Ranking The Most Important In-House Free Agents That The Rams Should Re-Sign
Adding Matthew Stafford is yet another telltale sign that the Rams are committed to winning today. Not that anyone needed further proof, but, the point is, this way of doing business has put the Rams in between a rock and a hard place; How to get under the cap without sacrificing wins.
With limited draft capital, free agency will play a big role in wriggling out of these tight quarters. The Rams have been remarkably good at assessing their in-house free agents and making smart decisions about who stays and who goes.
There are a few in-house free agents that the Rams won’t pursue aggressively for one reason or another. John Johnson has garnered a lot of attention with his 2020 performance and will likely receive a larger contract elsewhere. Gerald Everett, Josh Reynolds, and Malcolm Brown have become expendable with additions from last season’s draft. The team can afford to allow these guys to walk.
But there are also a few that will be important for the Rams to re-sign to maintain the team’s winning window.
Here are the most important in-house free agents that the Rams should re-sign.
A shakeup at the offensive line is coming. Andrew Whitworth is in a standoff with father time and Rob Havenstein might be among the Rams cap casualties. The Rams have to start thinking about how to rebuild the offensive line and Austin Blythe is a good anchor to start to build around. His PFF score jumped 20 points over the 2020 season. He allowed only four sacks, which was tied for 3rd in the league, and was only penalized only once.
Overall the Rams line was third overall in PFF’s final offensive line ranking. This is great, but Jared Goff fueled the emphasis for elite line play. He needed a pristine pocket to be effective. With Stafford taking the snaps, the need to pay Havenstein falls precipitously.
That is to say, the Rams can afford to lose one, but not both. Trading Havenstein (preferably for draft capital) and re-signing Blythe gives the Rams more flexibility in the short-term and long term.
The Rams also have an advantage with Blythe and the open market. Blyth is built to play the outside zone. He is ideal for the Rams, but most other teams will consider him too small to be an effective pass protector. These considerations mean the Rams will likely give him the best chance to remain a starter.
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Both Darious Williams and Troy Hill are up for free agency this offseason. Of the two most have pegged Hill to be the cornerback that the Rams should try to re-sign. And that is not a bad position to take. Hill had a great season and his skill set is seen to be a key that unlocks Jalen Ramsey’s full potential.
The case for Williams to be the targeted defensive back is that he can be Troy Hill, but for less money.
Williams also had a great season. He picked off four passes and racked up 14 passes defended. Compare that to Hill 3 picks and 10 PD. He also only allowed a 54.2% completion percentage. Hill’s completion percentage was 70.3%.
Williams’s biggest advantage is he is a restricted free agent, which means his contract will be much more team-friendly than Hill’s. Hill does have a distinct on the field advantage over Williams. Hill can play just about anywhere in the backfield, but if teams with more cap room come a-knockin’ the Rams won’t be able to compete. Williams can’t replace what Hill does, but he can be a competent, reliable defensive playmaker.
The secondary was relied on to bail the team out in several games last season. With a more potent offense in 2021, those heroics won’t be as necessary.
Believe it or not, the Rams have issues getting pressure on the quarterback. Sure they recorded 53 sacks, second-most in the league, but they also only got pressure on 23.4% of dropbacks, 17th in the league. They only managed to hurry QBs 45 times, third-worst in the league. Whatsmore, Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd accounted for over half of those hurries, 53.3%.
That points out two things. One: The Rams need more pass rushers Two: The Rams need to re-sign Leonard Floyd.
This could be difficult, given what Dante Fowler netted in last year’s free agency. But the Fowler example may be helpful in re-signing Floyd.
The case could be made that Floyd was only as good as he was because he benefited from what we’ll call the “Donald Effect.” Floyd had a career year, so much better than any previous year that it is hard to deny the Donald Effect, and of course, who else benefited from this effect? Dante Fowler. He left the Rams and laid an egg last season.
This argument is a bargaining chip for the Rams, but it could also devalue him in the open market. Will teams be willing to make him an offer based on his previous seasons with the Bears.
Of course, Brandon Staley recognized his talent enough to bring him to LA, what’s stopping Staley from doing that again, with the Chargers. So that is possible competition given the Chargers cap space, but outside of them, the Rams may have the best offer. Comeback and benefit from playing next to the best player in football. Which should be a compelling argument for anyone.