The Los Angeles Rams rebounded in 2020 with a trip to the postseason and win in the wild card round against the Seattle Seahawks. With Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald in their primes and after trading for quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Rams are all-in on 2021. With not a lot of cap space and limited draft capital, however, making a run will not be easy.
This is a team without a selection in the top-50 in the upcoming draft and currently the lowest cap number in the league heading into free agency.
Below, I’ll attempt to predict how the Rams will approach the next two months by laying out a full-scale mock offseason that includes potential extensions, free agency signings, and draft picks, all while keeping a running log of the team’s cap space.
Los Angeles Rams Salary Cap Room, before the NFL Combine: ~$-32 million
Current Los Angeles Rams depth chart
QB – Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins, Devlin Hodges
RB – Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, Xavier Jones, Raymond Calais
WR – Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Nsimba Webster, Trishton Jackson, JJ Koski
TE – Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Kendall Blanton
RT – Rob Havenstein, Bobby Evans
LT – Andrew Whitworth
RG – David Edwards, Jamil Demby, Chandler Brewer
LG – Austin Corbett, Joseph Noteboom, Tremayne Anchrum
C – Biran Allen, Coleman Shelton
DE – Aaron Donald, A’Shawn Robinson, Michael Brockers, Eric Banks, Marquise Copeland, Mike Hoecht, Jonah Williams
NT – Sebastian Joseph-Day, Greg Gaines
OLB – Terrell Lewis, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Justin Lawler, Justin Hollins, Travin Howard
ILB – Micah Kiser, Kenny Young, Troy Reeder, Christian Rozeboom, Derrick Moncrief
CB – Jalen Ramsey, David Long, Donte Deayon, Tyrique McGhee
S – Taylor Rapp, Jordan Fuller, Terrell Burgess, Nick Scott, Jake Gervase, JuJu Hughes, J.R. Reed
P – Johnny Hekker, Brandon Wright
K – Matt Gay, Austin McGinnis
LS – Colin Holba, Steven Wirtel
*Note: The offseason salary cap uses the team’s top 51 cap hits, which factors into how much cap room new contracts will take off the books. For example, if the Rams sign a player that has a $1 million cap hit, you subtract the 51st-highest cap hit (e.g. $500,000) from the $1 million, equaling an additional ~$500,000 on this year’s cap from the new contract. All contract information comes from Over The Cap.
Rams’ top needs: C, LB, OLB, CB, S, WR
Work the Cap
Restructure Aaron Donald
Restructuring the contract of Aaron Donald is a must this offseason and an almost guaranteed thing of happening. Doing a base salary restructure would save the Rams nearly $14.9M. That alone gets the Rams halfway to being under the cap. The Rams waited to restructure Donald and didn’t do so last season. That was a very smart decision by Les Snead and co.
Restructure Jalen Ramsey
Again, this is a must this offseason if the Rams are to get under the cap. A base salary restructure would save the Rams $14M. That gets the Rams within $5M of being under the cap. This isn’t a team that has obvious cap casualties. Therefore, restructures are going to be the way to go.
Restructure Robert Woods
This move officially gets the Rams under the cap. By restructuring Woods, the Rams save $10M. Now, it’s just about creating space in order to sign free agents and draft picks. Restructuring Woods is slightly risky as it make it more difficult to cut or trade him down the line. However, it’s unlikely that the Rams would want to do that anyway.
Restructure Cooper Kupp
A fourth restructure. This is the year however to restructure Cooper Kupp. Next year, a restructure would only save them around $7.6M. Doing so this season, would open up $8.6M in cap space. This gives the Rams a little bit of breathing room under the cap and the ability to sign a free agent.
Extend Matthew Stafford
Some might look at this move and consider it too early to extend Matthew Stafford. Now, this wouldn’t be a legit extension. It would be adding two years on to Stafford’s current deal in order to make it more team friendly. According to Over the Cap, if they want to go the full void year route they can reduce Stafford’s cap number to $4.86 million, a $15.14 million savings.
Running Cap Total: $26.5M
There are other things that the Rams could do to save some money such as cut Michael Brockers or trade Rob Havenstein. However, the net gain of losing those players isn’t enough to justify losing them. It doesn’t make sense to open up cap space for the sake of opening up cap space.
Stay or Go: Impending Los Angeles Rams Free Agents
*Note: Contract numbers are based on market values set by Pro Football Focus.
Place First Round Tender on Darious Williams
He ain’t leaving the building.
Darious Williams will be a Ram next season. I don’t foresee them risk losing him with a second-round tender. The Rams will place a first-round tender on him, costing them $4.7M.
Re-Sign C Austin Blythe
Contract: two years, $5.5M
Estimated 2020 cap-hit: $2.75M
Austin Blythe is a 29-year old starting center. He played all 16 games at the position last season and would be projected to do the same this year. It’s going to be awfully difficult for him to justify taking a $3.9M average per year contract. Starting centers make approximately $6.5M per year.
With the lower cap number, it’s hard to see Blythe getting that much. However, a raise is likely. Blythe could get a contract in the $5M-$6M range.
Let Leonard Floyd, John Johnson III, Gerald Everett, Malcolm Brown, Jake McQuaide, Derek Rivers, Morgan Fox, Josh Reynolds, Samson Ebukam, Johnny Mundt, and Natrez Patrick all hit the market.
It’s going to be difficult for the Rams to do much of anything in free agency and that applies to bringing back some of their own. It wouldn’t be surprising if they try to bring back guys like Troy Hill or Morgan Fox, but they may wait to see if they can replace them first. Either way, difficult decisions are going to have to be made.
