In 2016, the Los Angeles Rams were in turmoil. Jeff Fisher‘s one-man crusade against the forward pass finally ended. Jared Goff looked like he’d be playing in Canada in a year and Todd Gurley likely needed a grief counselor. Les Snead exemplified the “this is fine” meme. Their cap resembled Homer Simpson’s arteries and their new stadium deal was held back a year. In 2017, they rebooted their offense around head coach and grown-up Nubie from Little Giants, Sean McVay. He turned Goff into a legit quarterback, hired Wade Phillips to run the defense and allowed Todd Gurley to win a plethora of fantasy leagues. Following their playoff loss, the Rams needed to prove this wasn’t a fluke. They also needed to pay reigning defensive player of the year Aaron Donald. Les Snead saw how the Eagles built around Carson Wentz and decided that was the way to go. He realized that Goff’s contract is a godsend and the time to win is now. Los Angeles has seemingly gone all in this offseason so let’s grade the Los Angeles Rams free agency moves.
Signing DT Ndamukong Suh for one year, $14 Million: A
There are a few ways in which this deal can go south. Suh has been criticized for being a bad teammate and becoming disengaged when things don’t go his way. He’s also known as a dirty player and can get a penalty flag at the worst possible time. With that said, it is also is worth noting that he turned 31 years old in January and it’s questionable how much of his prime is left. That being said, pairing Suh with Aaron Donald has the potential to be one of the best defensive-line duos in the league this season. The two should cause a ton of chaos and this also makes life easier for Michael Brockers.
Sheldon Richardson went to a stacked Minnesota defensive line after Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata joined an even more stacked Philly line so the Rams needed a counter move and this is a great one. Sure, the risks are there but it’s only for one year. He’ll be surrounded by strong voices in the locker room plus Wade Phillips so his worst tendencies will likely be reigned in. The Rams rectified one of their biggest draft mistakes of the decade when the passed over Suh for Sam Bradford.
Trading a 2018 fourth-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick for CB Marcus Peters: A+
The Rams were rightly derided for tagging corner Trumaine Johnson last season bringing his price tag up to $16 million. He was due to make big money (and he did) but that wouldn’t be in L.A. Instead of giving Johnson a mega-extension, they decided to trade two picks for Chiefs corner Marcus Peters. Not only is Peters 25 years old and is one of the best corners in the league. He fell out of favor in Kansas City due to some character concerns but he should be a great fit for Wade Phillips’ system given how the system uses corners. On top of that Peters only counts $1.7 million against the cap. This amount of talent combined with that price tag is well worth any character concerns considering they’re all on the field.
Trading a 2018 fifth-round pick for CB Aqib Talib: B+
The Rams’ secondary was razor thin last season. After trading for Peters and franchising safety Lamarcus Joyner, they made another upgrade in the secondary. Aqib Talib won a ring under Wade Phillips in Denver and will be under contract for his full one year and $11 million. That might seem steep given how volatile Talib can be but he wanted to either be traded to L.A. or New England so he shouldn’t be a problem in the locker room. The fact that he’s spent time with Phillips means the coordinator knows how to deal with his personality and if the Rams are going all in this year, Talib is the type of experienced talent a team needs to make a late playoff push.
Signing CB Sam Shields for one year, $1 million: B-
The secondary gets another cheap upgrade. Shields missed the entire 2017 season due to concussion concerns which plays into concerns about his history of injuries. That’s a risk but considering he’s only guaranteed the base salary the risk is low. If he can stay healthy, he can provide valuable depth something the Rams did not have last year.
Trading DE Robert Quinn to Miami for 2018 fourth round-pick and a 2018 sixth-round pick: B
On its face, it seems illogical. Quinn was one of the best pass rushers on the Rams roster. They recently signed him to a large extension and moved him to linebacker. The problem was that he struggled with this new role. On top of that, he’s struggled with injuries over the last few years. Combined with the fact that he was due $11.4 million against the cap, the trade was clearly a move to shed some money while still being able to acquire cheap talent. The Rams decided to flip him for picks presumably to use on rebuilding their linebacker corps.
Trading LB Alec Ogletree to the Giants for a 2018 fourth round-pick and a 2018 sixth-round pick: B+
Ogletree was supposed to be Wade’s new stud linebacker. Unfortunately, he remained a solid athlete but never developed into an all-around linebacker. The Rams inexplicably signed him to a large extension during the 2017 season. The calculus must have been that he’d continue to develop but apparently they didn’t see that. Yes, they’re now thin at linebacker but like with the Quinn trade, the Rams opted for cap space and picks to rebuild that unit.
Re-signing CB Nickell Robey-Coleman for three years, $15.75 million: B+
Coleman is one of the best slot corners in the league. He had to do too much once Kayvon Webster went down. Now with Peters, Shields, and Talib, he’ll be used to the best of his abilities. A deep secondary is one of the most important pieces to a successful team and while the price tag for Coleman may seem high, his ability and versatility at the position plus his familiarity with the system will prove to be valuable to help all their new acquisitions adapt.
Re-signing C John Sullivan for two years, $15 million: B+
Sullivan cost the Rams less than a million dollars last year but played well above that. He turns 33 years old and isn’t that far removed from missing an entire season with a back injury. That can come back at any time but aside from that, this is a great deal. It’s incentive-based and having continuity on the offensive line is a major asset. The Rams will eventually draft his replacement but for now, Goff can sleep a little easier knowing Sullivan is still protecting him.
Re-signing DE Dominique Easley for one year, $1.85 million: C
Easley has had multiple ACL tears throughout his career so he’s an injury risk. With that said, the Rams have little depth at defensive end so they needed to bring him back. Luckily his contract is incentive based. They will likely draft several pass rushers this year but he’ll still have to play a majority of the snaps. It’s not an ideal situation but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal.
Signing LB Ramik Wilson for one year, $750,000: C
Wilson is entering his third season. He fell out of favor in Kansas City but with such a low-cost deal he could end up yielding a big return. It’s a little weird that the Rams are replacing one Georgia Bulldog with another but that just means Todd Gurley will have another college teammate around him. But the Rams need new blood at linebacker and Wilson should fit in around Connor Barwin and Mark Barron.
The Rams did an incredible job building on the foundation they created last year. They didn’t feel the need to overpay for Sammy Watkins or Trumaine Johnson. Instead, they took that money and built a stellar secondary for a fraction of the cost. They freed up a lot of space in order to be able to resign their core players down the road and they replenished their draft picks.
There is still work to do in acquiring more pass rushers and interior lineman but that shouldn’t be too difficult. The Rams are now the favorite in the NFC West and made moves that could give them a deep playoff run. Les Snead understood that he only has Jared Goff under a super friendly contract for a brief period of time and is making the most of it. Overall, the Los Angeles Rams free agency moves have been logical and makes it clear this season is all or nothing for the franchise.