The Rams had the top pick in this past year’s draft. They added a number of veteran defensive free agents. They signed their top wideout to a lucrative extension.
Still, despite all of these headlines, the biggest “move” by the Rams was their relocation to Los Angeles. After 20 years (and a Super Bowl championship) in St. Louis, the organization is returning to the City of Angels.
Following a 2015 season that featured a 7-9 record and plenty of promise from Offensive Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley, the assumption would be that the team would take another step forward in 2016. The Rams will undoubtedly be in a bigger spotlight, but did the front office do enough to bring a contender to Los Angeles?
- Mark Barron, LB: Five years, $45MM. $15MM guaranteed.
- Trumaine Johnson, CB: One year, $13,952MM. Fully guaranteed. Accepted franchise tag.
- William Hayes, DE: Three years, $17.5MM. $10MM guaranteed.
- Coty Sensabaugh, CB: Three years, $14.5MM. $5.5MM guaranteed.
- Tim Barnes, C: Two years, $5.5MM. $3.25MM guaranteed.
- Eugene Sims, DE: Three years, $10MM. $3MM guaranteed.
- Cory Harkey, TE: Three years, $5.7MM. $2.5MM guaranteed.
- Brian Quick, WR: One year, $1.75MM. $1.5MM guaranteed.
- Cody Davis, S: Two years, $2,916,666. $805K guaranteed.
- Greg Zuerlein, K: One year, $1.25MM. $675K guaranteed.
- Chase Reynolds, RB: One year, $875K. $200K guaranteed.
- Case Keenum, QB: One year, $3.635MM. Signed first-round RFA tender.
- Benny Cunningham, RB: One year, $1.671MM. Signed original-round RFA tender.
- Cam Thomas, DT: One year, minimum salary benefit.
- Dominique Easley, DT: One year, $600K.
The Rams were clearly encouraged by their step forward in 2015, so the front office spent their offseason re-signing many of their key free agents.
Mark Barron, a former first-round pick, may be the most notable signing. After having revived his career in St. Louis last season, the 26-year-old inked a five-year contract to remain with the organization. Barron set career-highs in tackles (76) and forced fumbles (three) in 2015, and he’ll presumably remain as the team’s starting outside linebacker, providing some experience to a youthful unit.
Cornerback Trumaine Johnson will also remain with the team. The 26-year-old ultimately accepted his franchise tender, keeping him in Los Angeles for at least one more season. The starting cornerback had his most productive season in 2015, establishing career-highs in tackles (58), interceptions (seven), and passes defended (17). The defensive back will be joined by Coty Sensabaugh, who joined the Rams this offseason following four seasons with the Titans. The 27-year-old started 15 games last season, compiling 42 tackles and a pair of interceptions.
Elsewhere on defense, defensive lineman William Hayes will be sticking around for three more seasons. The 31-year-old has split his eight-year career between the Titans and Rams, and the veteran finished with at least four sacks in each of his four seasons in St. Louis. Veteran lineman Eugene Sims will also be returning to the organization, and the front office brought in a former first-rounder in lineman Dominique Easley to round out the defensive line.
On the other side of the ball, the team’s big re-signing was center Tim Barnes, who has appeared in 61 of a possible 64 games since going undrafted in 2012. The 28-year-old should be the veteran leader of the Rams’ offensive line, as the other four starters are all 24-years-old or younger.
Barnes will be blocking for quarterback Case Keenum, who signed his restricted free agent tender with the squad. The 28-year-old has 15 career starts through four NFL seasons, and the coaching staff felt comfortable making the journeyman their starter, even over first-overall pick Jared Goff. In five games last season, Keenum completed 61-percent of his passes for 828 yards, four scores, and one interception.
The organization held on to wideout Brian Quick, who has yet to breakout after being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft. The 27-year-old had his least productive season in 2015, hauling in only 10 catches for 102 yards. The Rams also retained a pair of running backs in Benny Cunningham and Chase Reynolds.
