Rams Mock Offseason: Predicting Every Step Toward a Rebound in 2020

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The Los Angeles Rams missed the playoffs for the first time in the Sean McVay era last season. With not a lot of cap space and limited draft capital, there is some worry that the Rams could be a contending team poised to take another step back rather than rebound and return to the NFL postseason.

This is a team without a selection in the top-50 in the upcoming draft and the eighth-lowest cap number to spend in free agency. No problem, right? Right.

Below, I’ll attempt to predict how the Rams will approach the next two months by laying out a full-scale mock offseason that includes potential extensions, free agency signings, and draft picks, all while keeping a running log of the team’s cap space.

Los Angeles Rams Salary Cap Room, before the NFL Combine: ~$23 million 

Los Angeles Rams Current Depth Chart

Offense

QB – Jared Goff, John Wolford
RB –  Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson, John Kelly
WR – Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Nsimba Webster, Greg Dortch
TE – Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Kendall Blanton, Ethan Wolf
RT – Rob Havenstein, Bobby Evans
LT –
RG – Austin Corbett, Jamil Demby, Chandler Brewer
LG – Joe Noteboom, David Edwards, Jeremiah Kolone
C – Brian Allen, Nate Trewyn

Defense

DE – Aaron Donald, Marquise Copeland
NT – Greg Gaines, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Tanzel Smart,
OLB – Clay Matthews, Samson Ebukam, Obo Okoronkwo, Justin Lawler, Natrez Patrick, Travin Howard, Jachai Polite
ILB – Micah Kiser, Kenny Young, Troy Reeder, Jeff Holland
CB – Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill, Nickell Robey-Coleman, David Long, Darious Williams, Adonis Alexander
S – John Johnson III, Taylor Rapp, Nick Scott, Jake Gervase

Special Teams

P – Johnny Hekker
K –
LS – Jake McQuaide

*Note: The offseason salary cap uses the team’s top 51 cap hits, which factors into how much cap room new contracts will take off the books. For example, if the Rams sign a player that has a $1 million cap hit, you subtract the 51st-highest cap hit (e.g. $500,000) from the $1 million, equaling an additional ~$500,000 on this year’s cap from the new contract. All contract information comes from Spotrac.com.

Rams’ top needs: LT, K, ILB, iOL, DE, OLB, DT, CB

Work the Cap

Restructure WR Brandin Cooks

By doing a base salary restructure of Brandin Cooks, the Los Angeles Rams can open up almost $5M in cap space. Cooks’ cap number would move from $16M to $11M. Obviously Cooks would need to agree to the restructuring, but given his large cap-hit and issues with staying on the field last season, this will be something that Les Snead and Kevin Demoff have to consider to provide some cap relief.

Restructure RB Todd Gurley

Restructures are much easier said than done. Contracts are typically spiderwebbed together. If you mess with one, there’s a good chance it messes with something else down the line. Gurley’s contract is one of the worst in the NFL and by restructuring the team would save approximately $3.5M in 2020.

Stay or Go: Impending Los Angeles Rams Free Agents

Re-Sign LT Andrew Whitworth

Contract: one-year, $7.5M
Estimated 2020 cap-hit: $7.5M

While I personally would not bring back Whitworth as his play clearly declined last season, my best guess is that the Rams try to correct the mistake of not bringing back Saffold last season and bring back Whitworth on a 1-year “victory lap” deal.

The biggest question here will be the contract. Whitworth made over $11M last season. However, Jason Peters, who is another pro bowl left tackle at 38, made just $6M. A contract at $7.5M seems fair.

Re-Sign K Greg Zuerlein

Contract: two-years, $8.2M
Estimated 2020 cap-hit: $4.1M

My estimation on a Zuerlein contract might be a little high. As it stands, the Rams kicker is only making a little more than $2M. However, looking at other contracts around the league, a solid 30+-year-old kicker costs upwards of $4M. The only knocks on “Greg the Leg” have been a growing list of injuries and recent issues with mid-range accuracy.

Zuerlein is a player that the Rams could certainly let walk. When it comes to kickers though, it’s best to not take chances. The Rams know what they have in Zuerlein. They can sign him and bring in an UDFA or other free agent during camp to compete.

