The Rams dropped a bomb on the rest of the NFL when they agreed with the Kansas City Chiefs to acquire superstar CB Marcus Peters. While the details of the deal have yet to be released, it’s still fair to speculate what the Rams should and could do this off-season following this blockbuster move.
Sign LaMarcus Joyner long-term
I don’t know what to tell you, Joyner, in his first season as a Free Safety was ranked the third best in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. When you turn on the tape, Joyner was just flat-out dominant and he and rookie John Johnson III both fed off each-other’s success. That right there included the building of an impressive chemistry, for now, one of the most exciting safety duos in pro football.
What’s next? Well, Joyner was not extended during the season and has not been given a deal or a franchise tag yet from what we have seen. However, this guy needs to be priority one, the Rams continue to flop safeties every year going back to Adam Archuleta, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Rodney McLeod, T.J. McDonald and most recently Mo Alexander. Joyner is 27 and is in the driver’s seat to sign his first and last big 5-year contract. Hopefully, the Rams step up to the plate and lock him up to join the secondary of John Johnson III and Marcus Peters.
Do not rule out the idea of bringing back Trumaine Johnson
There is a more than 85% chance of the Rams losing Trumaine Johnson after the team acquired Marcus Peters via trade this past week. Johnson has been with the team that drafted him for his whole entire career and even though it’s looking like he could get paid big bucks somewhere else, the Rams have paid him well with two straight franchise tags that pushed Johnson’s annual salary to almost $18 million. There is a chance if the Rams presented Johnson with a lower than market value offer, Trumaine could get cold feet in the unheard of event of him leaving the Rams organization. Sure, Johnson is slated to command 16-18 million dollars per year as he is the best cornerback in free agency if he joins the pool. However, a potential hometown discount to stay for one or two years and take care of business also could be in order.
Think about this, Johnson has made over $30 million dollars with the Rams the last two seasons, money should not be an issue. Now, the Rams have put a superstar next to him and this is the same team that made the playoffs last year for the first time in Johnson’s career. It might be crazy, but it also might be hard for Johnson to give up on the team if they truly want him. The problem for me before was not if Trumaine wanted to come back, it was if the Rams wanted him back. Sean McVay said today in a press conference that the Rams do want Johnson back and that leads me to believe there is still a shot that Johnson sticks around to see how this movie ends. The Rams are only expected to get better under a 32-year old Head coach that just led a team from 4-12 the year before to a playoff home game at 11-5. It’s a business, but do not count out the potential short-term deal Johnson could consider.
Tag Sammy Watkins as long as you know LaMarcus Joyner is a done deal
There is a real good chance the Rams sign Sammy Watkins especially after they traded away E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick for his services right before last season. The key with that statement is the “right before last season” part. Watkins was thrown into battle having very little familiarity with the scheme and hardly any chemistry with franchise QB Jared Goff. Now, unfortunately, the Buffalo Bills did not pick up the 5th-year option of Sammy Watkins which makes him a free agent this season. Due to that decision, the Rams are left in a tough spot, they could do what the Bills are doing and let Watkins walk just like Gaines is. However, the 24-year old receiver has immense upside and is already extremely talented.
I have battled back and forth with many on this subject, but I think that the Rams might want to bring him back especially after the Peters trade. There are certainly options in the draft but you aren’t going to find a better receiver day one than Watkins right now in the draft or free agency.
Retain the underrated key contributors
I’ve seen some fans say that the Rams should let Nickell Robey-Coleman go. Excuse me? The highest rated cornerback on the Rams should be let go of? I’m confused, this guy is one of the best players at the nickel cornerback position in the game. The Rams will need to retain NRC for sure and then I guess the respect he receives from fans will need to improve following his contract signing. Another guy would be John Sullivan who many want to see leave despite the fact he’s been the Rams best center since what? Jason Brown? Sullivan will be cheap, they will likely draft a guy in this class and they like Austin Blythe so why not at least bring back Sullivan for one more year?
Troy Hill has a chance to start alongside Marcus Peters depending what happens in the off-season. However, he needs to be signed as an exclusive free agent first. 2017-18 expected defensive line starter Dominique Easley went down with a torn ACL and will look to continue to play football, there is no reason the Rams should not bring back Easley for cheap who just turned 26-years old. Matt Longacre and Cody Davis also have played a huge part in helping the Rams depth. Longacre might have been the best outside linebacker this past year for the Rams and Davis started some games at safety. Both of them should be brought back, these are players that may not jump off the page to the everyday NFL fan but make an impact more behind the scenes.
Find a trade partner for Mark Barron or release him after June 1st
It’s a shame really, Mark Barron was the Rams best inside backer last year despite being completely undersized. However, the Rams sealed his fate when they gave Alec Ogletree the long-term extension. This was the first legitimate contract extension from the new regime and it seems like Ogletree was hand-picked to be their guy to move forward into the next era of this defense. Barron should garner some value, mainly for a 4-3 team that needs a play-making linebacker. Best guess would be the Cleveland Browns with Gregg Williams (former Rams Defensive coordinator).
