The 2020 NFL Offseason is fast approaching and with that being said Free Agency is fast approaching (March 18 is the start of the new league year). The Los Angeles Rams will have multiple tough decisions to make regarding their roster, with the contracts of starters ILB Cory Littleton, DL Michael Brockers, OLB Dante Fowler, T Andrew Whitworth, OG Austin Blythe and K Greg Zuerlein expiring.
Here’s a list of potential value free agents the Rams should target to fill certain holes or add depth on the roster.
NT Danny Shelton (26 years old)
In 2018, the New England Patriots bought low on a nose tackle originally drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. That nose tackle is Danny Shelton, and he’s a Super Bowl champion who helped bolster the New England defensive line the past few years. He can do the same thing for the Rams as long as they pull the trigger this time.
The Rams recently hired new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who in all likelihood will continue running the same 3-4 base defense that former defensive coordinator Wade Phillips ran with the Rams. In this 2-gap defense where the nose tackle is key, Staley will need more beef upfront and the 342-pounder will do just that for the defense. Pro Football Focus ranked Shelton the 42nd best interior defensive lineman, so this is clearly no slouch.
The bottom line is that the Rams have to consider Shelton’s age, his talents and his Spotrac projected market value of not even $5 million per year. Plus he’s a big upgrade over Sebastian Joseph-Day.
DT Jordan Phillips (27 years old)
Once a second-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Dolphins ended up moving on from Jordan Phillips. The former Oklahoma Sooner nose tackle flashed over his young career but not enough to stay in the rotation in Miami. The Dolphins waived Phillips in 2018 and the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills claimed him. Phillips made a name for himself in Buffalo and was a part of the talented and feisty Sean McDermott-led defense.
With the Rams running the 3-4 base defense, Phillips would be a solid fit and similar to Shelton, would be able to offer a player in his prime and ready to be productive as well as add some beef in the trenches. The thing with Phillips is that unlike Shelton, he can offer some serious value as a pass-rushing nose tackle. Phillips had 9.5 sacks this past season in Buffalo. Placing Phillips next to Donald could be an intriguing combination for sure.
Spotrac projects Phillips to have a higher market value than Shelton at $6.1 million per year which is a little richer but you are getting the pass-rushing prowess he brings to the table in the process. Once again, he’s an upgrade over the Rams current starting nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day.
WR Tajae Sharpe (25 years old)
The fifth-round pick from UMass was drafted by the Titans in the 2016 NFL Draft. He’s going to be a free agent after this year and it’s uncertain whether he will be back in Nashville. Sharpe has been rumored to want out for a bigger role in the past and many felt like he might even be a preseason cut casualty. However, Sharpe is still here and his team just played in an AFC Championship game.
Sharpe is a talented receiver that offers a solid blend of size and speed. He’s a solid route runner with above-average hands and a knack for blocking downfield. He would definitely fit the Rams if the Rams did in fact want to add another receiver, perhaps nervous with the thought of Brandin Cooks suffering yet another concussion. Even if Cooks doesn’t suffer another concussion (and I really hope he doesn’t for his long-term health) he could still hang up his cleats early; after all, we just saw perennial All-Pro Luke Kuechly retire at 28 as a result of head trauma.
Right now, Cooks wants to play, but the prospect of early retirement is definitely on fans’ (and hopefully the Rams’) minds. Sharpe is a Rams-type of receiver that could slide into the rotation for the time being with a chance to challenge Josh Reynolds for the third receiver job if it indeed becomes open.
Sharpe didn’t blow the doors off this season, so the 25-year-old would be relatively affordable which makes you wonder if the Rams would pull the trigger on him. The value around maybe $4 million a year tops sure would be enticing in regards to signing a player like Sharpe. Of course, who’s to say the Titans are willing to let him walk?
G Quinton Spain (28 years old)
The 2015 undrafted rookie free agent carved out a role on the Titans starting offensive line unit. Quinton Spain has had a solid career to this point and he just went and played over 1,000 snaps for the Buffalo Bills on a one-off one-year deal.
With Austin Blythe an impending free agent, the Rams will need to add some help on the interior offensive line and especially some experienced help. Spain does just that as someone that has started 64 games in his NFL career. Still, at the age of 28, Spain finds himself right in his prime. The Rams won’t have a ton of cap to work with so they will have to be crafty in rebuilding or reloading this roster and Spain could be the perfect type of offensive line option.
Spain is likely going to be a $4 million per year market value at the most. I don’t even think he will necessarily get that with guys like Brandon Scherff on the market.
ILB Patrick Onwuasor (28 years old)
Undrafted out of Portland State in 2016, Patrick Onwuasor went on to play 57 games and start in 32 of them. What is interesting about this fit is the fact he went to Inglewood High School. He’s a free agent and could realistically join the Inglewood team in the Los Angeles Rams. Onwuasor could definitely come back and the Ravens should entertain bringing him back but he could very well hit free agency.
The unrestricted free agent had arguably the worst season of his career this past year in ironically one of the franchise’s best seasons. Onwuasor brings a little of everything to the table and could definitely slide into an inside backer spot in Los Angeles with or without Cory Littleton. Which brings me to the next point, Onwuasor and Littleton are both free agents. If the Rams wanted to roll the dice on letting Littleton go (a move I’m entirely against) they would likely look in-house or go for a value free agent to fill the void.
The Rams could realistically keep Littleton and sign Onwuasor for next season. Spotrac’s market value on Onwuasor is surprisingly under $5 million per year which is certainly a doable deal. The fit is there, the location familiarity is there and the talent is there. He’d likely be the Rams best value option talent-wise on this list. Again, it’s all based on if the Ravens bring him back or not.