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Free Agency or the the Draft? Where should Rams address their offseason needs?

Which positions should the Rams address in free agency and the draft?

Green Bay Packers v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams enter an important offseason in which they will have cap space to spend to go with a first-round pick. With several needs on the roster, the question is which position the Rams address in free agency versus which positions they address in the draft. When it comes to free agency and the draft, some position groups are better in free agency when compared to the draft and vice versa. When it comes to the Rams biggest needs, where should they be looking to address them?

Edge Rusher

Options in the Draft

  • Dallas Turner
  • Jared Verse
  • Laiatu Latu
  • Bralen Trice
  • Chop Robinson

The Rams don’t just need an edge rusher. They need a premier edge rusher that they can rely on as a 1b to Aaron Donald’s 1a. However, none of these players in the draft are necessarily a difference-maker level prospect that Los Angeles needs. The Rams could pair a Jared Verse or Laiatu Latu opposite of Byron Young, but they would face many of the same problems as they currently have at the edge rusher position.

This past season, the Rams defense dealt with inconsistencies when it comes to getting pressure off of the edge. While Byron Young ended up with eight sacks, he didn’t have a high pressure rate. The edge players listed above are fine players, but this isn’t a strong edge draft class.

Options in Free Agency

  • Chase Young
  • Josh Allen
  • Brian Burns
  • Josh Uche
  • Bryce Huff
  • Jonathan Greenard

Of course, it’s hard to know exactly who is going to hit the free agent market. A player like Josh Allen could easily get franchise tagged. Brian Burns is another player who could also get franchise tagged. With that being said, the second-level options, as long as you aren’t overpaying, provide more value than a rookie at edge.

Josh Uche had 11.5 sacks last year and a player like Jonathan Greenard has had two productive seasons, capped off by 12.5 sacks this past year. Bryce Huff has been a popular name and he had 10 sacks this past season. All of these players are still young and not in that 28-29 year old range where they will play out the majority of their contract in their 30s. These are all players that will be hitting the middle of their prime when Donald is ready to hang up the cleats.

Free Agency or the Draft?

If the Rams address the edge rusher position, it needs to be in free agency. There are a lot of developed options which is what they need on defense next to Donald. Again, someone like Verse, Turner, or Latu may develop into good players, but their development timeline doesn’t necessarily match the Rams’ timeline. Of course, Los Angeles could draft and sign an edge player. However, they drafted three edge players in last year’s draft. Players like Nick Hampton and Ochaun Mathis need to be given time to develop. If the Rams can sign a player of a caliber like Burns, it solves a lot of their edge problems from 2023.

Cornerback

Options in the Draft

  • Nate Wiggins
  • Kool-Aid McKinstry
  • Terrion Arnold
  • Ennis Rakestraw Jr.
  • Quinyon Mitchell
  • Kalen King
  • TJ Tampa

There are a lot of cornerback options in the draft that could step in and start immediately on the outside while having an impact. That’s especially the case in the first-round where LA will be in position to take players like Nate Wiggins, Terrion Arnold, Kool-Aid McKinstry, and Quinyon Mitchell. Cornerback also allows them to trade back and still end up with a solid player.

There is some depth at cornerback in the draft and it would not be surprising to see the Rams double-dip at the position. This is a secondary that needs rebuilt and the place to do that this year may end up being the draft.

Options in Free Agency

  • Jaylon Johnson
  • L’Jarius Snead
  • Kendall Fuller
  • Kenny Moore
  • Keisean Nixon
  • Sean Bunting
  • Kristian Fulton
  • CJ Henderson

This is a deep cornerback free agent class with a lot of tier two and tier three names. If Jaylong Johnson becomes available, he will be the grand prize at the cornerback position this offseason. It’s not often that a player of his age and caliber becomes available.

Outside of Johnson, there are a lot of CB2 caliber player. That’s what makes the cornerback position tough. You don’t want to overpay a player like Snead to be the top cornerback in your secondary when that might not be who he is. There are options here, but it’s also a buyer beware market. Overpaying a player on this list is something that teams are going to have to stay away from once free agency opens.

Free Agency or the Draft?