Zuerlein may not be the best kicker in the league, but a team can certainly do worse in the NFL.

Re-Sign C/G Austin Blythe

Contract: two years, $7M
Estimated 2020 cap-hit: $3.5M

When the Rams played Blythe at center last season, spurred on by the season-ending injury to Allen, is when the offensive line really turned around. Whether he’s their future at center or not, he’s a player that needs to be back.

The value he provides mentally on the offensive line is unmatched. Last season it was Blythe, not Allen, calling out protections on the line. Not only that, he can play guard or center. That experience is something that the Rams need if they are to re-build upfront.

The question here will be the contract. Blythe currently makes around $2.5M. The average center is around a $3M-$4M APY. I’d put Blythe right in the middle.

Re-Sign DL Morgan Fox

Contract: two-years, $3M
Estimated 2020 cap-hit: $1.5M

Morgan Fox is a restricted free agent which means the Rams will be able to place a tender on him and then match any offer that Fox receives.

Fox is a versatile player on the defensive line and should be someone that the team brings back.

Re-Sign TE Johnny Mundt

Contract: one-year, $650k
Estimated 2020 cap-hit: $650k

Mundt is an exclusive rights free agent which means he is not allowed to negotiate with other teams and he must sign a minimum deal if the Rams offer it.

Mundt has been a solid TE3 for the Rams and it’s unlikely Snead allows him to walk given the ability for him to come back on a minimum deal.

Re-Sign LB Josh Carraway

Contract: one-year, $650k
Estimated 2020 cap-hit: $650k

Carraway’s situation is exactly the same as Mundt’s. He’s an exclusive rights free agent and must return to the Rams if they bring him back on the minimum.

Re-Sign C Coleman Shelton

Contract: one-year, $570k
Estimated 2020 cap-hit: $570k

….and Shelton is the Rams’ final exclusive rights, free agent.

Let EDGE Dante Fowler Jr, LB Cory Littleton, S Marqui Christian, DL Michael Brockers, ILB Bryce Hager, QB Blake Bortles, WR JoJo Natson, and WR Mike Thomas all hit the market.

Allowing all of these UFA’s to hit the market would certainly keep the cap space from being reduced significantly, although there are some starters on the list who are high-impact players (namely Fowler, Littleton and Brockers).

Tagging Fowler or Littleton is an option, but this would eat up a significant portion of their cap space.

Draft pick allotment

Before the Los Angeles Rams dive headfirst into free agency, we need to account for how much their 2020 draft class and the signing bonuses for undrafted free agents will count against the cap. After looking at the money tied to each selection that the Rams have they will need to set aside $4M-$5M. We set the draft allotment at $7 million, just in case anyone they love slides out of the draft altogether and they need to hand out a big signing bonus, plus the other deals for undrafted players.

Rams’ Salary Cap room before free agency: ~$9 million

Unrestricted free agency

*Begins March 18 at 4:00 p.m. ET

Sign LB Danny Trevathan (CHI)
Contract: three-years, $20M
Estimated 2020 cap-hit: $6M

Trevathan makes a lot of sense for the Rams. He comes from Chicago where he played with Staley who was a linebackers coach and is exactly the veteran player that Staley will need as he looks to implement his defensive scheme which is very similar to what Trevathan ran with Fangio. The Rams also replace Littleton for half the price.

Unfortunately with the Rams’ cap space, this is the only move they are able to make. Derek Wolfe, however, should be another player that they should look at after losing Michael Brockers. Vic Beasley may also be an option to come in on a cheaper deal on the edge or possibly Brandon Scherff in Washington at guard. However, it should be expected that the Rams won’t be big players in free agency. They’ll be able to make a move, maybe two, but they’ll be limited by the cap.

2020 NFL Draft

*Draft simulation completed using TheDraftNetwork.com

Now that the Rams have taken care of some of their own and addressed a need in free agency, it’s time to look at the draft. The Rams don’t have a selection until 52 overall, therefore, the focus will be to get players who can come in and play a role early while developing into future starters.