Continue reading about the Rams’ offseason…
- Akeem Ayers, LB: Released
- Daren Bates, LB
- Jared Cook, TE: Released
- Nick Fairley, DT
- Nick Foles, QB: Released
- Janoris Jenkins, CB
- James Laurinaitis, LB: Released
- Chris Long, DE: Released
- Rodney McLeod, S
- Wes Welker, WR
While the Rams did an admirable job of retaining many of their defense free agents, they also cut bait with a number of notable veterans. Former second-overall pick Chris Long was perhaps the most notable release, as the 31-year-old had spent the previous eight seasons with the organization. Long, who ultimately landed with the Patriots, has started only 11 games over the past two seasons, but his veteran leadership could have benefited a young defensive line.
Akeem Ayers‘ tenure with the franchise also came to an end after only one season. Following a breakout second-half of the 2014 season, Ayers was expected to play a significant role on the Rams defense. Instead, the 27-year-old ended up starting only 12 games while compiling underwhelming statistics. Veteran linebacker James Laurinaitis was also released by the Rams following seven seasons with the team. The former Ohio State star has started 16 games in each of his seven NFL seasons, although his tackles and sacks count did drop a bit in 2015.
Defensive backs Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod were both starters on last year’s Rams squad, but the duo ended up getting lucrative contracts from the Giants and Eagles, respectively. Having combined for four interceptions and 20 passes defended, the team is looking to replace their production with E.J. Gaines, T.J. McDonald, and Cody Davis.
The team lost a trio of veterans on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Nick Foles was let go following one season with the Rams. The former Pro Bowler was disappointing in his 11 starts, completing only 56-percent of his passes while throwing seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Veteran tight end Jared Cook was also released after having spent several seasons with the organization. The 29-year-old (who ultimately landed on the Packers) was productive throughout his tenure in St. Louis, averaging 47 receptions, 595 yards, and nearly three touchdowns a season. Finally, veteran wideout Wes Welker struggled to stay on the field, but he still managed to collect 12 receptions in 2015.
- Acquired a 2016 first-round pick (No. 1), a 2016 fourth-round pick (No. 113), and a 2016 sixth-round pick (No. 177) from the Titans in exchange for a 2016 first-round pick (No. 15), two 2016 second-round picks (Nos. 43 and 45), a 2016 third-round pick (No. 76), a 2017 first-round pick, and a 2017 third-round pick.
- Rams will also acquire a 2017 seventh-round pick if they send their own 2017 third-rounder to the Titans, rather than a third-round comp pick.
- Acquired a 2016 fourth-round pick (No. 117) and a 2016 sixth-round pick (No. 206) from the Bears in exchange for a 2016 fourth-round pick (No. 113).
The Rams’ biggest move of the offseason was the acquisition of the top-overall pick in this year’s draft. We’ll analyze the actual picks below, but let’s see how the Rams actually fared in their trades (using the classic, Jimmy Johnson Draft Trade Chart):
Rams acquired 3,088.6 points worth of value:
- No. 1 pick (3,000 points)
- No. 113 pick (68 points)
- No. 177 pick (20.6 points)
Rams gave up at least 2,886 points worth of value:
- No. 15 pick (1,050 points)
- No. 43 pick (470 points)
- No. 45 pick (450 points)
- No. 76 pick (210 points)
- 2017 first (at least 590 points)
- 2017 third (at least 116 points)
While it would seem like the Rams gave up an absolute haul for the first-overall pick, the trade chart indicates that the front office may have made off with a minor steal. Of course, the team traded for (what they believe to be) a franchise quarterback, and you can’t necessarily determine that value from a chart.
- 1-1: Jared Goff, QB (California)
- 4-110: Tyler Higbee, TE (Western Kentucky)
- 4-117: Pharoh Cooper, WR (South Carolina)
- 6-177: Temarrick Hemingway, TE (South Carolina State)
- 6-190: Josh Forrest, LB (Kentucky)
- 6-206: Mike Thomas, WR (Southern Mississippi)
With that top overall pick in the draft, the Rams selected California quarterback Jared Goff. While the 21-year-old may be sitting third on the QB depth chart for the start of the season, there’s no denying that the California-native is the future of the franchise. Goff has been praised for his arm strength, size, mobility, and his on-field attitude, although some have questioned his decision making.
Of course, the rookie will begin to limit those mistakes as he gets more experience in the NFL. Goff certainly showed that he belonged in the league during his junior season at Cal, where he completed 64% of his passes for 4,714 yards, 43 touchdowns, and only 13 interceptions. There’s no denying that production (especially in a division as competitive as the Pac-12), so fans shouldn’t be pessimistic about Goff’s current spot on the depth chart.
