This is the doldrums period of the NFL off-season. Yes, there was a massive Julio Jones trade but by and large, this is the time of the year where everything else is quiet except behind the scenes. Training camps open up in a little over a month, and spoiler alert, not everyone makes it to camp. Rosters need to be pruned to 53 people and given where most teams are in relation to the salary cap, that always leads to surprise cuts.
For the Rams, this holds especially true as they have a little over $7 million (ish) dollars to work with but they too could make a few surprise cuts to give themselves more roster flexibility. Some of these will be painful but unfortunately, the NFL is a brutal business.
Let’s take a look at five potential surprise cuts.
Rob Havenstein – Offensive Tackle
It’s weird how quickly things change in this league. Back in 2018, Havenstein was given a four-year extension and anointed as the Andrew Whitworth in waiting, and after a tough 2019 which ended in injury, that extension isn’t looking as savvy as it did five years ago. His 2020 campaign was a nice bounce-back type of season but that didn’t stop the Rams from putting him on the trade block. Due to the glut of tackles available in free agency and the draft, there weren’t any takers and Havenstein is the incumbent starter at right tackle again.
That might not be true at the start of the season as the Rams could save around $6 million (ish) if they cut him and they have enough depth on their offensive line to be cool with parting with him. It’s a bummer because he’s an underrated Les Snead second-round find, but such is life.
Greg Gaines – Defensive Line
This one would be a bit shocking considering the team already moved on from Michael Brockers but Gaines could be a surprise cut if he can’t take a leap. He’s had limited play in his two seasons with the team and given that he’s a fourth-round pick he’s on a very team-friendly contract, but if a more proven defensive lineman becomes available the Rams could cut Gaines to free up the roster spot. Gaines is likely to remain on the roster as a key depth guy behind A’Shawn Robinson or Sebastian Joeseph-Day, but there isn’t evidence the Rams are set on keeping him and next year he’s in a contract year so the Rams could decide to move on early.
Obo Okoronkwo – Outside Linebacker/Edge
Another surprising cut could come at linebacker where Okoronkwo could be someone that like Gaines needs to make a leap lest they lose their spot to a free-agent veteran. His athleticism has always made him appealing but he’s also been hurt a lot and that could make him a surprise cut come the summer. He has the chance to crack the starting lineup given the only guaranteed starter is Leonard Floyd, but he needs to make a leap.
Micah Kiser – Inside Linebacker
Now here is where a real surprise cut could occur. Micah Kiser was a starter last season but had missed a lot of time due to injury, and aside from Floyd, he’s the most likely starter in the hodgepodge of linebackers. So, why would the Rams cut him? Well, there’s a chance the Rams are in a position to take another pass-rusher and that roster spot would have to come from somewhere and Kiser isn’t so entrenched as a starter that he’s untouchable. It isn’t likely he’s the first linebacker out but the right player could come along and take his job. He’s someone that could be cut down the road as well or allowed to leave in free agency eventually.
Johnny Hekker – Punter
Of all the surprise cuts this one would obviously crush fans the most. Hekker is the highest-paid punter in the league and while he’s done more than enough to earn it, he did struggle mightily in 2020, and so did the rest of the Rams’ special teams. The Rams have their third special teams coach in as many years and they drafted with an eye for future talent and present-day special teams body.
They also brought in a new punter and it is WEIRD to have two punters on the roster. Hekker even sees possible writing on the wall and knows he can’t struggle again because if the Rams need cap space the punter is rarely the untouchable figure on the roster. Hekker is a fan favorite and it would be a mistake to get rid of him because when he’s right he’s a major weapon for the Rams, because not only does he set the defense up for success with great field position, but he can do gadget plays on special teams.
He’s a special talent but on the hierarchy of NFL roster spots the punter is a pin monkey, and as Homer would learn, even the best pin monkey can’t be kept if the money isn’t there.
Surprise cuts are a normal part of the NFL season and the Rams have a lot of places where they can trim the roster so be prepared to get misty as fan favorites might be gone.
Who would be the biggest surprise cut? Vote below!