The first week of free agency is officially coming to a close. With limited cap space, the Los Angeles Rams were not able to bring in the premier-level free agents, but they were able to re-sign some of their own as well as bring in players like Leonard Floyd and A’Shawn Robinson to fill roles.
The NFL season ins’t won or lost in free agency, but this is the first step in roster construction for the 2020 season. So, how did the Rams do? Let’s find out.
Re-Signing Austin Blythe
Bringing back Blythe was probably the smartest thing that the Los Angeles Rams could do this offseason. The Rams offensive lineman is interchangeable at guard and center and is one of the more consistent players upfront. He’s not a Pro Bowl-level player, but that’s ok.
Last season it was Blythe who was making protection calls at the line of scrimmage while playing guard and then when Brian Allen got hurt and was eventually placed on injured reserve, it was Blythe who stepped in at center. It was during that time with Blythe at center that the offensive line started to trend upwards.
Re-signing Blythe wasn’t a flashy move and we don’t know the terms of the contract, but at first-glance this is a good move.
Re-Signing Andrew Whitworth
It’s understandable why the Los Angeles Rams would want to bring back Andrew Whitworth. However, there is no doubt his play took a step back in 2019. Believe it or not, Whitworth was a part of the problem on the offensive line last season. Whitworth led the league in holding penalties last season and his pressure allowed were among the most in his career.
Whitworth gives the Rams offensive line some stability, but he’s 38 and the Rams signed him to a three-year deal worth up to $37.5M. It’s the highest paying contract signed by 35+ year old non-QB in NFL history.
Last season, Jason Peters who has a similar resume as Whitworth was brought back to the Eagles on a one-year deal worth around $6M.
To me, this feels like an overpay. While the deal is constructed to be two years with a team-option third season, this is a deal that might have been able to get done for a lot less.
Signing Leonard Floyd
Bringing in a player like Floyd makes sense. Prior to free agency, I predicted that the Los Angeles Rams would sign Danny Trevathan as he was a player that had familiar with Brandon Staley. While Trevathan re-signed with the Bears, Floyd’s signing is the same idea. He’s a player that has familiarity with Staley and can help implement his defensive scheme.
Again, the issue with Floyd is the contract. He’s 27-years old and signed a one-year deal worth up to $13M. This is a player that was on his rookie contract that was outright cut by the Bears because they didn’t want to pay him that amount.
As an edge rusher, Floyd has seven sacks in two season while playing next two Khalil Mack. He’s much better in coverage than Fowler was, but still believe this was a slight overpay and they sign a 27-year old to a one-year deal and will be in this exact situation next season.
The Floyd signing makes sense, but the contract itself does not.
Signing A’Shawn Robinson
The Los Angeles Rams lost Michael Brockers and replace him with a true 3-4 defensive end in Robinson. Robinsion excels in stopping the run and will bring a true physicality to the Rams defensive line. It’s a two-year deal worth $8.5M which is almost $2M less than what Brockers was paid by Baltimore.
Robinson will be a nice run-stopping piece on the Rams defense as they look to continue to transtition to a 3-4.
Losing Michael Brockers, Dante Fowler Jr. and Cory Littleton
You can’t discuss free agency without also talking about the losses. Losing Brockers, Fowler and Littleton hurts, however, it was expected. The Los Angeles Rams simply did not have the cap space to bring any of the three back on deals that made sense and according to reports, the Rams did offer Fowler a deal and he chose to go to Atlanta. That’s not something that you can fault the front office for.
The front office can be faulted for terrible contracts that prevented them from retaining a player like Littleton or adding in extra money to retain Fowler, but you can’t fault them for Fowler choosing to play elsewhere.
Losing three starters on defense isn’t going to be easy to overcome. Bringing in Floyd and Robinson does make that pill a little easier to swallow.
Cutting Clay Matthews, Nickel Robey-Coleman and Todd Gurley
This is where the Los Angeles Rams front office failed. Cutting Matthews and Robey-Coleman made sense in the sense that it saved money that the team desperately needed after signing Whitworth and Floyd to larger than expected deals.
Cutting Todd Gurley outright made little to no sense. They will save $5.5M in cap room this season while owing him $20.15M in guarantees over the next two seasons which is the second-largest dead cap hit in NFL history behind only Antonio Brown.
The Gurley failure starts with the contract itslef. The Rams paid Gurley too early. It’s as simple as that. There was no reason to pay him two years before his orignal deal expired. If Gurley was on his rookie contract, he would have been a free agent this season and the Rams would not have been responsible. Instead, they put themselves in salary cap hell and are now paying the consequences.
The fact that Gurley was the 2017 offensive player of the year and an all-pro in 2018 and the Rams will receive nothing in return, is inexcusable. This is not something that good teams do and the front office needs to be held accountable.
Gurley signed a one-year deal worth $5.5M with the Atlanta Falcons. The fact that the Rams were going to be paying him over $17M, is outrageous. This isn’t saying that Gurley didn’t earn that money or that contract, but in today’s NFL, good teams don’t overpay running backs.
Matthews and Robey-Coleman are simply cap cuts to save money. However, Matthews was very effective rushing off the edge last season and Robey-Coleman has been one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL.
The Rams now have a hole when it comes to pass rushers. In 2018, not a single player outside of Aaron Donald had more than five sacks. Meanwhile, in 2017 and 2018 with Staley, the Chicago Bears were in the top-10 in teams that played in nickel defense personnel. The loss of Robey-Coleman leaves the Rams with Troy Hill and Jalen Ramsey at cornerback an nobody with experience in the slot. It’s very possible that David Long slides in that spot or players like Adonis Alexander or Dont’e Deayon compete for that spot, but it’s still a huge risk.
Overall Grade: C-
It’s hard to argue that the Rams actually got better and while the NFL season isn’t won or lost in free agency, you would still like to see some promising moves. Bringing back Blythe was smart as was signing Robinson. While Whitworth and Floyd were good signings, I still believe those contracts are questionable.
Then, when you get to who the Rams lost, they will have four new starters on defense this upcoming season and then they eat the second-largest amound of dead cap in NFL history. That’s a systematic and organizational failure. A C- still feels generous.