The draft gets the edge here. However, this is a position where the Rams need to double-dip and spending on a player in free agency and also take a cornerback within the first two rounds is the way to approach this position. Los Angeles needs to completely rebuild the secondary. If they can pair a veteran like Kendall Fuller with a rookie in the second-round and improve the pass rush, it would go a long way in improving the defense.

Offensive Tackle

Options in the Draft

  • Joe Alt
  • Olu Fashanu
  • Taliese Fuaga
  • Amarius Mims
  • JC Latham
  • Patrick Paul
  • Troy Fautanu

There are a lot of options at tackle within the first few rounds in the NFL Draft. Alt and Fashanu might be out of reach, but it’s also not out of the cards that the Rams would trade up for one of them. A player like Amarius Mims feels like a Les Snead pick as an athletically gifted tackle who comes from the SEC.

It can be argued whether or not the Rams need a tackle or whether they need to draft one within the first few rounds. With that said, it will certainly be something that’s on the table. The Rams offensive line, and offense for that matter, improves by making Alaric Jackson the sixth-man on the offensive line and getting a premier left tackle option in the draft.

Options in the Free Agency

  • Tyron Smith
  • Trent Brown
  • Mike Onwenu
  • Mekhi Becton
  • Jonah Williams
  • Josh Jones
  • Donovan Smith

When it comes to the free agent tackle class there are certainly some names. However, those names come with a lot of risk. Smith has played fewer than five games in two of the past five years. Brown is 30, but also comes with age and character concerns. Becton has the physical tools, but has been a bust in New York. Lastly, Williams is primarily a right tackle and the Rams are fine there with Rob Havenstein.

While the Rams would like to find another Andrew Whitworth, that player simply may not exist in this free agent class. A lot of these players come with some level of risk or aren’t worth a large contract that they will be demanding.

Free Agency or the Draft?

If the Rams address the tackle position, it needs to be in the draft. That gives them the ability to integrate a young player into their culture and develop them how they see fits. Someone like Mims is a player that they could develop and shape how they want. Fashanu or Alt would give the Rams a blue-chip caliber player on the left side. It makes more sense to overpay for a Fashanu or Alt in a trade-up than overpay a player like Smith.

Other Positions - Center, Linebacker, Safety

Options in the Free Agency

  • S Antoine Winfield Jr.
  • S Kyle Dugger
  • S Xavier McKinney
  • S Geno Stone
  • C Lloyd Cushenberry
  • C Tyler Biadasz
  • LB Devin White
  • LB Blake Cashman
  • LB Drue Tranquill

It all depends on how the Rams want to address these positions. Typically, the Rams haven’t spent at safety, linebacker, or center in the past. That could change depending on who is available, but it wouldn’t seem likely that they would extend Ernest Jones and then also pay another linebacker. They need playmakers in the secondary, but would they pay a safety which is something they haven’t done in the Snead era? The Rams need a center, but they could simply move Avila to center and then draft a guard or put Jackson inside.

Many would love if the Rams paid a linebacker or safety, unfortunately it just isn’t something that this team does. Antoine Winfield or Kyle Dugger would be great additions to the secondary. Cashman or Tranquill are exactly what the Rams need at linebacker next to Jones. Unfortunately, signing them seems unlikely.

Options in the Draft

  • S Tyler Nubin
  • S Malik Mustapha
  • S Cole Bishop
  • LB Edgerrin Cooper
  • LB Jeremiah Trotter Jr.
  • LB Cedric Gray
  • C Sedrick Van Pran
  • C Zach Frazier
  • C Jackson Powers-Johnson

There are also a lot of options in the draft for these three positions. This isn’t a great linebacker class, but someone like Cooper or Trotter Jr. could make sense in the third-round. Nubin in a player maker at safety that the Rams need. At center, Frazier or Van Pran would be immediate upgrades over Shelton.

These are positions that the Rams have typically drafted and developed. They’ve also been positions that they have usually addressed on day three. It wouldn’t be surprising if that’s the route that they go once again.

Free Agency or the Draft?

If the Rams aren’t overspending on these positions in free agency, it might make some sense to add a free agent safety or center. However, again, these are position that the Rams have typically addressed in the draft and that’s likely where they will and should address those positions this offseason.