All season whenever the Rams experienced a rough loss, or a star player be it Jared Goff or Todd Gurley didn’t perform, someone would inevitably point to the Rams’ cap situation. The Rams do have most of their cap equity tied into Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks, Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, and soon Jalen Ramsey. That’s not great but it isn’t the clogged toilet many claim it to be either as they have avenues to free up some space.
That said, the cap stuff does get complicated for the next three years as the Rams have several young pieces including Cooper Kupp, John Johnson, Josh Reynolds, and Gerald Everett coming up. This year they have three players they absolutely need to keep in order to remain a contender in 2020.
It’s technically four but for the purposes of this piece, Jalen Ramsey won’t be discussed because the Rams are keeping him. It would be a Stone Cold stunner if he isn’t on the team in 2020 considering the principal’s ransom they gave up for him. So here are the three players the Rams need to prioritize outside of Ramsey.
Littleton is priority numero uno for the Rams and its not even close. Sure, there’s the online discussion about him or Dante Fowler Jr. but Littleton is the choice. Fowler had a great contract year amassing 11.5 sacks and 40 solo tackles. That said, his season screams “CONTRACT YEAR” in ways that should make Les Snead wary. He’s never been a consistently great player and was the odd man out in Jacksonville. He’s honestly the classic Dan Snyder/David Gettleman overpay and the Rams would be better off getting a comp pick for Fowler.
Now, Littleton, on the other hand, is a much rarer commodity in that there aren’t a lot of inside linebackers who excel in pass coverage. He’s gotten better every year and without him all the Rams have is an aging Clay Matthews and a lot of young guys. Littleton has the ceiling to get so much better especially with Brandon Staley coming to town. He’s a skilled tackler on a defense that desperately needs that. He should’ve made the All 2nd Team Defense this year as he’s been one of the best inside linebackers in the league.
If you think it’s scary to hope the Rams can keep a 39-year-old offensive tackle, you’re right, but here we are. A lot of digital ink got spilled over how bad the line is and presently, there isn’t much room for growth. That necessitates the Rams bringing back Whitworth for one last year while Joe Noteboom, Bobby Evans, Austin Blythe (if he stays), Rob Havenstein (assuming he’s back) and whoever else ends up starting week one.
If the offense is to have any hope of resembling what it once was then the line needs to be a more cohesive unit and if there’s still at least one adult they’ll be in good shape. Whitworth coming back provides stability, but given that he’s 39, his health could not be in a more precarious position. It’s that dark right now friends, but that’s where we are. Luckily, Aaron Kromer is no longer pulling double duty so maybe that extended time allows him to better develop the line.
This is the least likely to happen given the other things that Rams need to fix. Brockers isn’t the flashiest defensive tackle but he’s a solid player. He had 34 tackles and three sacks last season but he’s been a valuable run stopper. If (when) he leaves for a much-deserved payday (although he’d like to stay) the Rams will be down to Aaron Donald and the potential of Greg Gaines on the defensive line and not much else.
The Rams tried to draft pass rushers for years and all they’ve come up with is a lot of potential but nothing yet realized. Bringing Brockers back even for a short term deal would at least bridge the gap while they find a more suitable long term defensive line rotation. That said, its highly unlikely they keep him as teams with much deeper pockets than the Rams will snatch him up.