Should the Rams bring back John Johnson III? Who stays, who goes?

by Blaine Grisak
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With the completion of the Super Bowl, the NFL offseason has officially begun. While the Los Angeles Rams started their offseason with a trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford last week, the real offseason begins March 1 at the beginning of the new league year. One big decision will be whether or not the Rams bring back John Johnson III.

The Rams will have some difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks, especially when it comes to their own free agents. This is a team that is tight against the cap and won’t be able to bring everybody back. Let’s take look at who might stay and who might go.

C Austin Blythe

Austin Blythe took a huge step forward in 2020 back at his natural position at center. Because of that, the Rams offensive line as a group also took a huge step forward. Last season, the Rams got a bargain with Blythe. He was the 20th highest paid center and there is without question that at the bare minimum, he was a top-15 center in the league. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranked him the 9th-rated center last season.

The good news with Blythe is that because he is underrated, Blythe may not be expensive. Blythe was paid $3.6M last season. That price tag may go up slightly, but not significant. His price tag might be in the $6M-$8M price range which is something that the Rams can afford. Continuity is key when it comes to the offensive line which is why bringing Blythe back is important.

Verdict: Stay

CB Troy Hill

Troy Hill has developed into a solid player for the Rams. He’s been inconsistent at times, but when the Rams got a big play on defense last season, Hill seemed to be the one making it. Hill had 10 passes defended in 2020 which ranked second on the team behind Darious Williams. He also allowed an 89.8 passer rating which was 20 points higher than any other cornerback on the Rams.

With the emergence of Williams and the Rams’ ability to develop defensive backs, there is a decent chance that Hill will be on another team next season.

Verdict: Go

RB Malcolm Brown

Joining the Rams as an undrafted free agent, Malcolm Brown has turned into valuable piece of the Rams offense. He scored the first touchdown at SoFi and has been a veteran presence in the running back room when they’ve needed one. However, with the emergence of Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson, bringing Brown back just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Verdict: Go

TE Gerald Everett

There have already been reports that Gerald Everett is not expected to be re-signed. The writing has been on the wall for this move after the Rams drafted Brycen Hopkins last April. Everett was the first draft pick made in the Sean McVay era, and while he showed flashes, he never turned into a consistent playmaker on offense. With limited cap space, he’s just not someone that the Rams will be able to bring back.

Spotrac Market Value: 3 years, $7.35M avg. 

Verdict: Go

EDGE Leonard Floyd

Floyd’s value is interesting. Will team’s look at what Dante Fowler did with the Atlanta Falcons after playing with Aaron Donald and apply that to Floyd or will they look at his outstanding production and value him like a top free agent edge rusher? There is enough interest here from the Rams to make a strong effort to bring Floyd back.

He was excellent in run defense and had a career-high 10.5 sacks. There should be a mutual want for Floyd to be back in Los Angeles. It’ll just be about opening up the cap in order to make it happen. It’ll be difficult, but I do think the Rams make it work this year with Floyd.

Verdict: Stay

Spotrac Market Value: 4 years, $13.1M avg. 

WR Josh Reynolds

Josh Reynolds had his best year as a pro, but it was still less than any other third wide receiver who played 16 games in a Sean McVay Rams offense. Reynolds may go on to be a solid No. 2 elsewhere, but he doesn’t hold a lot of value in the Rams offense. With Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, the Rams need someone who can be a vertical threat. Reynolds was supposed to be that and it just didn’t happen. There have already been reports that the Rams will let Reynolds walk and that’s not surprising.

Verdict: Go

S John Johnson III

John Johnson III is the big free agent for the Rams this season. Unfortunately, despite not making any pro bowls, he is one of the best young safeties in the NFL. After losing Corey Littleton last season, Johnson III led the No. 1 defense in tackles. There’s going to be one team that breaks the bank for Johnson and that team won’t be the Rams.

As important as Johnson III is to the Rams defense, they’ve developed safeties in the past and it’s a position that they are deep at. Jordan Fuller is a solid player, Terrell Burgess showed flashes, Rapp will look to move into a bigger role, and Nick Scott played well at the end of last season as well.

Spotrac Market Value: 5 years, $8.3M avg. 

Verdict: Go

EDGE Samson Ebukam

While an athletic freak, Ebukam hasn’t turned into a consistent threat off of the edge. Because of that, the Rams are expected to let him hit the free agency market. Ebukam has never had five sacks in a season and that’s despite playing with Aaron Donald who creates opportunities. The Rams will be able to draft someone or bring in a free agent and develop them.

Verdict: Go

CB Darious Williams

Darious Williams is a restricted free agent which means the Rams can tender him as a first-round pick. eams can offer Williams a contract, but they would have to give up a first-round pick if the Rams didn’t match the offer and let him walk. Williams should get the first-round tender and he should be back in Los Angeles.

Verdict: Stay

LS Jake McQuaide

Jake McQuaide has been a key component of the Rams’ special teams and has been with the team since 2011. However, the team has signed two long-snappers already this offseason and with a new special teams coach, McQuaide’s time with the Rams might be up.

Spotrac Market Value: TBD

Verdict: Go

LB Travin Howard

Travin Howard played well in 2019 and was expected to start or at least compete to start in 2020 had he not torn his meniscus. He is an exclusive rights free agent which means that if the Rams offer him the minimum, he can’t negotiate with other teams.

Verdict: Stay

TE Johnny Mundt

Johnny Mundt has defied the odds with the Rams and become a solid blocking tight end. However, the Rams have Kendall Blanton who they’ve kept on their practice squad and could sign another rookie blocking tight end as an undrafted free agent.

Verdict: Go

EDGE Derek Rivers

The Rams brought in edge rusher Derek Rivers towards the end of last season. The former third-round pick was waived by the Patriots and then picked up by the Rams. With a new defensive coordinator, Rivers might not be brought back, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him brought back on the minimum. He’s someone that the Rams can replace in the draft.

Spotrac Market Value: TBD

Verdict: Go

EDGE Morgan Fox

Morgan Fox has turned into a solid player for the Rams defense. He had his most productive season last year, picking up six sacks. Fox won’t cost a lot, but at the end of the day, he’s just a guy. The Rams can bring in another undrafted free agent and develop him just like they did Fox. If Fox remains super cheap, maybe the Rams bring him back, otherwise, Fox could sign with another team.

Spotrac Market Value: TBD

Verdict: Go

Others

Coleman Shelton and Natrez Patrick are free agents as well. Patrick has already been signed to the Denver Broncos practice squad. Shelton will either come in and compete in camp for the Rams or head to another team and do the same. Blake Bortles was signed at the end of last year, but with Matthew Stafford, Devlin Hodges, and John Wolford, he will most likely be gone.

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