The Los Angeles Rams were somewhat of a surprise playoff team this past season. Coming off a 5-12 season in 2022 and being cap-strapped heading into the offseason, LA had a fantastic draft and rebounded to not only rectify their cap situation by trading away veterans, but string together a 7-1 record to end the season and earn a wild card position with a 10-7 record.
The Rams will have the luxury of returning most of their current roster in 2024, including QB Matthew Stafford, WRs Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp, LB Ernest Jones and DL Aaron Donald. This time around they also ability to add some key pieces via the open market, with only a few players slated for free agency this year, and an expected $56.6 million dollars in cap space, the Rams should be viewed as potential Super Bowl candidates next season if they can build on their young playoff team.
These are four players I believe the Rams could bring in to help boost their chances of getting their third Lombardi trophy in franchise history.
Brian Burns - Edge Rusher
It’s hard to start any free agency list for the Rams without including Carolina Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns. It’s no secret that head coach Sean McVay likes Burns, as LA tried to trade a rumored two first-round picks and a second to acquire him back in 2022. Now the team has the chance to sign him as a free agent, while giving up no draft capital to get him.
Burns is currently rated the fifth best free agent available by PFF, so if there is any downside to Burns, it will be the cost to bring him to LA. That said, Burns is only 25, and one of the best edge rushers in the league, if there was a player to spend money on in long-term deal, Burns is an ideal candidate.
Last season Burns had a PFF rating of 74.1 with nine sacks on the season. He also had 12.5 sacks in 2022, and could be the perfect compliment to go along with second-year edge rusher Byron Young, who toted eight sacks of his own last year.
Kenny Moore - Cornerback
Kenny Moore may be a more surprising selection at corner for the Rams with players like Bears Jaylon Johnson and Chiefs L’Jarius Sneed available, however Moore should cost considerably less than both of those players at age 28. While that may be seen as a negative, I think bringing a veteran presence into one of the youngest cornerback rooms in the league could be a huge benefit to Los Angeles, especially if the Rams plan to used a top pick on bringing in another corner through the draft as well.
Don’t let his age fool you though, Moore’s play was still top tier last season in Indianapolis. He is a tackling machine from the corner position with 72 solo tackles in 2023 - the second-most in the NFL by a defensive back. This would be a huge strength for the Rams, as their corners struggled with broken tackles most of last year.
Moore also had three interceptions, which ranked twelfth in the league, and a PFF score of 77.4. To put it in perspective, Cobie Durant and Derion Kendrick were both under 60, and Ahkello Witherspoon, LA’s best corner, had a score of 64.0. Moore’s addition would clearly be a big improvement over the current situation, and pairing him with another young stud corner in the top two rounds of the draft could completely reset the Rams secondary for the better.
Andre James - Center
With current starter Coleman Shelton slated to be a free agent, the Rams may be in the market for an addition to the middle of their offensive line. Andre James of the Las Vegas Raiders had arguably his best season as a pro last year, and could be an improvement at the position for a relatively reasonable price.
James should be in the market for a pay increase from his current 2 year - $8.65 extension that he signed in 2021. At only 26, his new deal will most-likely need to be a long-term contract to compete with other team’s offers.
Raiderswire.com expects that James could pull a deal somewhere in the $8 million-a-year range. Considering the Rams currently pay backup center Brian Allen $6 million on average, James potential $8 million per year as a starting center would be somewhat of a bargain, even on a 3-4 year deal. Further more, the top four centers from last year all averaged over $12 million annually.
James is stellar in the run, and he fits the Rams mold of bigger interior lineman at 6’4” 300lbs. He had a PFF grade of 74.6, and was the website’s pick for 2024 NFL free agent the Raiders couldn’t afford to lose. Rams starter Coleman Shelton had a score of 64.5, meaning James should, in theory, be a solid upgrade for the interior of the offensive line and maybe even a long term answer at center.
Darnell Mooney - Wide Receiver
If there is one thing the Rams lack at wide receiver, it is a player to completely take the top off the defense. While their were high hopes that Tutu Atwell would become that player, he has struggled to stay on the field. Mooney could be the low-priced answer the Rams are looking for.
Mooney is the definition of “low cost/high ceiling” type of player. He had a down year last season behind DJ Moore, however Chicago also has one of the lower-volume passing attacks in the league, so some of the blame for his performance may be directed at that.
In his second year in the league, Mooney had 1,055 on 81 receptions and was regarded as a young up and coming player in Chicago, if McVay can get that potential again out of Mooney again, the Rams could find a steal at WR.
Mooney is only 26 years old and has an ability to separate consistently on deep routes. He could be brought in on a cheap “prove-it” type deal, and if anything, this could help push Atwell in training camp by bring in some competition. Mooney has shown in the past he can handle a substantial role in an offense, however he would not be asked to do that in LA with Kupp and Nacua, most-likely be used at wide receiver to stretch the field and bring some speed to the outside.
The Rams could also opt to bring back WR Demarcus Robinson, but he should be in for a salary increase after last season’s performance with Los Angeles. Mooney could be a lower cost option and may fit better with LA’s plans, contract wise, if they are looking to bring in another wide receiver via the draft too.