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Making moves to solidify Rams roster in the face of swirling changes…

January 24, 2023 08:30AM
Making moves to upgrade the Rams roster in the face of swirling changes
Making the most out of limited draft capital and short free agency money

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Venie Randy Soares



Remodel, retool, or rebuild. Call it what you will, the Los Angeles Rams are in for extensive changes this off season. Rumors and possibilities abound, both on incoming players and on outgoing players, as well. The coaching staff is under assault from opposition interviews and the bottom line is that if any of the major characters do indeed make a move, the L.A. changes/wants/needs will be magnified.

Before any of those possible changes actually take place, it seems a good time to have a look at the current Rams roster and try to identify some moves that could bolster the team. The Rams don’t have any big bills to throw around amongst their draft capital, and although they’re not exactly holding chump change, L.A. will have to dig for value in the draft and free agency.

Offensive line

Under contract

Joseph Noteboom, Rob Havenstein, Brian Allen, Logan Bruss, Tremayne Anchrum, Alaric Jackson, AJ Arcuri, Zachary Thomas, and Max Pircher

Free agents

Coleman Shelton (UFA), Oday Aboushi (UFA), Ty Nsekhe (UFA), Matt Skura (UFA), David Edwards (UFA), and Chandler Brewer (RFA)

The Rams will likely bring back all those under contract. As far their own free agents, bring back Coleman Shelton and Chandler Brewer at the minimum salary. That makes 10 players and training camp needs 15, so hopefully L.A. choses wisely on the last five. Between free agency, the draft, and UDFA’s, five solid additions should be found. Stay focused on bringing in real competition. Pircher is probably around just for the public relations and doesn’t count against the roster.

The 2022 injury situation should teach the Rams an important lesson, every individual spot on the active roster and practice squad is important. L.A. was under the impression that they could just plug in any player on the line and things would work themselves out, with disastrous results. Putting players on the field because “they know the system” is an inferior way to set a lineup at this level of play.

The move: Grab an interior lineman in free agency. Not necessarily a big swing, just a solid starter-grade player. Nate Davis, Ben Powers, or Dalton Risner are three I like, to start the conversation. As for the draft, it just isn’t in the Rams history under the Snead/McVay tenure to take a lineman early. If the the Rams do decide to select a big guy early, I would offer up Darnell Wright, tackle from Tennessee in the third round.

Los Angeles Rams Training Camp
Can the Rams build an offensive line around Rob Havenstein?
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Imagesnone
Edge

Under contract

Leonard Floyd, Daniel Hardy, Keir Thomas, Brayden Thomas, and Zach VanValkenberg

Free agents

Michael Hoecht (EFRA)

The Rams first selection in the draft has the potential to be a difference maker, particularly in two positions. One of those is out on the edge. Leonard Floyd, even at his high price, is a solid defender. He has reportedly played the last two seasons with season-long injuries and will 31 next season. Is he braced for a comeback, or on the downhill side? All the other candidates have very limited experience and all came to L.A. as UDFA’s, excepting Hardy who garnered a 7th round berth. There is potential amongst the unit, but each has his limitations and needs much grooming.

The move: First, re-sign Hoecht. His versatility and size combination is rare. Even as a rotational player and special teamer, his modest salary is well-earned. Second, In the draft, spend a top pick on an edge. Using my own draft board as a point of reference, top prospects Nolan Smith (Georgia). Isaiah Foskey (Notre Dame), BJ Ojulari (LSU), or Felix Anudike-Uzomah (Kansas State) could be very well be around at #37.

Free agency is a mixed bag, Would/could the Rams try to revitalize a former first round pick? Should L.A., on a 1 year show-me pact, consider under-achievers Marcus Davenport, and Clelin Farrell, aging Melvin Ingram, or even a second go-round with Dante Fowler? I wouldn’t lean that way, even at at a discount. A couple of young guys, Raheem Green and Anthony Nelson combine length, athleticism and, in part-time roles, each has 10 sacks over the last two years.

