The Los Angeles Rams had a long 2016 season, as they went 4-12. Regardless, L.A. has a chance to change their luck this offseason via the NFL combine and free agency. The NFL combine begins on Feb. 28 and runs through March 6. Then, free agency negotiations open on March 7.
Last season, the Rams benched their starting quarterback Case Keenum for rookie Jared Goff and fired head coach Jeff Fisher in the middle of the 2016 season. Thus, they can only improve behind new head coach Sean McVay. McVay is faced with the task of developing Goff and teaching this entire team how to win in a new market.
That task is easier said than done. The Rams must first attack their own roster needs via free agency and the combine. It will be especially difficult considering the Rams traded this year’s NFL Draft pick to obtain Goff last season. Therefore, L.A. will have to rely on free agency and the later draft rounds to improve their roster. L.A. has more than $37 million in cap space to spend, according to Over The Cap. Where can L.A. improve most?
Here is a ranking of the Rams’ team needs.
The Rams could not block anyone in 2016. 2014 No. 2 draft pick Greg Robinson got benched for being inconsistent and the most penalized linemen in football. Guard Rodger Saffold battled injuries again.
Nonetheless, this group was a large reason that the Rams finished last offensive yards and scoring. They are also a reason why Goff ranked towards the bottom in most statistical categories, and why running back Todd Gurley did not surpass 1,000 rushing yards despite doing so as a rookie.
Thus, the Rams need to sign a marquee left tackle or pray that one falls into their lap in the second round, at No. 37 overall. Either way, they must do more upfront to help their playmakers in the backfield. L.A. can not average 3.3 rushing yards per attempt again next season.
Much of this offseason will be about putting playmakers around Goff. Los Angeles needs to find receivers to catch the ball for their young quarterback.
Plus, the Rams have two of their top-three pass catchers slated to hit the open market. Both Brian Quick and Kenny Britt can leave or re-sign. Britt was the team’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Torry Holt, while Britt had his first healthy season in a few years. Both or neither could return.
Either way, Los Angeles needs to inject their offense with a playmaker at receiver. It would be best to find a young one in the NFL Draft, so that he can grow and develop with Goff. However, the Rams are limited on picks.
Thus, they may look to make a run at a player like Alshon Jeffrey via free agency. There is no telling if Chicago actually lets him get away, though.
This offseason, Johnson is again a free agent. Except for this offseason, Johnson is coming off a down season. Johnson only registered one interception last season, and he missed two games.
Not to mention, the top rated corner across from Johnson was E.J. Gaines, per Pro Football Focus. Gaines received a 40.7 accumulative grade from the subscription service. Therefore, the Rams should look to upgrade the position even if they re-sign Johnson.
Upgrading the corner position is especially critical as the league continues moving towards a more pass happy league.
Other Team Needs
The Los Angeles Rams could also use some depth at the running back and safety positions. Starting safety T.J. McDonald and back runner Benny Cunningham are both pending free agents. Hence, the team may upgrade the position or replace them.
Furthermore, any of the above team needs could change depending on the Rams’ decisions to re-sign their free agents or cut other players for additional cap space.
Nonetheless, the Rams are headed for a critical offseason in their second year in Los Angeles. The pressure is on general manager Les Snead and McVay to deliver a winner to L.A. This is especially true with the Chargers joining the market this season.
The Los Angeles Rams’ quest to build a winner begins with the NFL Combine next week and free agency the following week.
[Featured Image by Kelvin Kuo/AP Images]