After having dealt off a wealth of picks to acquire the quarterback, the Rams didn’t select again until the fourth round. With their two fourth-rounders, the team opted for a pair of future offensive weapons: tight end Tyler Higbee and wideout Pharoh Cooper. While it will take the rookies some time to rise up the depth chart, the preseason should give the team some reason for optimism. Higbee hauled in seven catches for 66 yards, while Cooper caught a pair of passes for 30 yards and a touchdown.
The Rams’ trio of sixth-round picks all managed to make the final roster. When it comes to the 2016 squad, linebacker Josh Forrest may have the best opportunity to contribute to the team.
Extensions and restructures:
Tavon Austin hasn’t necessarily performed like a top-12 wideout since entering the league as a first-rounder in 2013. Either way, the Rams decided to pay him like one. Having already picked up his fifth-year option, the front office signed the 25-year-old Austin to a four-year, $42MM extension. The contract ranks 11th among wideouts in total value and total guaranteed money, ahead of names like Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, and Brandon Marshall.
Austin certainly hasn’t been a disappointment since being selected in the first-round, especially since the unconventional Rams offense doesn’t rely on your standard “number-one” option in the passing game. Austin had his best season in 2015, compiling career-highs in receptions (52), receiving yards (473) and touchdowns (five). Austin also contributed in the running game (compiling 434 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 52 carries) and the punt game, making him a useful offensive weapon.
- Relocated to Los Angeles.
- Hired Bears WRs coach Mike Groh as WRs coach/passing game coordinator.
- Exercised 2017 fifth-year option for WR Tavon Austin ($12.268MM).
- Exercised 2017 fifth-year option for LB Alec Ogletree ($8.369MM).
- Signed, and then released, DE Quinton Coples. Rams will carry $750K in dead money.
- Signed 19 undrafted free agents following the draft.
The biggest story of the Rams’ offseason was their return to Los Angeles after two decades in St. Louis. The franchise had previously played in California for nearly 50 years, and their move will finally bring back professional football to Los Angeles. The last time a team relocated was in 1997, when the Houston Oilers moved to Memphis (and then to Nashville) and became the Tennessee Oilers/Titans. That Tennessee team (which also featured Jeff Fisher as their head coach) finished that season 8-8.
The Rams brought in receivers coach Mike Groh to replace Ray Sherman. Groh, who has been coaching since 2000, helped Alshon Jeffery evolve into one of the NFL’s top wideouts in Chicago. The hope is that Groh will help improve a unit that finished last in the league in passing yards last season.
Besides picking up Austin’s option, the Rams also exercised linebacker Alec Ogletree‘s fifth-year option. The former first-rounder has established himself as one of the leaders of the Rams defense, even after playing only four games in 2015. In his first two seasons in the league, Ogletree averaged 114 tackles, five forced fumbles, and 11 passes defended. After having extended Austin, the team will surely be looking to lock up the 24-year-old linebacker.
Top 10 cap hits for 2016:
- Trumaine Johnson, CB: $13,952,000
- Robert Quinn, DE: $11,157,373
- Nick Foles, QB: $8,750,000
- William Hayes, DE: $7,000,000
- Michael Brockers, DT: $6,146,000
- Mark Barron, LB: $6,000,000
- Greg Robinson, T: $5,804,754
- Rodger Saffold, G: $5,626,250
- Kenny Britt, WR: $4,850,000
- Coty Sensabaugh, CB: $4,850,000
The Rams did show some promise in 2015, and the front office spent plenty of money to retain many of their top free agents. Conventional wisdom would indicate that the young roster would take another step forward in 2016.
Of course, that team also finished with only seven wins last season. Even if they have a two-win improvement, it might not be enough to emerge in the competitive NFC (especially in a division that features two possible Super Bowl contenders in the Seahawks and Cardinals). Plus, Jeff Fisher has yet to finished better than 7-9 in each of four seasons with the team.
After pairing Jared Goff with Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley, there’s no denying that the future is bright in Los Angeles. However, it still might take a few seasons for the Rams to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.