Secondary

Under contract

CB Jalen Ramsey, S Jordan Fuller, CB Robert Rochell, CB DeCobie Durant, S Richard LeCounte, CB Derion Kendrick, S Quintin Lake, S Russ Yeast, and S TJ Carter

Free agents

S Taylor Rapp (UFA), S Nick Scott (UFA), CB Troy Hill (UFA), CB David Long (UFA), S Jake Gervase (ERFA), CB Grant Haley (RFA), and CB Shaun Jolly (ERFA)

The other position where an impact player can be had via the draft. And indeed, an impact player is needed in the Rams secondary. Ramsey is the only member of the secondary that has a role locked up. Fuller should lock down a safety role, but has missed 17 games in three years to injuries. Rochell regressed to 26 defensive snaps in 2022. Durant looks like a keeper as slot corner. Kendrick, Lake, and Yeast need more work, while Carter and LeCounte will battle to get off the practice squad.

The move: Take at least two secondary players in any combination and one early. Between picks #37 and #69, the Rams could grab a top prospect. Clark Phillips (Utah), Emmanuel Forbes (Mississippi State), and Antonio Johnson (Texas A&M) could be on the board at #37, with Garrett Williams (Syracuse), Jordan Battle (Alabama) and Chris Smith (Georgia) at #69.

There are so many good prospects, another talented player could be selected in the latter rounds. Even though L.A. has selected seven defensive backs in the last three years, the year’s pool is so deep, the Rams should dip their beak. As far as the free agents, if Nick Scott can be re-upped at a good price, sure. Gervase, Haley, and Jolly would be fine as camp bodies.

Defensive line

Under contract

Aaron Donald, Bobby Brown, Larrell Murchison, Jonah Williams, Earnest Brown, and TJ Carter

Free agents

A’Shawn Robinson (UFA), Greg Gaines (UFA), and Marquise Copeland (RFA)

This unit could certainly use some mass, Donald has the cat-like quickness to play at his size, but all the others can be pushed off the ball. The Rams 2022 success against the run had as much to do with the inside linebackers play and opposing teams play selection (6 out of 10 pass plays), as it did with defensive line. It’s time for BBrown to step up, whether on the nose or at 5T, if Robinson is not retained. The others can scramble for backup and rotational roles.

The move: If the Rams soldier on with the 3-4 base, grab a wide-bodied nose tackle in the draft and if financially possible, re-sign Robinson and/or Gaines. If the Rams are going to keep trending towards the 4-3, it is imperative to get someone to provide pressure off the edge. Tuli Tuipolutu from USC would be a nice addition in round three and he could fall to four. Free agency has a substantial number of veteran players who could help out, but realistically, the affordable ones don’t have much tread left on the tires.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Bobby Brown needs to pressure QB’s in 2023
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sportsnone
Running back

Under contract

Cam Akers, Kyren Williams, and Ronnie Rivers

Free agents

Malcom Brown (UFA)

The move: If Akers and McVay have truly buried the hatchet, the Rams have their starter. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Kyren Williams appears to be a capable complimentary back. Nice additions would be a bigger back with the strength to move the pile and a one- cut and go speedster, but of course, I pine for these two every draft. If the Rams decide Akers is the man, I would hesitate to add a contending free agent, he doesn’t seem to like sharing the RB#1 role. Fine, it’s a perfect unit to save a little money and utilize late round draft picks. Farewell Malcom, godspeed.

Tight end

Under contact

Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Jared Pinkney, and Roger Carter

Free agents

None

Many fans would like to move on from Higbee. Although his 2023 inconsistency as a blocker and pass drops were infuriating, it’s not all bad, SIS Data scored him a top 10 receiver/blocker. Financially speaking, the production he provides for his contract is solid. According to overthecap, he is the 19th paid tight end and the way his contract is set up, releasing or trading him before June 1 would have costly dead money implications.

Hopkins appears to play well when called upon and in 2023, played the most snaps of his career. Hopefully he has finally turned the corner and can turn his NFL size, speed, and athleticism into on-field production. Both Pinkney and Carter look to need a lot of polish before getting off the practice squad.

The move: Find a TE#3 who is a plus blocker. It could accomplished with a low-cost free agent such as Foster Moreau, Parker Hesse, or Trevon Wesco. If the Rams decide to consider the draft, they, as usual, have a bunch of mid and late round picks. The tight end talent pool in this year’s draft is relatively light at the top but comes on strong through the mid-section and there a number prospects with the requisite footwork and blocking skills.

