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What is Rams’ biggest offseason need?

LA has the resources to rebuild its defense this offseason. Can they add a corner or edge rusher?

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams are still licking their wounds from this past weekend’s loss to the Detroit Lions in the opening round of the playoffs.

With the season and painful loss now in the rearview, the Rams can turn their attention to the 2024 offseason. Turning the page brings a renewed sense of optimism to Los Angeles, especially considering Les Snead’s team should have plentiful draft capital and salary cap resources.

Will LA opt to leverage these resources to retool it’s defense? This unit seemed short-handed in Detroit, where the Lions jumped out to three-consecutive touchdown drives to start the game. Aaron Donald seemingly confirmed that he’d be back for another round with this young but promising defense. Kobie Turner, Byron Young, Quentin Lake, and Bobby Brown are ascending pieces worth building around. Could Snead transform this unit by adding a couple high-end building blocks at premium position?

Or maybe after the team realized they could compete with an excellent offense that offsets a glued-together defense they believe it’s an approach worth doubling down on. Perhaps it’d be best to create an offense that has answers to all the questions defenses could possibly throw at you at the expense of star talent on your own defense. Could an elite left tackle help Matthew Stafford reach new heights and finish next season healthy? Would a first round receiver or tight end help take pressure off Puka Nacua and allow the offense to be more free flowing?

What is the Rams’ biggest need heading into the 2024 offseason? Let’s dive in.

Edge rusher

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

This is probably a bit controversial coming off a game where he was probably the worst defensive player on the field; however, Michael Hoecht is a keeper and should have a role on the Rams’ defense in 2024. Los Angles was not using Hoecht in a way that best utilizes his talents. He’s made strides as a pass rusher towards the end of the season, and dropping him into coverage should be a tendency breaker instead of a staple of LA’s defensive play calling. The Lions took advantage of this matchup early and often. I’m not saying that Hoecht should be inked into a starting edge role for next year, but he’s certainly a capable rotational player.

Byron Young also impressed as a rookie and was one of the better edge defenders from his draft class. Still, there is room for development for him as a pass rusher. He needs to spend the offseason learning counters, because offenses seemed to adjust to his game around midseason and his effectiveness fell off dramatically. It’s encouraging that Young is a high motor player and that will generally take you far as long as he continues to improve in the technical areas.

Potential free agent targets:

Josh Allen, Jacksonville Jaguars

Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers

Chase Young, San Francisco 49ers

Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings

Bryce Huff, New York Jets

Jonathan Greenard, Houston Texans

AJ Epenesa, Buffalo Bills

Josh Uche, New England Patriots

Outside corner

Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

It’s reasonably possible that the Rams are in need of two new starters at perimeter corner. While Ahkello Witherspoon surpassed expectations as a late free agent signing, he often got beat deep down the field against receivers with long speed. Witherspoon was LA’s biggest and most reliable outside corner this season. He’s now headed to unrestricted free agency and the Rams may easily talk themselves out of his price tag, especially considering they need to upgrade anyways.

But the more concerning issue is that the Rams never seemed to stabilize the outside corner spot opposite of Witherspoon. Derion Kendrick had a strong start to the year but is one of the most penalized players in all of football. He was benched around the bye week and then split time with Cobie Durant, who entered the season as the team’s slot corner before losing that job to Quentin Lake. Neither players seem like the solution for next season.

Potential free agent targets:

Jaylon Johnson, Chicago Bears

L’Jarius Sneed, Kansas City Chiefs

Kendall Fuller, Washington Commanders

Chidobe Awuzie, Cincinnati Bengals

Kristian Fulton, Tennessee Titans

Jeff Okudah, Atlanta Falcons

Developmental QB

2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Whether you think Stafford can play at a high level for one year or the next three or four, there’s no question that the Rams need to plan for the future at quarterback. We know that Stafford has taken more than his fair share of blows over his decade and a half career, and he’s paid for the physical toll over the last few seasons. It’s very unlikely that Stafford will ever play a full 17-game season again, and the Rams need to be ready. Sure, a high-end backup like Carson Wentz is an option, but the most sound approach would be bringing in a developmental quarterback that could start in Stafford’s absence but also someone who could take over the job long-term.

Does that type of player grow on trees? Certainly not. But if there’s such a player that comes available that Sean McVay could work with long-term, the Rams have to take advantage of the opportunity and invest.

Could the Rams draft two back-to-back NCAA national champion QB’s in Stetson Bennett and JJ McCarthy?

Potential free agent targets:

Jake Browning, Cincinnati Bengals

Carson Wentz, Los Angeles Rams

Potential trade targets:

Zach Wilson, New York Jets

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Draft prospects to consider:

JJ McCarthy, Michigan

Michael Pratt, Tulane

Spencer Rattler, South Carolina

Wide receiver

Texas v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Puka Nacua should be LA’s number one receiving option next year. Should the Rams have confidence that Cooper Kupp can return to health and be an impact player like he’s being paid to be?

Then there are questions at WR#3. Demarcus Robinson who pried the job from Tutu Atwell towards the end of the season is a free agent. Atwell is best utilized as a rotational or role player but the Rams don’t really rotate their receivers often. If the right player falls down the draft board, could we see LA dip into the receiver pool in the first round? You can never have too much premium talent at such a high impact position.

We know the Rams are set to have either the 19th or 20th pick while we await the results of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers versus the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night. Could the third receiver in the draft by most rankings, Rome Odunze, still be available? There is no shortage of receiver talent in the 2024 class.

Draft prospects to consider:

Rome Odunze, Washington

Brian Thomas, LSU

Keon Coleman, Florida State

Adonai Mitchell, Texas

Troy Franklin, Oregon

Ladd McConkey, Georgia

Devontez Walker, North Carolina

Xavier Legette, South Carolina

Xavier Worthy, Texas

Safety

Cleveland Browns v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

It’s almost not even worth putting safety on the list because Snead and the Rams have demonstrated they are able to take players in the later rounds of the draft and plug them into key roles without missing a beat. Jordan Fuller and John Johnson are headed to unrestricted free agency. It’s unlikely that either will be back in Los Angeles.

That would leave Russ Yeast as the only player with starting experience, and even he doesn’t have a ton. Can Jason Taylor prove that he’s ready for a larger role, or will the Rams draft this position in volume in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough this spring? Don’t expect a premium free agent signing at safety—it’s outside the Rams’ historical approach at the position.

Honorable Mention: Off-ball linebacker

Ernest Jones is an important player for the Rams, but he fills a niche role as an interior rusher and run defender. He’s also headed for a contract year next season and would hit free agency in 2025. Even if he sticks around beyond that point, Los Angeles needs to surround Jones with someone who has the skillset to cover the middle of the field and can work with Jones in a complementary way. This would possibly keep the Rams from deploying Jones in coverage where he struggles as often.

You could probably find such a player in the later rounds of the draft, and that would potentially allow the Rams to spend a year developing an alternative if they don’t want to re-sign Jones to a new contract. A middling free agent is also an option, but don’t expect Snead to break the bank.