Players come, players go…

With the draft just around the corner, we take a look at the ins and outs of the LA Rams.

INS

Eric Weddle – Safety – (2 year, $10.5M, $5.2M guaranteed)
I’ll kick things off with the signing that excited me the most. He immediately becomes our quarterback of the defence and at times last season it didn’t feel like we had that guy. He’s a little long in the tooth but I still think he has some good years ahead of him, especially pairing him next to John Johnson who is increasingly looking like a steal at pick 91.

Dante Fowler Jr. – EDGE – (1 year, $14M, $12M guaranteed)
Staying on the defensive side, we have our only player to re-sign. The cost is just under franchise tag money. The Rams are loading up for another run at the Super Bowl and in Fowler’s defence, he made some big plays on the road to Super Bowl 53 with the pressure on Brees in the NFC championship probably the biggest of his career. I liked the signing, we won’t get stung with any dead money next season if it doesn’t work out, and Snead could get another of his beloved compensatory pick.

Clay Matthews – Linebacker – (2 years, $9.25M, $5.5M guaranteed)
Next up, a signing that I think divided the fan base. When the news first broke $16M was being mentioned, which was way too much to pay an ageing pass rusher. What we actually paid seemed like a better deal. He’s not the dominant Outside Linebacker he once was, and has actually been playing Inside Linebacker more recently, but added into the rotation with Fowler, Ebukam and maybe even Okoronkwo, it feels like we’ve upgraded the position.

Blake Bortles – Quarterback – (1 year, $1M)
Our only addition on the offensive side. He becomes the 6th player from the 1st round of the 2014 NFL Draft to pull on the Rams jersey. I’ve never been a huge fan of Bortles but when you see the Eagles winning a Super bowl with their backup Quarterback, it makes you realise how important that role is. While he is definitely an upgrade, we all hope he plays nothing more than the pre-season and in 4th quarter blow outs.

OUTS

Rodger Saffold – Guard – (4 years, $44M, $22.5M guaranteed, Tennessee Titans)
Now for the outs, and this one hurts the most. After nearly leaving for Oakland in 2014, he solidified himself as a top Left Guard in the league. There was talk among fans that he could take a team friendly deal, as we could not afford the sort of contract he ended up getting, but it wasn’t to be. It’s a shame to see him go but these guys have got to get their money when they can.

Lamarcus Joyner – Safety – (4 years, $42M, $21.3M guaranteed, Oakland Raiders)
Most fans saw this coming, after being one of the top PFF rated Safety’s in the 2017 season, his play declined. He just wasn’t the player we saw the season before and this was another contract that the Rams couldn’t match.

Mark Barron – Linebacker – (2 years, $12M, $5.75M guaranteed, Pittsburgh Steelers)
Another move most fans envisaged. Barron joined the Rams as a safety via a trade in 2014 with Tampa Bay, but became a hybrid Safety/Linebacker in the Gregg Williams led defense. He was earning too much money and his play didn’t warrant that type of contract.

John Sullivan – Center – (Free agent)
Like Barron, Sullivan was cut to save money. His level of play started to tail off midway through last season, as it seemed like age had finally caught up with him. He was a great signing two years ago, going from Redskins backup Center to our starter, and he played at a decent level. Both he and Andrew Whitworth were instrumental in Goff’s sophomore season improvements.

GOING FORWARD

We still have some holes and only time will tell if we use the Draft to go after a Left Guard, Center & Linebacker or promote the likes of Brian Allen, Joe Noteboom & Micah Kiser, who were all selected in the 2018 Draft. We didn’t see much of Allen last season, and looking at his time at Michigan State, he was versatile across the line, but he’s projects only as a Center in the NFL, and we could see him line up there next season. We spent a third rounder on Noteboom and we’re all hoping he’s Whitworth’s longterm replacement, but for now he may slot in at Left Guard. Kiser is a thumper of a Linebacker and we could definitely see him start alongside Cory Littleton.

Overall, I’m happy with our off season moves. We have upgraded multiple positions although lost some solid starters in the process. The next job will be to build depth through the Draft.

Luke (Twitter – @TheWiganMon)