Quarterbacks

Under contract

Matthew Stafford

Free agents

Baker Mayfield (UFA), John Wolford (UFA), and Bryce Perkins (RFA)

A consensus of Rams fans are ready to move on from Wolford and Perkins. It’s hard to judge their production, and their futures with the musical chairs offensive line they toiled behind. But both had a huge chance to show they belonged on the big stage and weren’t able to pull it off. Mayfield is like a bug to a bright light when the cameras are on. I cannot see him settling for a QB#2 role by choice, he relishes the attention way too much.

The move: Draft a late-round player with plus traits. It is easier said than done, but grab a developmental QB with some of the best traits of both Wolford and Perkins. Game management, good arm and the ability to make plays with their feet. In a worst case scenario that has Stafford missing multiple games, there are always free agent quarterbacks with experience that can be brought in. Perkins could be brought back at a cheap price at QB#3 if the Rams think they must. Although, it seems a waste of roster space unless he gets a package of plays to make use of his attributes or create mismatches.

Wide receivers

Under contract

Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, Bennett Skowronek, Lance McCutcheon, Austin Trammel, Jerreth Sterns, Jaquarli Robertson, and JJ Koski

Free agents

Brandon Powell (UFA) and Jacob Harris (ERFA)

The move: This is a deep unit with good variety amongst the pieces and while you should always be looking to upgrade, there are bigger holes to fill on the 2023 roster. Keep the top six and draft a speedster for competition. If said draftee has return skills, maybe move on from Powell. This draft is deep at wide receiver and fine prospects will be around late in the process. Don’t give up on Harris, bring him back at the minimum. If he can stay healthy, he offers TE/WR versatility and speed on special teams

Carolina Panthers v Los Angeles Rams
Allen Robinson is set to make $18.5 mil in 2023
Photo by John McCoy/Getty Imagesnone
Linebackers

Under contract

Bobby Wagner, Ernest Jones and Jake Hummel

Free agents

Travin Howard (UFA) and Christian Rozeboom (ERFA)

Solid starters at first glance with Wagner, albeit 33 years-old, eating up nearly 100 percent of snaps and Jones making good progress in the other off ball role. Still, there needs to be an eye towards the future. Hummel’s a long shot starter, but is a gamer, it will be interesting to see how he comes back from his injury and how far he has progressed. Rozenboom is a good special teams player and could/should be re-signed at the league minimum. Although Howard has flashed at times and has four years with the Rams, his injury history makes bringing him back a tough call. He’s still young, 27 next season, but his actual on-field production could be had for less money.

The move: Draft a mid to late player with athletic upside, it could be a small-school tackle machine or an SEC guy who played for a losing team. Bring back Rozeboom for special teams and a backup role. Move on from Howard.

Special teams

The Rams specialists, kicker Matt Gay, returner Brandon Powell, punter Riley Dixon, and long snapper Matt Orzech, are all unrestricted free agents. Re-signing Gay is about a big a “must sign” as L.A. will face. After a mediocre rookie season, Gay has been “the dead nuts” for whoever has been coordinator of the special teams.

Powell has good moves and ball security and would be a solid re-sign, but a argument could be made in bringing in a cheaper option. Dixon was serviceable as punter and seemed to have as Gay’s holder. He has never been nor will be the kind of player to flip the field. Long snappers are usually paid stick around the minimum and when they find a settle in, tend to stay awhile. Orzech is a SoCal boy and I cannot recall any poor snaps, keep him for continuity.

The move: Getting Gay back should be a top priority. If your going to give Brian Allen $6mil and Allen Robinson $18mil etc., finding $5mil for a top kicker sure seems like money well spent. Powell, Dixon, and Orzech are unlikely to generate a lot of interest on the open market and if the Rams want to keep them, can be easily retained at a fair price.

Treading lightly on early roster speculation

Think about it, the Rams could have three new coordinators, offensive, defensive, and certainly, special teams. Coaching shakeups with the offensive line, defensive backs and the defensive line are coming, as well. Each new coordinator and positional coach will have their own likes and dislikes. Schemes and technique could change incrementally or be reconstructed, putting players on their respective positional bubbles on notice and the whole bottom half of the roster particularly vulnerable.

What realistic moves should the Rams make?
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  Making moves to solidify Rams roster in the face of swirling changes…

Rams43115January 24, 2023 08:30AM