The Los Angeles Rams will have a dilemma on their hands this offseason when it comes to filling holes on their number one defense. One of those holes will be at safety left by John Johnson III. Johnson III signed with the Cleveland Browns in free agency, leaving the Rams with a lot of inexperience at the position.
With Johnson III leaving, the Rams will obviously need to replace the star safety. How do they go about doing that? Let’s find out.
As it is Week 2 of NFL Free Agency, most of the high caliber safeties are off of the market. If the Los Angeles Rams sign a safety at this point, it will be a rotational player or depth. Both are still very valid options and needed. The Rams safety room is very young. Adding a veteran to the mix, wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Someone like Kareem Jackson could still make sense as a starting option. However, players like Damontae Kazee or Malik Hooker could be depth options as well. Kazee led the league in interceptions two years ago before tearing his Achilles last year. Hooker had 50 tackles two years ago and also is coming off of an Achilles tear.
FS Damontae Kazee highlights: pic.twitter.com/Xx3N6p0dVD
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) March 19, 2021
Due to the injuries of both players, most likely they’d come on a cheap one-year, ‘prove it’ deal. This would add a veteran into the mix while also allowing the young players to develop.
This is where things get interesting. The Los Angeles Rams have done a very good job of developing safeties. Les Snead has drafted a safety in three of the last four drafts. That might be a reason not to take one, but also might be a reason that they will. Jordan Fuller, Terrell Burgess, and Taylor Rapp are all pretty unproven.
A rookie would be unproven as well, but taking one on day two to start, could be an option. The Rams could also draft one on day three to add as depth. It might be a little surprising to see the Rams draft a safety at 57 or even 88, but it shouldn’t be ruled on in the later stages.
If the Rams go safety in the early stages, players like Jevon Holland out of Oregon or Richie Grant from UCF make sense. Both are range safeties who can also play in the slot.
I'm fully prepared to run through a wall for Paris Ford after watching him against Virginia Tech.pic.twitter.com/q3u9cuF4Dz
— Carter Donnick (@CDonnick3) June 9, 2020
In the later stages if the draft, Paris Ford from Pitt could be an option as well as players like Shawn Davis, Darrick Forest, and Tyree Gillespie later on.
Sticking with who the Los Angeles Rams already have might be the best option of the three. This is a team that has done a great job at developing safeties. From Rodney McLeod to Johnson III last year, the Rams have pumped out quality starting safeties.
Jordan Fuller played outstanding as a rookie and most likely is a big reason why the Rams were so confident to allow Johnson III to walk in free agency. As a captain at Ohio State, he brings leadership qualities, and based on his play last season, he’s certainly talented.
Jordan Fuller making a CLUTCH stop💪
Another Ohio State DB…
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) September 14, 2020
Terrrell Burgess was hurt last year, but showed flashes. Taylor Rapp has some issues in coverage, but has shown success in the box at the line of scrimmage. That’s where he flourishes. One of the reasons why the Rams don’t put such an emphasis on linebackers is because they have safeties like Rapp who can tackle.
Lastly, Nick Scott actually played well last season when he was needed. Early in his career, he was seen as strictly a special teams ace. However, last year he developed into a quality depth safety. He had 16 tackles and allowed just 52 yards on six receptions.
A combination of in-house and either free agency or the draft is probably the most realistic option. I’d be surprised if the Los Angeles Rams didn’t at least add a safety for some depth. However, my guess is they are happy with who they have near the top of the depth chart.
As mentioned, the Rams have a good history of developing safeties. Jordan Fuller and Terrell Burgess showed promise, while Rapp and Scott provide good depth. Adding a veteran to the inexperienced group or another rookie for depth could be something that the team looks to do.
The Rams aren’t going to just outright replace Johnson III. He was a talented player and a big part of the defense. However, Johnson III was a third round pick that the Rams developed. They’ll look to do the same with who they have on the roster.