Draft pick allotment
Before the Los Angeles Rams dive headfirst into free agency, we need to account for how much their 2021 draft class and the signing bonuses for undrafted free agents will count against the cap. After looking at the money tied to each selection that the Rams have they will need to set aside $4M-$5M. We set the draft allotment at $6 million, just in case.
Rams’ Salary Cap room before free agency: ~14M
Unrestricted free agency
*Begins March 17 at 4:00 p.m. ET
Sign EDGE Romeo Okwara
Contract: three-years, $19.5M
Estimated 2020 cap-hit: $6.5M
The Rams need to add someone on the edge. Okwara is coming off of his best season as a pro in which he put up double-digit sacks. Okwara would transition into more of a stand-up role with the Rams, but playing next to Donald, he could flourish.
Sign S Damontae Kazee
Contract: two-years, $6M
Estimated 2020 cap-hit: $3M
*My projection. PFF does not have Kazee listed in their top-205 free agents.
After losing John Johnson III, the Rams need to add a safety. Kazee is coming off of a torn Achilles and could sign a short-term one or two year “prove-it” deal. Two years ago, Kazee led the NFL in interceptions. He hasn’t remained at that level, but he’s a good potential “bargain-signing” that could at the very least provide a veteran presence at safety. He also has familiarity with Morris.
Sign CB Desmond King
Contract: three-years, $17.5M
Estimated 2020 cap-hit: $5.83M
My final free agent signing is going to be Desmond King. If the Rams attempt to open up more cap space, they could maybe try for a Jayon Brown. However, the Rams aren’t going to spend the projected $11M for a linebacker. They didn’t do it with Cory Littleton and I doubt they would with Brown. King adds a potential top slot cornerback to the Rams secondary.
Rams’ Salary Cap room before the Draft: ~$7.8M
2021 NFL Draft
*Draft simulation completed using Pro Football Network’s Mock Draft Simulator WITH TRADES
Now that the Rams have taken care of some of their own and addressed a need in free agency, it’s time to look at the draft. The Rams don’t have a selection until 57 overall, therefore, the focus will be to get players who can come in and play a role early while developing into future starters.
Rams’ top needs, post-free agency: iOL, LB, WR
The Pick at 57: OT Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State
The Rams need someone who can take over at left tackle after Andrew Whitworth retires. That could be Joseph Noteboom. However, with Austin Corbett set to be a free agent next year, Noteboom could find his place at guard. Radunz brings a physicality to the offensive line that the team is lacking.
The Pick at 101: iOL Quinn Meinerz, OC Wisconsin-Whitewater
I did get offered a trade at this spot, but I couldn’t pass on Meinerz. There was a lot of value at this pick. Earlier in this mock offseason I re-signed Austin Blythe. However, as mentioned Corbett is set to become a free agent next year. I also only signed Blythe to a two-year contract on purpose. Meinerz is someone that the Rams have met with and could develop into a future starting player.
The Pick at 103: WR Dyami Brown, North Carolina
John Ross would have been an option in free agency. However, I opt to get to the cheaper route and address the position in the draft. D’Wayne Eskridge would have been a reach at 57. Instead, I get Dyami Brown who brings an ability to stretch the field. Demetric Felton who the Rams have met with would have also been an option here.
The Pick at 141: LB Charles Snowden, Virginia
The Rams currently have a Virginia linebacker on their roster in Micah Kiser. However, Snowden would be a good pick as well. He has great length that helps him a lot in coverage and he’s a very good tackler. For a fourth round player, Snowden would be a really good pick.
The Pick at 207: S Paris Ford, Pitt
The Rams don’t necessarily need a safety especially after signing Kazee. However, Ford is someone who can be a contributor on special teams and develop. He’s a very instinctive player and a playmaker.
The Pick at 240: TE John Bates, Boise State
After losing Johnny Mundt in free agency, the Rams need a third tight end. While they have Kendall Blanton, he’s not a prototypical blocking tight end. Bates is a very good blocker, but could also develop into a nice pass catcher.
Los Angeles Rams Depth Chart Post-2020 NFL Draft
QB (4) – Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins, Devlin Hodges
RB (4) – Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, Xavier Jones, Raymond Calais
WR (7) – Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Dyami Brown, Nsimba Webster, Trishton Jackson, JJ Koski
TE (4) – Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Kendall Blanton, John Bates
RT (2) – Rob Havenstein, Bobby Evans
LT (2) – Andrew Whitworth, Dillon Radunz
RG (3) – David Edwards, Jamil Demby, Chandler Brewer
LG (3) – Austin Corbett, Joseph Noteboom, Tremayne Anchrum
C (4) – Austin Blythe, Quinn Meinerz, Biran Allen, Coleman Shelton
DE (7) – Aaron Donald, A’Shawn Robinson, Michael Brockers, Eric Banks, Marquise Copeland, Mike Hoecht, Jonah Williams
NT (2) – Sebastian Joseph-Day, Greg Gaines
OLB (6) – Romeo Okwara, Terrell Lewis, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Justin Lawler, Justin Hollins, Travin Howard
ILB (6) – Charles Snowden, Micah Kiser, Kenny Young, Troy Reeder, Christian Rozeboom, Derrick Moncrief
CB (6) – Jalen Ramsey, Darious Williams, Desmond King, David Long, Donte Deayon, Tyrique McGhee
S (9) – Taylor Rapp, Jordan Fuller, Damontae Kazee, Terrell Burgess, Nick Scott, Paris Ford, Jake Gervase, JuJu Hughes, J.R. Reed
P (2) – Johnny Hekker, Brandon Wright
K (2) – Matt Gay, Austin McGinnis
LS (2) – Colin Holba, Steven Wirtel
This gives them 75 total players, with the ability to add 15 undrafted free agents to fill out their training camp roster, depending on Covid protocols.