It’s unclear how much the Rams could get in return for Barron but it would be worth it to trade Barron now and find “your guy” at the position moving forward. Barron could save the Rams up to $9 million in cap space if cut after June 1st, which would allow the Rams to add his replacement and make the move once that date rolls along. Speaking of that replacement…
Make Avery Williamson the top non-in-house priority in free agency
You may not realize it but Williamson has been one of the most underrated young studs at his position in the league for a bit now. The former 5th-round pick is 25 years old and is expected to make out like a bandit in free agency. Dick LeBeau’s top inside backer led all ILB’s in tackling efficiency, run stop percentage and was ranked among the top of the league in coverage snaps per reception allowed according to Pro Football Focus. Alec Ogletree is going to need a legit 3-4 inside backer to take over and help him out more. Williamson is that guy and even though he will be expensive, he is once again only 25 and is one of the most well-rounded players at the position in the league.
Sure, there are other options out there but drafting Williamson would allow the Rams to look at other positions and get their full bang for their buck in the NFL draft. Williamson should, by all means, receive a contract with the Titans but if they decide not to bring him back for whatever reason the Rams will need to scoop him up.
Kick tires on outside linebacker free agent talent
The Rams proved that they clearly covet Robert Quinn after reports came out that the team refused to trade him to Kansas City in the deal for Marcus Peters. It’s obvious the Rams have a need at the edge defender position and one guy they could look to bring in, played as a 3-4 outside linebacker just this past season in Chicago under a great Defensive coordinator in Vic Fangio. Pernell McPhee has been consistently solid over his career and if you were grading the 29-year old like it was high school you would give him a B or a B minus. With that being said he’s free to sign anywhere now and with the Rams in-house options limited by pending free agents and lack of experience, McPhee might be a perfect fit to come into an organization on a short-term deal and try and win a Super Bowl before he starts consistently bouncing team-to-team to finish out his career.
Another option for the Rams would be the 27-year old Trent Murphy from the Washington Redskins. This is someone that would be intriguing because he is like McPhee in that you would grade him as a B player and he’s two years younger. Another thing to add onto that is that Murphy has familiarity with the Rams linebackers and assistant head coach Joe Barry since he defensive coordinated the Redskins when Murphy was there. The main drawback here is that Murphy was suspended four games in 2017 for violating the league’s PED (Performance Enhancing Drugs) policy. Murphy would likely have to serve that time in 2018 due to the fact he tore his ACL and MCL in the preseason.
The pros are there for Murphy as he is two years younger than McPhee and he has the familiarity with Joe Barry and that Redskins defense he coordinated. The cons are there for Murphy as well, seeing as he did not play in 2017 due to an ACL and MCL tear plus the fact he has a looming PED suspension.
Look for a running back to fill the Chris Thompson role in McVay’s offense
There are two top options to fill this role. Dion Lewis from the New England Patriots and Jerick McKinnon from the Minnesota Vikings. It has been an obvious idea that Sean McVay wants his pass catching “scat back” behind Todd Gurley. It’s also obvious that the idea of Lance Dunbar (which wasn’t a good one to begin with) backfired due to his consistent injuries. If you feel like Benny Cunningham would have done better in that role I definitely agree with you. Also for those of you that seem to doubt the idea that a Chris Thompson player would be needed in this offense, here is Thompson week three versus the Raiders.
Now, the Rams have a chance to either draft a kid in the draft to fill that role or sign a guy like McKinnon or Lewis. It remains to be seen how much the Rams will be willing to spend but if he is for the taking either Lewis or McKinnon would make a lot of sense. The Rams are likely looking for someone that can give Gurley a breather while also not having to limit the offense in any way during their time on the field. Both Lewis and McKinnon were ranked in the top ten of Pro Football Focus’ highest grade running backs and both were among the top of the league in pass protection. The Rams are going to need to add a pass protector and both of these guys fit the bill. If not now, the Rams will address the position in the draft and choose from a talented crop that could include Kalen Ballage, Mark Walton, Nyheim Hines, Jaylon Samuels, Ito Smith, Martez Carter, John Kelly, Justin Jackson and much more.
Soften up teams and start trying to trade out of the 23rd overall slot in the NFL Draft
I think this is what’s happening right now at the NFL Combine. It’s stupid to say the Rams should be trying to trade for anything since that’s what Les Snead and company do. They did it for Jared Goff, Mark Barron, Nick Foles, Sammy Watkins and now recently Marcus Peters. The Rams are not afraid to shake things up, but with the recent trade with the Bills for Watkins, the Rams do not have a second-round pick. They could easily recoup one with a trade down from 23rd in the draft. The Rams are sitting pretty if they bring back Watkins, Joyner and even sign Williamson or bring Tru back. There aren’t a ton of needs this year so the Rams will look to solidify the future and of course, fills those little holes.
If you talk to anyone that is really following this draft process, no one would say the Rams would be crazy to trade out of the 23rd spot and gain a few picks in return. The way this draft is going, we should expect five QB’s to go off the board on the first night easily, two or maybe even three running backs and lots of cornerbacks. That leaves us with edge defenders, offensive linemen and linebackers to sift through. Last year, the Rams talked with the Bills to try and pry Watkins during the draft, the two parties agreed on a deal but it wasn’t for Watkins (of course we know how that went). The Rams had zero first-round picks last year and traded down from 37 overall. There is no reason to believe that Snead is not going to trade down and scoop up more draft capital.
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