During the Sean McVay era, most can agree with the moves the Rams have had to make due to 1) cap reasons and 2) acquiring other players that better fit the mold of the systems that McVay et al have installed.
Since hindsight is 20/20, I went ahead and ranked some special players who have departed for other teams:
10. CB Marcus Peters
While Peters was in Los Angeles he had his ups and downs and didn’t seem to fit well within Wade Phillips system. But the energy and fire he brought to the field was undeniable. His energy is comparable to that of the recently acquired stud CB Jalen Ramsey, where they’re the alpha on the field at all times and thrive on covering the other teams’ best pass catcher. I believe those are the type of players you want to have around.
Peters going to Baltimore was a perfect fit (and a move the Rams felt they had to make at the time since they did not have a long-term deal with Peters), but it would have been interesting to see him on the field in a Brandon Staley defense with Ramsey on the other side.
9. CB Nickell Robey-Coleman
This particular offseason move was a tough pill for Rams fans to swallow because his play on the field was almost always superb, and productive slot cornerbacks are difficult to find. Another reason it was questionable was that NRC didn’t have a huge cap hit either, as he had signed a pretty team-friendly deal.
But all in all, it seemed to work out because the Rams ended up drafting DB Terrell Burgess in the third round, a player who will probably end up taking over in the slot. Burgess has already stated that he is willing to play anywhere on the field to help the Rams succeed, and I believe he has a chance to be a really special player on Staley’s defense.
8. DE Robert Quinn
2011 1st round pick Robert Quinn was not with the McVay-Era Rams for long but Quinn has produced at a very high level these past few seasons. It seems he’s still always in the backfield on every snap; watching him on the Dallas Cowboys this past season was like watching vintage Quinn for the Rams.
He didn’t fit very well within the defensive scheme Phillips had implemented, and that ultimately (plus the contract) was the reason he was traded to the Miami Dolphins. This past offseason he earned a well deserved 5 year/$70 million deal with the Chicago Bears and I couldn’t be happier for him. Talent was never an issue, only availability.
7. OLB/DE Dante Fowler, Jr
If the Rams had the money to afford Fowler and remain in good cap shape, I’m sure they would have pulled the trigger on a long-term deal. Fowler had some special moments in a Rams uniform and was especially productive this very past season, in which he tallied up 11.5 sacks with 16 QB hits.
Whether his success was attributed to Aaron Donald taking up double and triple teams we will never know, but he still produced and put up big numbers for this team. The pressure on Drew Brees that Fowler generated in overtime to set up the interception by John Johnson in the NFC championship game vs the New Orleans Saints was a moment Rams fans will never forget. I look forward to seeing what kind of numbers he puts on the field for Atlanta Falcons in 2020.
6. CB Aqib Talib
Talib’s veteran presence was so valuable to a (then) young Rams defense. Given that Talib had success with former DC Wade Phillips in previous years (with the Denver Broncos), it was evident he would bring that same type of talent and leadership to the Rams defense.
It was a shame that he was injured for a good period of time with the Rams, but Talib was arguably the best corner on the field for them in his duration with the team. He had so much confidence instilled in him and it just radiated to every player on that side of the ball. It was apparent how much he meant to the team after you saw the two games in 2018 the Rams had vs the New Orleans Saints which were two very different games stat-wise for All-Pro Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas.
Talib was traded to the Miami Dolphins purely in a cap relief move, and he finished the 2019 season on the IR. If the Rams end up with some extra cap space, and assuming his relationship with the Rams’ front office is still amicable, I wouldn’t count out a reunion down the road.
5. RB Todd Gurley II
It was very unfortunate to see the decline of an elite runner like Todd Gurley II given that he was such a special player and leader/captain on this Rams team. Whether it was injuries or something else more personal, it just wasn’t working in Los Angeles anymore and the team was ready to move on (even with several years left on his record-setting contract extension).
But, this doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have loved to see him back in a Rams uniform (if healthy) because he brought so much to table for the Rams and defenses truly respected his game. By the defense respecting his expansive role in the offense every single snap, it gave QB Jared Goff the ability to make special plays in play-action situations after a Gurley run. Gurley was a key player in the Rams turnaround to success and wish him nothing but the best in Atlanta.
4. K Greg Zuerlein
Zuerlein is one of the most underrated departures for the Rams. This past season for Greg the Leg wasn’t at his best, but he was so productive and reliable for the Rams for almost a decade.
Every time the Rams would get past the opponent’s 50-yard line there was the confidence that it would be an automatic 3 points for the Rams offense. Zuerlein going to the Dallas Cowboys was a perfect fit as coach John “Bones” Fassel departed for them as well.
Look for Zuerlein to have a bounce-back season as I’m positive kicking in a dome (Jerry World) is a dream scenario for him.
3. DT Ndamukong Suh
Although his numbers didn’t necessarily pop out at you from the stat sheet, Suh’s contributions were a key factor in the Rams going to the Super Bowl in 2018. Suh’s ability to take on double teams helped counterpart and future HOF-er Aaron Donald achieve even more success during the Super Bowl run, as Donald racked up a career-high 20.5 sacks. Not to mention, Suh was a stud in the run defense, and a big part in helping shut down the Dallas Cowboys run game in the 2018 divisional round.
Suh ultimately decided to sign elsewhere after his one and done season with the Rams, and his presence was dearly missed during the 2019 season.
2. LB Cory Littleton
It’s going to be so different not seeing Cory Littleton in the middle of the Rams defense in 2020. Littleton’s play spoke for itself, all you have to do is turn on the tape and he is flying all over on the field. He could tackle, he could cover, and he could call the defense. Per PFF, Littleton had the highest tackling grade in the NFL for the 2019 season. This departure just flat out hurt, and it was also a head-scratcher because he ended up signing a pretty team-favorable deal for the Las Vegas Raiders which ended up being a 3 year, $36 million deal with $22 million guaranteed.
This deal was one I certainly thought the Rams could make happen, now they go into 2020 with some question marks at the linebacker position. Time will tell if this ended up being the right move for the Rams.
1. OG Rodger Saffold
Letting productive and long-standing OG Rodger Saffold walk to the Tennessee Titans was one of the biggest mistakes the Rams have made in quite a while. The reason for letting him go was the Rams wanted to have some money for OLB/DE Dante Fowler, Jr. This ended up costing the Rams down the road, as now Fowler isn’t on the team anymore either. Titans RB Derrick Henry had a ton of success in the 2019 season and a big part of that was the play of Saffold down the stretch.
Saffold gelled so well with the offensive line group in Los Angeles; he and veteran LT Andrew Whitworth were a force to be reckoned with on the left side and it was a joy to watch them maul opposing defensive players for the few seasons that they were together.
The Rams have been searching for Saffold’s replacement ever since, and have gone through a revolving door at LG. Hopefully, the recently acquired LG Austin Corbett will step up for the Rams this season.