The Los Angeles Rams have become the NFL’s laughing stock, even at 6-5; at least that is what it feels like. After a 45-6 beatdown from the visiting Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football, the Rams face a steep uphill climb to make it to the playoffs. It wouldn’t be a stretch to rule that out at this point, and by the looks of it, this team has too much to worry about to fix in one season. This isn’t the same Sean McVay-led Rams team we’ve become accustomed to, it is time for a change, for better or worse.
The game against the Ravens was a perfect microcosm of the Rams’ season, and all units were under duress. Offense and defense were obliterated and dominated but for the Rams, the really troubling part is they look to be stuck in this position for a little while.
Jared Goff’s contract is a big talking point around NFL circles, but contracts such as Rob Havenstein’s (4 yr./$32.5 million), Brandin Cooks’ (5 yr./$81 million), and Todd Gurley’s (4 yr./$57.5 million) are all movable assets that the Rams can easily get rid of.
Players like Eric Weddle and his two-year deal can be traded. Dante Fowler and Andrew Whitworth (assuming retirement) will be off of the books come this offseason as well.. After this season, what is next for the Rams is a ton of money going out, and the recouping of draft picks the team desperately needs. Havenstein can fetch a third or second-rounder, Cooks a second, Gurley a fourth and a player, and if they decide to move off of Austin Blythe theres some more added room to the cap, albeit not much. The Rams aren’t getting first-round picks for these guys and their contracts, it is unrealistic to think so; but there is a definite market for all of them.
Clearing these pieces out clears an effective 60+ million dollars for free agency-spending purposes, and it gives the Rams draft flexibility moving forward.
On the offensive tackle market, players such as Anthony Castonzo, Brian Bulaga, Marcus Gilbert, and Daryl Williams are all free agents and won’t fetch too big of a payday. The Rams can sign a plug-and-play guy as they did with Whitworth, or they can sign a stopgap player to holdover the position until they draft a successor. The Rams have options at tackle.
For offensive guard, the Rams have to make a decision. Joe Noteboom disappointed and will be coming off a season-ending injury by next year, so do the Rams move him to right tackle or start him at left guard? Do they keep Austin Blythe at the center spot or keep him at guard? Blythe has been moved around his entire career, so keeping him at the center position would be beneficial for him and the team. So two new tackles and Blythe at center: who will play the guard positions?
The guard market if full of names that have started and have been successful for their respective teams. Starting off with the biggest name: Brandon Scherff. Scherff has been on the Washington Redskins for the past four years and if we have learned anything about players on the Redskins: they don’t trust the organization. If the Rams can snag Scherff for something short of Ron Leary’s $9 million-per-year deal they can really build the line from the inside out.
At right guard, LA has to decide on whether to sign another free agent or to keep some of the young core intact. Xavier Su’a-Filo is an interesting name in the upcoming free agency market. In a market loaded with offensive linemen, Su’a-Filo could slip under the radar and be a good pickup for a team that will presumably be looking for staring guard help. With a PFF rating of 57.0 on the season, he’d be one of the Rams’ best linemen if he were on the roster. A definite upgrade.
So a revitalized offensive line that includes two new tackles and two new guards would look something like this: Right tackle: Marcus Gilbert, right guard: Xavier Su’a-Filo, center: Austin Blythe, left guard: Brandon Scherff, and at left tackle: Anthony Castonzo. This lineup, which is assuredly a pipedream, can be fully created through the free agency market. The draft is another tool, assuming the Rams recoup picks, to rebuild this unit to its former glory. The free agency/trade situation gives the Rams depth at the positions they need it the most while using their money to improve their worst unit.
The Rams’ cap space will be depressed heavily after the incoming extensions of Jalen Ramsey and Cory Littleton, leaving the Rams with close to the minimum and an exception to sign remaining players.
Signing these players likely leaves the Rams with less than $20 million dollars in salary cap space and with holes at safety, outside linebacker and defensive end. Taylor Rapp can replace Eric Weddle at the safety spot, but the Rams will end up needing players at two huge groups on the defense.
Signing a player like Derek Wolfe could be an opportunity to add a veteran but for cheap, and the draft can be used to fill the depth behind him at defensive end. Mario Addison and Aaron Lynch are cheap-ish options in the FA market to fill that hole.
I have almost solely looked at potential free agent solutions to the Rams holes due to the fact that the Rams don’t have many secured draft picks. If they clear enough money, any and all of these players are available to sign, and the Rams love making a splash in the FA market. Getting rid of players we have seen as Los Angeles Rams for the past couple of years might hurt, but it will be for the betterment of the team.
The Rams aren’t trading Jared Goff, so building around him and focusing on his strength is the best way for this team to win. The Rams made a Superbowl with the formula of Goff comes first, and if Sean McVay can expand and adjust his offense with a good line, this team will be right back on track.
While keeping the offensive talent intact while shedding massive cap numbers gives the Rams a chance to build around their quarterback, and it has a chance to revitalize this offense. While the defense might lose some talent and might be forced to sign some cheap veterans, the talent on that side of the ball will have to carry them. They have the talent necessary to do so.
After all the moves Les Snead has made, the toughest road might be the one right in front of him. The Rams don’t need a rebuild, they need a legitimate retooling, and Snead has a lot of work ahead.
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