With the pain of the Super Bowl defeat slowly but surely fading, it’s time to look ahead to the 2019 season. Free agency and the Draft are fast approaching, but before we get to those, the Rams will be looking at which of their own Unrestricted Free Agents they want to keep. Whether it be a key starter or important role player, Les Snead and Sean McVay will be hoping to keep the core of a Super Bowl contending team together.
Here we will look at all of the Rams UFA’s and breakdown how we think the negotiations might pan out over the upcoming weeks. At best we will be using educated (debatable) guesses to suggest who we think may be back for 2019 and beyond. We will maybe come back in a few months and revisit how good or awful the predictions were!
Ndamukong Suh – STAY – Suh was the Rams marquee free agent signing in 2018 and pairing him with Aaron Donald was supposed to terrify Offensive Lines around the league. While he didn’t exactly set the heather on fire in the regular season, he came alive in the postseason and put in a string of impressive performances. Those performances may have convinced Snead and co to give this another shot. The feeling here is that Suh now has a taste for winning football and, while he could add a couple of million to his bank account elsewhere, he takes a little bit of a discount to stay in LA.
Lamarcus Joyner – GO – Joyner played on the Rams franchise tag in 2018 and earned just over $11 million in doing so. He failed to live up to that hefty price tag. Joyner was beaten in coverage often and Snead looks to have played this one well in holding off on offering a long term deal last year. The safety market can become undervalued, but the likelihood is that Lamarcus gets an offer too high for the Rams to feel comfortable matching and he is playing football elsewhere in 2019.
Rodger Saffold – STAY – Saffold has been through the good, the bad and the ugly with the Rams in his 9 years with the team. He almost left the team to sign with the Raiders in 2014, but concerns with his shoulder led him back to St Louis. Saffold has gone on to play at a Pro Bowl level and has been a huge part of the Rams success along with the rest of the O-Line. Similar to Suh, he could potentially make more money elsewhere, but the hope is that the Rams recent success can lure Saffold back to LA for a few more years.
Dante Fowler Jr – GO – Fowler joined the Rams just before the trade deadline in 2018, with the Rams sending a 3rd and 5th round draft pick to Jacksonville. With the Jags previously declining his 5th year option, the former #3 overall pick is a free agent after only 4 years. The Rams could potentially use the franchise tag on him, but with that costing around $14 million, it’s unlikely that actually happens. After some impressive performances in the playoffs, Fowler’s price is likely to become unreasonable and a cap rich team will land him.
CJ Anderson – GO – Anderson was signed off the couch in week 16 and went on to have an amazing run filling in for and spelling Todd Gurley. After such an impressive 5 game spell with the Rams, it’s probable that Anderson’s price tag becomes too high for the Rams to pay. With a healthy Todd Gurley (and his healthy salary) the need for an expensive backup disappears and Anderson will move on to pastures new.
Dominique Easley – STAY – Easley has become a forgotten man after being injured the past 2 years. It’s also easy to forget that he was a starter before his injury in 2018 robbed him of most of his season. The coaches clearly like him and if the Rams can work out a low salary with low guarantees in case of another injury, you can see him sticking around for another year.
Matt Longacre – GO – Longacre was only able to register 1 sack in 2018 and ended up being a healthy scratch on several occasions. It’s likely his time at the Rams is over.
Ethan Westbrooks – GO – Westbrooks has been an important rotation player during most of his 5 years with the Rams, but last year saw him only play around 18% of snaps. I originally had him down as staying, but with the potential of Suh coming back and his reduced usage, perhaps now is the time to part ways.
Sam Shields – STAY – Shields was given a return to football with the Rams after almost 2 full years out with injuries related to concussion. Injury to Talib forced Shields into a bigger role than was perhaps anticipated, but he held up well enough considering his previous absence. Shields has already expressed an interest in returning, so there is a chance to work something out.
Sean Mannion – GO – Mannion’s greatest contribution to the Rams in 2018 was lending his helmet to Jared Goff in the NFC Championship game after Goff’s communication with McVay broke. Time for the Rams to find an alternative to the backup position.
Ramik Wilson – GO – Wilson carved out a role as a backup and on special teams, but those roles can usually be easily replaced through the Draft and with players already on the team (eg Micah Kiser).
Bryce Hager – STAY – Hager is a favourite of Coach Bones on Special Teams and, while you could probably copy and paste what was written for Ramik Wilson here, every so often, a guy on Special Teams sticks around (see Chase Reynolds). Maybe that’s Hager.
So there you have it. That’s our guesses for which of the Rams 2019 Unrestricted Free Agents stick around for this year and beyond. We’ll see how it goes in the near future.
The Rams will also have Restricted Free Agents to tend to such as Cory Littleton and Malcolm Brown, but those are dealt with differently, with tenders attached to each, so we’ll just stick to predicting the UFA’s!