Cleat Geeks

On The Clock: Los Angeles Rams 2016 Offseason Preview

In his “On the Clock” series, NFL analyst Brett Casella (@NFL_iQ on Twitter) will take an in-depth look at all 20 teams that failed to make the playoffs as they head into the 2016 offseason. He will conduct a thorough examination of each roster and make recommendations on whom to cut and re-sign, as well as which players to target through free agency and the draft.

This article will focus on the Los Angeles Rams.

Team: LA Rams
2015 Record: 7-9
Draft Pick: #15

 

Season Summary

The Rams have become the epitome of mediocracy in the modern NFL, finishing five of the last six seasons either 7-9 or 6-10. How Jeff Fisher continues to hold on to his job while guys like Tom Coughlin and Jim Harbaugh are getting fired is beyond me.

Photo by; Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Photo by; Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

The saddest part is that their defense has been stifling for the past few seasons, but their offense has been anemic. This season at least provided a glimmer of hope that that may change, with rookie Todd Gurley looking like the best running back to come out of college since Adrian Peterson. Wide receiver Tavon Austin also showed some playmaking ability, three years after being drafted #8 overall.

On the other side of the ball, Aaron Donald might be the best defensive tackle we’ve seen since Warren Sapp. In just his second season as a pro, Donald notched 11 sacks, earned first team All-Pro honors, and was graded as PFF’s best player of 2016 – regardless of position.

Re-Signings & Cuts

The Los Angeles Rams wasted no time this offseason, shocking the football world by cutting defensive end Chris Long, tight end Jared Cook, and linebacker James Laurinaitis in one fell swoop. Collectively, the three releases cleared up almost $24 million in cap space.

Photo by Scott Rovak

Photo by Scott Rovak

They should use some of this newfound money to re-sign players such as Mark Barron, Nick Fairley, William Hayes, and Greg Zurlein.

After looking like a top-ten bust in Tampa Bay, Mark Barron made the switch from safety to outside linebacker in St. Louis and became a key contributor on their defense.

The Rams defensive line is obviously loaded with talent, led by marquee names such as Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn. Nick Fairley and William Hayes may not be superstars, but were both key pieces to the unit and provide excellent rotational depth.

In a world where reliable kickers aren’t easy to come by, Greg Zurlein provides one of the biggest legs in the NFL. That alone makes him worthy of a contract extension.

The Rams were in the tough position of having two excellent cornerbacks hitting free agency this offseason. They chose to place the franchise tag on Trumaine Johnson, leaving Janoris Jenkins without a contract just days before free agency starts. Los Angeles should do everything they can to bring him back to, as he will be a hot commodity on the open market.

 photo by; Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports


photo by; Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Keep an eye on wide receiver Kenny Britt in the upcoming weeks. In his seven years in the league, he has never eclipsed more than 50 catches in a single season. Releasing him would save the Rams nearly $5 million in cap space.

Free Agency Needs

As it stands now, the Rams will be entering free agency with about $45 million in cap space. Most of their needs primarily lie on the offensive side of the ball, where they have been painful to watch for almost a decade. In each of the past nine seasons, the Rams offense has finished outside the top 20 in both points scored and yards gained.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The quarterback is the most important position in all of football, and certainly explains much of the Rams woes. They simply don’t have a high-level player at the position, and even though they are obligated to pay Nick Foles upwards of $8 million in each of the next two seasons, they should still shop free agents such as Robert Griffin III, Brock Osweiler, and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

All of the blame for their offensive shortcomings can’t fall squarely on the shoulders of the quarterback, though. The Rams haven’t provided their signal callers with very much talent to throw to. Travis Benjamin is probably the best free agent wide receiver available, but the Rams shouldn’t attempt to sign him. He will likely come with a high price tag, and Tavon Austin already fills a similar role for them. Instead, they should look at cheaper options such as Marvin Jones, Rishard Matthews, Anquan Boldin, and Rueben Randle.

Offensive line is another unit that must be addressed this offseason, whether it is via the draft or free agency. Todd Gurley’s dominance last year was in spite of poor offensive line play, not because of it. Luckily for Los Angeles, this year’s free agent pool runs deep with linemen. Centers Alex Mack and Stefan Wisneiwski played at a high level last year, as did guards Richie Incognito, Brandon Brooks, Jeff Allen, and Kelechi Osemele. Notable tackles include Andre Smith, Donald Penn, and Mitchell Schwartz.

Potential Draft Picks

The Rams know that neither Nick Foles nor Case Keenum is the long-term answer at quarterback. They may look to draft the person they believe is at #15. With Carson Wentz and Jared Goff likely gone by this point, Paxton Lynch would be the best option if he is still available.

TreadwellIf they don’t draft their quarterback of the future, they should at least help their quarterback of the present. One way to do this is by selecting a wide receiver such as Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson, or Corey Coleman. With the Rams receivers as bad as they are, any one of these three players would immediately step in as the number one option.

Another way to help their quarterback is by protecting him. An offensive tackle such as Ronnie Stanley, Jack Conklin, or Taylor Decker would be a smart choice.

Interior linemen like Vadal Alexander, Joshua Garnett, and Ryan Kelly could all be available in the second round. Good interior line play is not only crucial for pass protection, but opening up running lanes for Todd Gurley as well.

If the Rams choose not to draft a wide receiver in the first round, talented players will still be available later on. Potential options include Sterling Shepard or Mike Thomas in round 2, Tyler Boyd in round 3, or Rashard Higgins in round 4.

Have any questions, comments, or just want to talk about the article? Just use the comment section below.

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