When the Los Angeles Rams acquired Matthew Stafford in a startling trade with the Detroit Lions, the need to add a vertical threat at wide receiver became apparent. With free agency right around the corner, the Rams could choose to add one of the notable names, like a John Ross, that is going to hit the open market.
It would be a home-run of an offseason if Los Angeles was able to land one of the premier options in free agency like Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, Will Fuller. But in all likeliness, those guys will either return to their respective teams, or they will garner a contract that is too expensive for the Rams’ abilities due to their cap situation. Marvin Jones Jr. does seem to be a plausible option given his relationship with Stafford and his connection to Los Angeles.
Speaking of another player who has ties to California, Ross becomes an intriguing free agent for Los Angeles to consider in the coming weeks. While we all dream of fantasy football-like signings, I’ll highlight what Ross has achieved in his career thus far, how he would fit on the Rams, and what his impending free agency could entail.
Ross began his career as the No. 9 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. In the pre-draft process, scouts and analysts were unsure of what Ross’s potential in the NFL could be after a strong senior season at Washington in 2016.
However, his performance at the NFL Combine is what made him a surefire early first-round pick. The blazing quick wide receiver would set an NFL record with an eye-popping 4.22 40-yard dash, breaking the previous record set by Chris Johnson.
Despite his uncanny speed, Ross has failed to live up to expectations in his first four seasons with the Bengals, causing many to label him a bust. Throughout the 2020 season, Ross was a healthy scratch for most weeks as he would log just three games in a contract year.
The questions that need to be asked with Ross are: Was his lack of production a product of playing in Cincinnati? Or is he a wide receiver that was unable to improve upon his receiving skills — outside of his elite speed — at the next level? These are questions that Sean McVay and the Rams will undoubtedly need to answer if they plan on taking a chance on Ross.
How would Ross fit with the Rams
Of course, before the Rams make a push for Ross, they’ll need to decipher whether or not he’s a fit for what they want on offense. With Stafford replacing Jared Goff under center, the necessity for a field-stretching wide receiver is glaring.
The duo of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods aren’t going anywhere, but neither of them are guys that are going to consistently get behind a defense. While Van Jefferson showed flashes of being able to create deep plays in his rookie season, he’s also at his best when he’s operating in the short-to-intermediate part of the field.
That is where someone with Ross’s skillset could become a valuable addition for McVay’s offense. Since Goff became the full-time starter for the Rams in 2017, he’s averaged 7.8 intended air yards per attempt. On the other hand, Stafford in that same span notched 8.7 intended air yards per attempt.
Seeing that McVay was more than interested in landing Stafford via trade, he wants someone that can create off-script, and someone that isn’t afraid to push the ball down the field. And if Stafford is going to look for some deep shots, Ross would be an ideal fit for what the Rams need.
Even though his time with the Bengals didn’t pan out, Ross has had an opportunity to play in a similar offensive scheme under Zac Taylor — who worked under McVay. With all of that in mind, Ross would be perfect for what Los Angeles is looking for if he’s able to be had for the right price.
Free agency outlook
The right price is what every team is looking for before they sign a free agent. For a former first-round pick that was unable to reach his potential with the Bengals, what could his market in free agency look like?
Unless there’s a team that has had their sights on Ross for quite some time, he’ll likely be signing a one or two-year deal that is laden with incentives. The 25-year-old wideout from Long Beach, California is probably looking to earn himself a better deal in free agency in 2022 when the salary cap is expected to be higher than this offseason.
Teams around the NFL are beginning to prioritize having game-changing speed at the wide receiver position — a la the Kansas City Chiefs with Tyreek Hill — which could expand Ross’s market in free agency. Therefore, being a contending team could give the Rams the upper-hand on other teams who may speak to Ross.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise if the other three teams in the NFC West target Ross in free agency. The Green Bay Packers, the Las Vegas Raiders, and the New England Patriots are other teams that would make sense. Taking that into consideration, it would be wise for the Rams to do what they can to be the team that helps Ross reach his potential.