After the Rams Wild Card round win against the Seattle Seahawks, it might be too early to start talking about offseason deals.
They’re riding high after the win and should be proud of themselves and celebrate this victory; however, Green Bay is a formidable opponent.
Strolling into Green Bay is never easy, especially in January when the average high is 26º F. It can even get colder in Green Bay, just like during the 2008 NFC Championship Game where it reached -1º with a -23º wind chill.
The strength of this year’s teams has been on defense. Aaron Donald is playing at MVP level caliber; in his first full season, Jalen Ramsey is looking like a hundred million bucks, John Johnson was a pro-bowl snub, and plenty of role players have stepped up when the team’s needed it most. All this talent is lead by Brandon Staley, the best Defensive Coordinator in the league.
No matter what happens this offseason, if the Rams want to stay competitive, it’s imperative they retain that defensive talent, including Brandon Staley.
These are the biggest defensive players who become free agents at the end of the season: John Johnson, Troy Hill, Leonard Floyd, Darious Williams, Samson Ebukam, and Morgan Fox.
Football is a game of depth; however, four of those players are starters. Except Fox is the only backup defensive end, and if they lose both Hill and Williams, there is only Ramsey, and David Long left at cornerback.
Kicker and Center
The only other positions the Rams need to lock up this offseason is at kicker and center.
Matt Gay is a free agent this offseason has been the answer to the Rams’ prayers at kicker. Then, Austin Blythe is a free agent, and retaining the O-line is essential. Both are free agents in 2022, but locking them up now would help out, and restructuring the deals might free up cap space.
Other notable free agents are Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt, and Josh Reynolds. The Rams are loaded at tight end, so if they only retain one or none, they’re fine.
There’s also plenty of wide receivers the Rams can get through free agency or the draft. I’ve been high on Van Jefferson since training camp, and hopefully, he’s ready to step into a larger role if the Rams can’t retain Reynolds.
The hardest thing to admit is Johnson will most likely not return next season. He’s played great but will get a better offer from other teams. His recent contract is worth $4.6 million and will most likely be looking in the $15 million range. The Rams are $22 million over the salary cap and won’t be able to afford him (just so we’re clear, these are the contracts’ total value, not per year).
The biggest thing is there is plenty of depth at safety. Taylor Rapp has an additional year on his contract, and Jordan Fuller has stepped up in Rapp’s absence. Then there are the other rookies Terrell Burgess and JuJu Hughes.
The same goes for Hill. His current contract is worth $6.2 million, and the average contract of similar cornerbacks is $22 million. However, the Ram’s don’t have the most depth at cornerback, so it’s more important to retain Hill and Williams. Williams has stepped up this season with 40 solo tackles and five interceptions through Wild Card Weekend.
Even Ramsey is taking note of his talent, telling ESPN: “It’s time to start talking about [Williams] in this league as a household name.”
If you need another reason, according to ESPN, with his week 10 pick against the Seahawks, he became the third player to pick off Russell Wilson in his nine-year career. He did it again during the Wild Card game and was the first pick of a screen this whole season. Luckily for the Rams, he’s only a restricted free agent.
The other contract worth taking care of is Floyd’s. Because his one-year deal is paid out over three seasons, the Rams need to sign him to prevent him from becoming dead money. Floyd was a great acquisition by the Rams.
The linebacker crew is playing extremely well together, and it would be a shame if he left after a single season. The linebacker position was severely lacking last season, and it’s great to see the Rams finally figure it out.
Lastly, the final piece of the puzzle, they need to keep Staley from leaving. Staley is getting head coaching offers from other teams, most notably the New York Jets. He’s the man pulling strings behind the defense, and losing him would be detrimental to the team.
His NFL resume might not be as long as other defensive coordinators, but he proved he’s worth keeping around. He is as vital to this team as Sean McVay, Ramsey, and Donald.
Featured Image: Bettina Hansen/Seattle Times