Los Angeles Rams: Under-the-radar free agents to target this offseason

by Skyler Carlin
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The Los Angeles Rams didn’t waste any time in causing a commotion to kickstart their offseason by acquiring Matthew Stafford in a blockbuster trade that sent Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions. They would also send two future first-round picks and a 2021 third-round pick to the Lions to give Sean McVay his preferred quarterback.

After landing Stafford, Los Angeles will turn their attention to free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft. Besides there being more of an emphasis to have success in the mid-to-late rounds in the draft, the Rams will also need to look for bargain players in free agency due to their assumed cap situation.

Heading into the offseason, Los Angeles is currently $31.2 million over the cap, per Over the Cap. Despite their apparent bleak cap situation, the Rams can conjure up some restructured deals and extensions that could free up some much-needed money.

Regardless of how the Los Angeles Rams plan on getting it done, they’ll have a wee bit of spending money for free agents in the coming months. In light of that, these are a few under-the-radar free agents that the Rams could target to fill some of their needs for the 2021 season.

Charles Harris

Finding consistent production off of the edge in the pass-rushing department has eluded the Los Angeles Rams in recent seasons. Though, Los Angeles has thrived on finding an edge rusher that needed a bit of a nudge — also known as playing with Aaron Donald — to reach their full potential.

Back in the 2018 season, the Rams traded for Dante Fowler, who would log a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2019, netting him a lucrative extension with the Atlanta Falcons in 2020. And it appears the same fate is in store for Floyd, who excelled with a career-best 10.5 sacks in 2020, likely putting him out of Los Angeles’ price range.

If Floyd is unable to return, then Raheem Morris could bring in his own reclamation project — similar to what Brandon Staley did with Floyd — by taking a chance on Charles Harris. Harris was a former first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2017 who was traded to the Falcons in 2020, which was where Morris was the defensive coordinator before he joined McVay’s new-look coaching staff.

While Harris had 15 fewer pressures than Fowler in 2020, Harris notched just as many sacks (3) as Fowler did in 29% fewer snaps. In all likeliness, Harris wouldn’t cost much for the Rams, and Morris would get an opportunity to get the best out of a former first-round pick. At the worst, he becomes a rotational piece off of the edge alongside Terrell Lewis, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, and Justin Hollins.

Ben Garland

Besides Floyd, another notable free agent for the Rams this offseason will be Austin Blythe. Blythe has found himself playing multiple positions on the offensive line in recent seasons, but he would start in all 16 games at center for Los Angeles in 2020.

It remains to be seen if the Rams truly want Blythe back at center. Plus, Blythe’s market in free agency is uncertain given his ability to play multiple positions, which could put them in the market for someone else to be snapping the ball to their new signal-caller in Stafford. For me personally, attacking the center position in the draft would be the wisest move *cough cough* Creed Humphrey *cough cough*.

But if Los Angeles insists on finding a proven veteran to replace Blythe, then Ben Garland could be a viable option. Garland has been with the San Francisco 49ers in the past two seasons after stints with the Atlanta Falcons and the Denver Broncos.

In the past two seasons, Garland has started in eight games before being placed on injured reserve with a nagging calf injury during the 2020 campaign. His age — he turns 33 in April — coupled with his recent injury could drive his price down in free agency. Garland’s experience in a zone-running scheme under Kyle Shanahan would make him an ideal short-term option for the Rams.

John Ross

When the Rams landed Stafford in a trade, fans of the organization rejoiced as they realized they were getting a quarterback who isn’t afraid to take shots down the field. In his final season with the Lions, Stafford averaged 8.7 intended air yards per attempt, which was good enough for the fifth-highest mark in the NFL.

Of course, Stafford will love having Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, and Cam Akers at his disposal. Not to mention, Van Jefferson should see an expanded role in the offense, making him a breakout candidate in 2021. However, the Rams could still benefit from adding someone who can strike fear to a defense with his field-stretching speed.

That is where someone like John Ross comes into play. Ross was a coveted prospect in 2017 after he ran a record-breaking 4.22 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Despite being taken with the No. 9 overall pick, Ross has yet to have a consistent chance to show off his blazing speed on the field for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Just leave it to McVay and Stafford to help Ross get his career on track, allowing him to excel as a deep threat in the Rams’ aerial attack. While some people want Marvin Jones Jr. to reunite with Stafford in Los Angeles, signing a 25-year-old speedster for a discount seems like a fond idea.

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