2020 Los Angeles Rams Positional Breakdown: Cornerbacks

The Rams will return every cornerback from 2019. However, roster decisions loom on extending a talented duo.

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(Authors Note: If you haven’t please check out the other articles in the positional breakdown series. Leave us your thoughts on our social media’s about our takes on the potential 2020 Los Angeles Rams roster.)

The 2019 Los Angeles Rams cornerbacks room saw some injuries to key players late in the year (namely starters Troy Hill and Jalen Ramsey), but the “next man up” mentality helped the Rams finish off the season with a winning record.

The 2020 Rams are going to be seeing all of the key guys back along with a new mind at defensive coordinator in Brandon Staley. Be ready to see a secondary poised to lock down and help lead the Rams to a potential rebound season that could see a deep playoff run. 

Jalen Ramsey

2020: $13.7M (5th year option)

2021: UFA

In 2019, the Rams sent two first round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars to pry away one of the game’s top lock down corners in Jalen Ramsey. Fans were cautious about trading so much draft capital for a guy who, at that point, had two years left on his contract. Once in Los Angeles, Ramsey showed why the Rams took a gamble on the 25 year-old corner from Florida State: he is a true tone-setter and a complete boundary defender.

While playing nine games with the Rams, Ramsey had one interception and 33 combined tackles (50 combined total between Jacksonville and Los Angeles) along with routinely locking horns (pun intended) with the other team’s top pass catcher. His impact on the defense was immediate, with both QB pressures and sacks seeing a healthy improvement.

Ramsey is a top priority player, and the Rams must lock him down long-term after spending high risk draft capital to get him. Expect him to have a massive 2020 season as CB1 on the right side, and lead the team in interceptions and tackles when it’s all said and done. 

Troy Hill

2020: $3.443M

2021: UFA 

Tory Hill had a great 2019 season before it ended abruptly with an injury in week 15 against Dallas. Hill was thrust into into a starting role after an injury to Aqib Talib and the trade of Marcus Peters to the Ravens, and never let go of his job. At the time of his injury he had two interceptions, one fumble recovery and 41 combined tackles. Just like Ramsey, he is going into the last year of his contract before becoming a free agent in 2021.

Hill, a Youngstown State alum, has had over 133 combined tackles and four interceptions with the Rams since joining them in 2016. Along with Ramsey, Hill is another CB that the Rams would be wise to extend, as he could have put up more numbers if he didn’t get injured with a couple games left into the season. Furthermore, Hill has good chemistry with Ramsey, and is a prototypical CB2, routinely erasing the WR2.

Even though there is a new defensive coordinator coming into the staff in Brandon Staley, you should expect Hill and Ramsey to be the boundary duo to lead the Rams back to the playoffs. 

David Long

2020: $921K

2021: $1.021M

2022: $1.121M

2023: UFA

David Long had a decent 2019 rookie season, considering the fact that he didn’t play until week 7 against the Atlanta Falcons. Long was a third round pick out of the University of Michigan who many considered to have a high upside in the right system, and was tabbed into a rotational role in the secondary after Troy Hill got hurt. In limited time, he showed why he is a valuable role player with the skills to eventually start at CB.

With Staley being the new defensive coordinator, expect Long to get more reps as the 2020 season goes along and help out in multiple coverage packages . Furthermore, with Sean McVay having more say in the defense, Long will get more chances to prove why the Rams picked him in last year’s draft.

Fortunately, the Rams have him locked up until 2023 so we will see a lot of David Long as the seasons go along. 

Nickell Robey-Coleman

2020: $4.5M

Potential 2020 out with $0 dead cap

2021: UFA

When looking at the 2019 season for Nickell Robey-Coleman, one could say it was relatively average for the recently turned 28 year-old corner from Florida: he managed two forced fumbles and 35 combined tackles in 16 games, with no interceptions.

Robey-Coleman is considered the Rams’ top slot corner but was overshadowed by the emergence of Darius Williams after Troy Hill went down with injury. So, the Rams do have an opt out this year if they trade Robey-Coleman, including no dead cap penalty even if they trade him before or after the 6/1 trade date. This would give the Rams a $4.5M cap relief before the 2020 season.

After the season he had, one could possibly see Robey-Coleman being traded since Williams took over the left side of the field at corner. He is also in last year of his contract, which gives the Rams more to consider since they have other cornerbacks (Ramsey and Hill) on the team going into their final years as well.

There’s been no word on if the Rams will move him, but everyone will have their eyes on the situation coming into the offseason. 

Darious Williams 

2020: $660K

2021: RFA

In 2019, Darious Williams had a tale of two seasons within one. For the first 14 weeks, Williams was primarily working with the special teams and maybe getting the occasional look on defense. But, the last three games of the season saw the emergence of Williams as a reliable cornerback.

When Troy Hill went down due to injury, Williams stepped up to start in his place and took full advantage of the situation. In the last three games, he had 10 combined tackles and one interception. The Rams liked what they saw out of Williams after Hill went down in the Dallas game, and proceeded to give him starts against the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals. That “next man up” mentality gave  Williams a chance to leapfrog Nickell Robey-Coleman going into the 2020 season, since both of them are going into the last year of their contracts. Although, unlike Robey-Coleman, Williams will be a restricted free agent (RFA) in 2021.

I believe the Rams will extend Williams if he has a good start to the 2020 season, as he most likely will battle Robey-Coleman for the CB3 spot (behind Ramsey and Hill) in the depth chart. It will definitely be interesting to see if the Rams will keep Williams over Robey-Coleman going forward past 2020.

Dont’e Deayon

2020: RFA 

Unfortunately there’s not much to say for Dont’e Deayon when it comes to the 2019 season. He was buried on the CB depth chart, and was limited to special teams in the three games that he saw the field for the Rams. He only managed one tackle over the season.

In three NFL seasons, he’s only played in 11 games (seven for the Rams). Deayon is a RFA going into the 2020 season, but I don’t see the Rams bringing him back since there’s plenty of depth and myriad changes on the defense.

The additions of Brandon Staley, a relatively healthy CB depth chart and a more involved Sean McVay could see Deayon on his way out instead of being a Ram.

Potential Free Agent Additions

Trae Waynes (2019: Minnesota Vikings)

$3.2M 47th Ranked CB (Free Agent Forecast)

If the Rams want to bring in experience to lead young but promising guys like Darious Williams and David Long, while also saving some cap space, I think former Viking Trae Waynes could be a good CB2 on either side of the secondary.

In 14 games last season, Waynes had 58 tackles, one interception, and two forced fumbles. He has been in the league since 2015, all with the Vikings, so he has the experience to be a mentor to the younger guys in the cornerback room. He could even step up in case the Rams run into injuries like they did back in 2019.

Furthermore, his $3.2M deal last year is less than what Nickell Robey-Coleman could be getting this year ($4.5M) so the Rams could bring in Waynes on a cheaper deal with more experience as well. 

Summary

The 2020 Los Angeles Rams cornerback room will be one of the positions to keep an eye on this year. There could be some potential turnover before the season even starts, since there’s so many guys going into the last year of their contracts.

The guys who should be getting extensions will be Troy Hill, Jalen Ramsey, and Darious Williams. The guys who I think will be leaving (either this offseason or after 2020) will be Nickell Robey-Coleman and Dont’e Deayon. Because Robey-Coleman is structured to have an opt out in his contract in 2020, that wouldn’t hurt the Rams in the cap. Also, for Deayon being a RFA, the Rams could release him or trade his rights to another team before the season begins. 

All eyes will be on this group this off-season to see what the front office wants to do with these guys moving forward. 

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