete for a starting job over a backup role with a chance to play for the Rams. It’s fair to debate whether that was the correct decision for the quarterback at this point in his career, and now Los Angeles will turn to rookie Stetson Bennett as the understudy to Matthew Stafford.
Despite reports of a clean bill of health for Stafford, it’s still fair to question whether he can stay healthy over a 17-game season. His elbow will be a lingering concern for the remainder of his career, and the veteran is only one big hit away from continuing his troubling trend of concussions. It’s more when will we see Bennett on the field then if. There’s a chance Bennett will fall on his face when given the opportunity. Not many rookie quarterbacks are asked to immediately step into a backup role—let alone one drafted as late as the fourth round.
4 - Greg Gaines, DT
LA will no doubt miss the run-stopping prowess of the physical A’Shawn Robinson, but the bigger loss may be the interior penetration from the surprisingly nimble Greg Gaines. Similar to Mayfield, Gaines joined the Bucs on a one-year deal in free agency.
Jonah Williams and Marquise Copeland have played well in sparing opportunities. Both are adequate run defenders. But what separates adequate from good is the ability to pressure the opposing quarterback, and it’s fair to wonder if either will make an impact in that regard. Third round rookie Kobie Turner is a promising young player that may have some pass rushing juice.
Will that be enough along the interior?