Rams’ top needs, post-free agency: iOL, EDGE, OT, DL, CB, S

The Pick at 52: EDGE Joshua Uche, Michigan

Uche is exactly the type of player that the Rams can rotate in as a rookie and develop into a starter. He’s a strong athlete and had a good showing at the Senior Bowl.

The Pick at 84: C Nick Harris, Washington

Harris didn’t show well at the Senior Bowl, but he’s a versatile player on the inside that can step in and play center right away. We did re-sign Blythe earlier, but Harris can be a depth player initially while developing into a full-time role.

The Pick at 116: OT Hakeem Adeniji, Kansas

Adeniji is a great player to have on the roster. He can play multiple positions and is a great fit in the Rams zone-blocking scheme.

The Pick at 139 (est. Comp Pick): LB David Woodward, Utah State

The Rams signed Trevathan in free agency, but need to add depth which is where Woodward comes in. He has an injury history that includes a vertebrae fracture and concussions which could make him drop, but he’s a player with starting potential.

The Pick at 179: EDGE DJ Wonnum, South Carolina

Wonnum is a high motor player with very good physical traits. In fact, if he tests well at the combine, I’d be hard-pressed to say he’ll even be available in the sixth-round.

Wonnum played wherever the Gamecocks asked him to and while he isn’t going to come in and start right away, I could certainly see him start his career in a James Franklin-Myers role where he plays all over the Rams defensive front as he works his way into the system.

The Pick at 211: S Gene Stone, Iowa

The Rams grabbed Jake Gervase out of Iowa as a UDFA last season and he beat the odds and made the practice squad and spent time on the active roster. Stone isn’t an explosive player but has the ability to come in and play special teams while he develops.

Rams Depth Chart, post-2020 NFL Draft

QB – Jared Goff, John Wolford
RB –  Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson, John Kelly
WR – Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Nsimba Webster, Greg Dortch
TE – Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt, Kendall Blaton, Ethan Wolf
RT – Rob Havenstein, Bobby Evans
LT – Andrew Whitworth, Hakeem Adeniji
RG – Austin Corbett, Jamil Demby, Chandler Brewer
LG – Joe Noteboom, David Edwards, Jeremiah Kolone
C – Austin Blythe, Brian Allen, Nick Harris, Nate Trewyn, Coleman Shelton
DE – Aaron Donald, Morgan Fox, Marquise Copeland
NT – Greg Gaines, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Tanzel Smart,
OLB – Clay Matthews, Samson Ebukam, Joshua Uche, Obo Okoronkwo, DJ Wonnum, Justin Lawler, Natrez Patrick, Travin Howard, Jachai Polite
ILB – Danny Trevathan, Micah Kiser, Kenny Young, Troy Reeder, David Woodward, Josh Carraway, Jeff Holland
CB – Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill, Nickell Robey-Coleman, David Long, Darious Williams, Adonis Alexander
S – John Johnson III, Taylor Rapp, Nick Scott, Gene Stone, Jake Gervase
P – Johnny Hekker
K – Greg Zuerlein
LS – Jake McQuaide

This gives them 68 total players, with the ability to add 22 undrafted free agents to fill out their training camp roster.

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Joel
Joel
9 months ago

Pretty good work on this the only changes I would make I would do a restructure of Aaron Donald’s contract the Rams could put more of his roster bonuses at the end of his contract because he will see the end of his deal. Restructuring brandin cooks contracts a little more dangerous to the team considering all of his concussion issues he’s had. Danny Trevtha has had some injury issues he was put on injured reserve last year that would need to be checked out. I don’t think he’ll get anywhere close to the contract you’re suggesting. Names the Rams… Read more »

kevin Sterk
kevin Sterk
9 months ago
Reply to  Joel

Joel, your right younger and cheaper would fill the basket with players but are any of them a “game changer”. Always felt Littleton makes a big play every game. I’m afraid we will miss that. I would not pretend to know these other guys beyond name recognition, like Trevaithian. Maybe you could tell me what you think.

kevin Sterk
kevin Sterk
9 months ago

I liked what you did except for one move I would like to see them draft an interior lineman on defense instead of 3 offensive lineman. I think the oline is close.

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