The Los Angeles Rams open free agency this week looking to make key acquisitions on even better prices.
Los Angeles will have about $18 million in cap space, which accounts for their draft picks as well. The NFLPA ratified their CBA and no delays from COVID-19 are expected to change the March 18th new year start date or negotiation window March 16th.
Rams starters Dante Fowler Jr. and Cory Littleton will look for big deals as they hit free agency for the first time as they have hit their stride the past two seasons with the Rams. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers, guard Austin Blythe and tackle Andrew Witworth all started a ton of games for the Rams too but they will test the market along with starting kicker Greg Zuerlin, nickel corner Nickell Robey-Coleman and backup QB Blake Bortles. That means the Rams will have to fill some key positions without lots of wiggle room as re-signing Fowler and Littleton alone would eat up their remaining cap space. L.A. still wants to keep those players though.
Not to mention, Jalen Ramsey still needs an extension. They also got to figure out if they keep Todd Gurley’s more than $17 million cap hit or explore other options for the All-Pro.
L.A. is also without a first round pick after their trade for Ramsey. They do have two third-round selections.
Here are some realistic free agents the Rams should make a priority with their cap space and needs.
Offensive Tackle Cordy Glenn
Good left tackles don’t usually hit free agency for no reason. Glenn is going to be 31 and off a season where he only played in six games. He’s taken noticeable steps back since looking like a franchise left tackle with the Bills five years ago.
Either way, the Rams need a serviceable left tackle. They can bring back Whitworth but he had his own struggle last year. Whitworth is not ready to retire but how much longer can Los Angeles rely on a 38-year-old?
If anything Glenn gives Whitworth some competition at left tackle or Glenn replaces Whitworth as the bridge between whoever the Rams eventually draft to be the left tackle of the future.
Otherwise, the Rams will have to explore Jason Peters who has his own age issues. Or there is Greg Robinson’s pending legal situation. Kelvin Beachum is another veteran option for competition. Again, great left tackles do not usually hit the free agency market.
If anything, the Rams will probably have better luck adding some competition at right tackle.
Defensive Lineman Derek Wolfe
Seven sacks and 12 QB hits over 12 games in a breakout season for the Broncos makes for the perfect time for Wolfe to enter free agency. However, the 2015 Super Bowl champion might be in the bargain range considering he is about to hit 30. Wolfe has only played all sixteen games three times over his eight seasons and this was his most sacks ever in a season.
For the Rams, Wolfe makes sense as a defensive option in L.A.’s price range. He offers experience playing in multiple schemes and slates as a replacement for Brockers at defensive end.
Alternatively, this class features a few defensive linemen who could make sense for the Rams. Shelby Harris is another one of Wolfe’s teammates who makes sense as a bargain. Javon Hargrave or DJ Reeder could give the Rams upgrades too but they might be out of the Rams range. Other veterans like Mike Daniels or Linval Joseph could make sense as well.
Edge Vic Beasley
Re-signing Fowler should be the Rams top priority in free agency. However, they can’t stop the market from making him an offer he can not refuse. There are a variety of free agency targets that sense for the Rams.
Beasley makes a ton of sense for the Rams. Atlanta tried to trade him last year despite eight sacks in 15 starts. He played an instrumental role for the Falcons Super Bowl run in 2016 with 15.5 sacks and 6 forced fumbles. Beasley hasn’t passed five sicks since then which makes him a prime candidate for a one-year prove it contract. The goal should be signing Beasley for the opportunity to play with a talented defense in hopes of putting together a season that earns him a big contract.
Beasley played a variety of positions too. Either way, it will come down to price for Beasley. If the Rams can not get Beasley cheap there are a variety of other edges they could add.
Bruce Irvin re-surged with 8.5 sacks in 13 games and 12 starts with Carolina last year. Marrio Addison is also on the other side of thirty off a season where he finished with 9.5 sacks for the Panthers. Both are free agents who could fit in the defensive rotation with Clay Matthews and Samson Ebukam.
Jamie Collins finished with seven sacks, three forced fumbles and three interceptions at age 30 or 29-year-old Kyle Van Noy registered 6.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles because the Patriots might not keep both.
Aaron Lynch is another guy Rams defensive coordinator knows from his time with the Bears in 2018. Lynch has had five sacks combined in the past two seasons. He is on the right side of thirty which makes him worth consideration despite limited options.
Shaq Lawson finished his best year with the Bills including six and a half sacks despite no starts. The 2016 first round pick still offers some upside as well. Kamalei Correa makes sense as well the 2016 second round registered 8.5 sacks in his last two season with the Titans.
Benson Mayowa concluded one of his best season too. Mayowa finished with 7 sacks last year. The L.A. Native will be 29-year-old next year and could add some pass rushing ability to the Rams rotation.
Either way, Beasley brings a blend of production and upside which makes him a solid free agency acquisition should the Rams lose Fowler. Some other names mentioned make sense as depth options, with or without Fowler.
Linebacker Alec Ogletree
Besides the difficulty signing Fowler, the Rams also need to keep Littleton. You will find few inside linebackers with the speed and coverage skills in this free agency class. Littleton also played in a Super Bowl with this team after playing his way up from special teams.
Patrick Onwuasor or Joe Schobert are notable linebacker candidates who could fill that void but will probably get too much interest for the cap-strapped Rams.
Van Noy or Correa were already mentioned as edge rushers but they could slide inside due to their versatility for the Rams as well.
Either way, the Rams should take a look at Ogletree. The familiar face with the Rams got traded because of injuries and cap hit which is why the Giants ended up cutting him anyways. The time around, Ogletree could look for one more year to prove himself healthy and capable of making big plays which might get him more interest next year.
Otherwise, you look at a veteran like Sean Lee with his limitations in coverage and his age at almost 34. Reggie Ragland is more of a run-stuffer so he could give the Rams a boost there but he probably does not fill the Rams need entirely.
The point is, the Rams don’t have many options to replace Littleton so the guy who had his job before might not be a bad option. Ogletree should be cost efficient too.
Corner Xavier Rhodes
The Rams also need to find a player who can compete for starting time at corner. Insert Xavier Rhodes who had a Pro Bowl year despite allowing over an 80 percent completion rate. Rhodes did not have a single interception last year.
Rhodes would bring 97 games starting experience at age 30. He brings the size to play on the outside but he might benefit from a move to the slot. The Rams can bet on Rhodes rebounding which gives them a starting corner opposite Ramsey for cheap.
Otherwise, the free agency corner position is filled with Rhodes’ teammates Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes who come with their own question marks. They both are a bit younger though.
Chris Harris had a down year last season with the Broncos but he is only 31 and could rebound in the slot too. There is also the Broncos connection with the Rams new D.C.
Ronald Darby is worth a look too. He is only 27 and had 2 interceptions last year in only 11 games. The issue with Darby is injuries which have cost him at least five games the past three years.
Ultimately, the Rams have plenty of affordable corner options. Rhodes makes sense with his blend of experience and durability. L. A. would bank on a change of scenary improving his play.
Throughout this offseason the Rams need to find bargains to make their money stretch. They have team needs on top of the fact that they underwhelmed last year.
What free agents do you hope the Rams sign, realistically?