NFL Insider Identifies Los Angeles Rams’ Top Free Agency Priority, Names Sleeper Target

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NFL free agency kicks off in less than two weeks and the Los Angeles Rams have plenty of money to spend in the market. Speculations have been flung far and wide about what they should do with their $40 million in salary cap surplus. Everything from big moves, like signing Carolina Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns or Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, to retaining in-house players like guard Kevin Dotson or safety Jordan Fuller.

What are the Los Angeles Rams’ Priorities in 2024’s Free Agency

Aaron Schatz of ESPN suggests that the Los Angeles Rams’ top priority in free agency is finding a center. He suggests that they should go after Andre James. James was an undrafted free agent signing in 2019 by the then-Oakland Raiders. The 6’4″ 300 lbs UCLA Bruin worked his way into a starting role after playing limited snaps in his first two seasons. Since then he has become one of the NFL’s most underrated centers.

James’ last contract was a two-year deal worth $8.7 million. This is likely a lot more than the Los Angeles Rams 2023 starting center, Coleman Shelton, will fetch on the open market. Over the Cap, assesses Shelton’s value at $4.3 million.

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Is Andre James Worth The Money?

Where James gives the Los Angeles Rams an upgrade at center over Coleman Shelton is in pass blocking. He ranked second among all centers in pass block win rate last season (96.5%). Per PFF, he allowed just 19 pressures in 2023, sixth best. He never allowed more than three in a game and only allowed more than one in a game five times. Shelton allowed 36 pressures, multiple pressures allowed in nine games including seven in Week 2 against the San Francisco 49ers. He allowed the second most in the league.

Where Shelton has the edge is in the running game. Kyren Williams led the league in yards before contact and rushed for an impressive 5.1 yards per carry when rushing into Shelton’s gaps. Shelton was aided by having two of the league’s best guards flanking him, but Shelton certainly played a part in Williams’ success.

All-Pro Raiders running back, Josh Jacobs, was given just 1.9 yards before contact and averaged just 3.5 per carry. He did better than that rushing into his ‘A’ gaps, but just 3.8 yards per carry. Although that is where Jacobs found most of his success in 2023.

Another benefit is James’s age. He will be 27 when the 2024 season kicks off. Shelton will be 29.


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The numbers seem in favor of the Los Angeles Rams keeping Shelton, but it depends on how desperate teams are this offseason. The need for center is unusually high, which will drive up Shelton’s contract number. The bet they would be making is that Shelton will improve as a pass-blocker and will stay healthy into his 30s. It’s a fairly safe bet since it was Shelton’s first season as a center and just his second as a starter.