2020 Los Angeles Rams Positional Breakdown: Quarterbacks

With the exception of starting QB Jared Goff, the Rams’ QB room is currently up in the air.

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(Note: if you haven’t read the positional breakdown that I did on the safeties, I highly recommend it). Today, I’ll be breaking down the quarterbacks and something tells me that this will be a hot topic for Rams fans to discuss going into the 2020 season. With that being said, let’s get started:

Jared Goff 

2020: $36M

2021: $32.5M

2022: $30.5M

OPT Out 2023: $5M dead cap

2023: $30M

2024: $26M

2025: UFA

We are going to start with QB1 in Jared Goff, who has seen a lot of heat from Rams fans this year after having a down year. Granted, the inconsistent running game didn’t help much when it came to the offense so Goff was relied upon to run this team throughout the whole year. In fact, he was relied upon so much by head coach Sean McVay that Goff saw a career-high in passing attempts with 626. That’s almost 40 attempts per game if you average that 626 over 16 games (his next highest attempt total was 561 back in 2018).

Furthermore, even with having a down year, Goff only threw 50 fewer yards this year compared to last year. Granted, he also had four more interceptions (16 in 2019 compared to 12 in 2018) along with ten fewer touchdowns (22 in 2019 compared to 32 in 2018) but that’s to be expected when you’re relied upon to move the ball in the air more with a struggling run game. Here’s an excellent article from late November 2019 on how the decline in the run game impacted the overall productivity of Jared Goff in the Rams’ offense (h/t Derrik Klassen @QBKlass):

In 2018, Goff’s average time to throw was 2.95 seconds, which ranked sixth in the league according to Next Gen Stats. Goff’s average time to throw has dropped to a 20th-ranked 2.77 seconds this season. However, Goff experienced a fourth-ranked 25.2% pressure rate in 2018 despite his high time to throw, whereas his lower time to throw in 2019 has been paired with a 21st-ranked 29.9% pressure rate (subscription required). In other words, Goff isn’t holding the ball as long this season, but he’s being pressured far more often.

The Rams do have an opt out going into 2023 but the dead cap of $5 million might not be the move they want to take after putting so much faith and money into him. 

Turning Sides

On the flip side, I can understand why fans would turn on Goff and try to put the blame on him for a 9-7 season. Fans, not all but some, bring up the sack totals the offensive line gave up (22), the lowest in the league, but you have to take into account the whole body of work. As Derrik wrote in the aforementioned Film Room article, through the end of November Goff had also seen a not-insignificant uptick in pressures and downtick in time to throw. Sean McVay had to scheme up a plan to help Goff roll out of the pocket on bootlegs in an effort to buy him more time and allow him to hit downfield receivers.

Over the latter half of the season, his numbers got better when rolling out instead of dropping back because the line couldn’t give him sustained and consistent protection against most fronts. Goff wasn’t the main issue, but you can certainly put some blame on him for bad throwing decisions (and he had a few head scratchers near the season’s end that ended up hurting the team).

Overall, I expect that with the addition of OC Kevin O’Connell and improvements to run game consistency and production, Goff will have a bounce-back 2020 season. With a full offseason to “fix” the problems, it’s not far-fetched to predict a return to the quarterbacking of 2017 and 2018, when he helped lead the Rams to the playoffs and Super Bowl, respectively. 

Blake Bortles

2020: UFA

Former Jacksonville Jaguar Blake Bortles was hoping the 2019 season would provide him an opportunity to showcase his skills into a lucrative new deal, but that wasn’t the case. He didn’t play much in 2019 because the Rams were still trying to find a way to squeak into the playoffs, and after elimination, they were still fighting to end the season with a winning record; that meant playing Goff for all 16 games. He did have two passing attempts for three yards.

Bortles didn’t have a great campaign in Jacksonville, after which he saw his way of coming to the Rams (and McVay’s tutelage) in hopes of a career resurgence. Bortles still could find a team next season if someone wants to take a flier on him, or even maybe the Rams if they want to keep him as a backup for Goff.

Either way, Bortles will be on a team in 2020, just not sure if it’ll be with the Rams because he knows the system or somewhere else depending if he wants to fight for a starting job. 

John Wolford

2020: Reserve/Future Contract 

As of this article, John Wolford has been signed by the Rams to a reserve/future contract which will guarantee him a roster spot for training camp. He spent 2019 on the practice squad, just like he did as a rookie free agent with the New York Jets in 2018. He did have a stint with the Arizona Hotshots of the defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF) after a two month season. Along with the Rams, the fans have high praise of Wolford who had a pretty solid college career at Wake Forest.

He set a bowl record in his senior at the Belk Bowl in completions (32), attempts (49), passing yards (400) and four touchdowns. 2020 might be the year where the Rams could take a chance on Wolford and make him the backup to Goff if the team doesn’t bring back Bortles or signs a free agent this off-season.

Possible Free Agent Addition:

2020 will see a plethora of starting quarterbacks becoming free agents, such as Ryan Tannehill, Phillip Rivers, Drew Brees, etc. Although they are exceptional players, the Rams are going to be looking for a solid backup who could help the team barring anything happening to Goff this year.

There are two players in mind that I think could be solid backups and they are: 

Case Keenum (2019 Washington Redskins)

$3.5M, 35th Ranked QB (Free Agent Forecast)

Now before you yell at me on social media or what have you hear me out. Keenum is the highest-ranked QB in the second tier of quarterbacks behind the likes of Brees, Rivers and so on. Keenum did have 10 starts in the 2019 season, where he threw for 1,707 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. He did lose the starting job to the Redskins’ 2019 1st round pick (Dwayne Haskins) but he still was a solid quarterback on a dismal Redskins team.

Of course Keenum did have a stint with the Rams back in 2015 and 2016, where he combined for 3,029 yards with 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Furthermore, that was before the hiring of Sean McVay, who I think could benefit from bringing Keenum back given the fact that the team is monumentally better where it’s now compared to 2015 and 2016. It’s worth nothing that the Rams also recently added 2019 Redskins OC in Kevin O’Connell, and that could be a significant factor if he wants to follow him to the Rams.

Keenum is a physical quarterback that can throw and mix in a run if you need him too plus he can be a great mentor to help Wolford in the future.

A.J. McCarron (2019 Houston Texans)

$3M, 71st Ranked QB (Free Agent Forecast)

The last quarterback that will be highlighted is the former Alabama standout in AJ McCarron. McCarron’s NFL career might not be the greatest on paper, but there’s still a chance this guy could be a solid backup. In three games last year he threw for only 49 yards on eleven attempts.

However, McCarron hasn’t gotten a chance to show his potential since being drafted by the Bengals in 2015, where he was stuck behind Andy Dalton until 2018 and in 2019 moved to the Raiders to back up Derek Carr.

McCarron would be a good backup if the Rams want to go with him, especially if they don’t bring back Bortles or go after Keenum.

Summary

The Los Angeles Rams won’t be hurting at the quarterback position in 2020 with Jared Goff at the helm. Yes, he did have a down year. If the run game and the offensive line get a boost, and the addition of OC O’Connell can reignite the offense, you’ll see the 2018 version of Goff making a reappearance this year.

John Wolford might have a shot to become a backup if the Rams do decide to go that route. If they want to bring in a veteran quarterback to help mentor Wolford and be a rock in case something happens to Goff during the season, they can do that as well.

Starting quarterback won’t be a high priority position for the Rams this year, but it is interesting to keep an eye on who will backup Goff going into 2020. 

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