2016 NFL Offseason: Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams (Last Year: 7-9)

2016 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
DE Quinton Coples, DT Dominique Easley, CB Coty Sensabaugh.
Early Draft Picks:
QB Jared Goff, TE Tyler Higbee, WR Pharoh Cooper. Rams Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
TE Jared Cook, DE Chris Long, DT Nick Fairley, ILB James Laurinaitis, CB Janoris Jenkins, S Rodney McLeod.

2016 Los Angeles Rams Offense:
The Rams better hope that Jared Goff pans out because they surrendered a ridiculous amount of resources for him. They surrendered two second-round picks as well as a third, and 2017 first- and third-round choices on top of that. One would think they learned something from fleecing the Redskins in a similar sort of deal when Robert Griffin was involved, but that apparently is not the case.

Griffin was considered to be a much better prospect than Goff, a skinny quarterback who played in a goofy college system that doesn’t translate to the pros at all. Goff has a high learning curve, so he’s a likely bust candidate. Making matters worse, Goff won’t have much to work with in terms of an aerial attack. Tavon Austin is a nifty, gimmick option who accumulated 473 receiving yards and 434 more on the ground. However, Los Angeles has nothing else at receiver. Kenny Britt is a bum who hasn’t tried hard in a very long time. Brian Quick showed promise once upon a time, but inexplicably regressed and caught just 10 balls in 2015. Stedman Bailey was shot multiple times in the head in November and may never play again. These are the veterans Goff will have to work with.

With that in mind, the two young players the Rams selected in the fourth round better pan out. Receiver Pharoh Cooper tested extremely poorly at the Combine, which didn’t help the fact that he was seen as a gimmick player coming out of South Carolina. Meanwhile, tight end Tyler Higbee is very athletic, but has been charged with second-degree assault and could be facing a suspension. These are the young players Goff will have to work with.

It’s a good thing the Rams have Todd Gurley, or they wouldn’t be able to move the chains at all. The front office took a chance on the talented running back despite his torn ACL last year, and it definitely paid off. Gurley was a monster as a rookie, rushing for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in just 13 games. He wasn’t even 100 percent, so it’s scary to think how dominant he’ll be in his sophomore campaign. One team that wasn’t able to acquire him in the 2015 NFL Draft believed he would be the next Jim Brown, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Gurley wins the rushing title in 2016.

To do that, of course, Gurley will need help from his offensive line. Left tackle Greg Robinson will have to step up, as he has been a colossal disappointment after being chosen as the second-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Robinson will have one more chance before he gets cut. It’ll even be a small victory if he’s even as good as second-year right tackle Rob Havenstein, who enjoyed a solid rookie campaign.

Robinson isn’t the only problem up front. Center Tim Barnes and right guard Jamon Brown happen to be big liabilities as well, while left guard Rodger Saffold can’t stay healthy. Saffold has missed a whopping 28 games in the past five seasons, which is just ridiculous. Saffold was on the field for five contests last year because of a shoulder injury. Like Robinson, Saffold could be jettisoned if he has another disappointing season. The offensive line will need major work next spring.

2016 Los Angeles Rams Defense:
Given all the huge issues on offense, it’s quite understandable why the Rams discussed playing good defense and running the ball effectively prior to trading up for Goff. There’s nothing wrong with Gurley, but Los Angeles does have a major issue in terms of utilizing this strategy, and that would be the fact that the stop unit lost some key players in free agency.

The big-name departure was Janoris Jenkins, who signed a $62.5 million contract with the Giants. Jenkins has been an excellent cornerback for the Rams, so there are definitely some big shoes to fill across from the talented Trumaine Johnson. E.J. Gaines will get first crack at it; he was a sixth-rounder in 2014 who impressed as a rookie. However, he missed the entire 2015 campaign with a Lisfranc injury.

Jenkins wasn’t the only secondary player who left; safety Rodney McLeod signed with the Eagles. McLeod was the Rams’ top safety last year by a long shot, so his absence is likely to be more impactful than Jenkins’. It’s unclear who will start in place of McLeod next to T.J. McDonald, who struggled in coverage this past season. That said, McDonald was much better than all of the other safeties on the Rams’ roster last year, so this figures to be a big problem area in the near future.

Two defensive linemen left the team as well, but their departures won’t be as consequential because replacements have been found. Chris Long has been with the Rams since 2008, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy recently, missing 14 games in the past two seasons. William Hayes was more effective than Long anyway, though the attention that All-Pro Robert Quinn receives certainly could’ve had something to do with it. Still, the Rams won’t miss Long because Hayes has proven to be a solid starter, while newly acquired Quinton Coples could provide decent depth.

The other defensive lineman no longer with the team is Nick Fairley, who signed with the Saints. Fairley didn’t start last year, but offered great depth behind Aaron Donald, who, like Quinn, is one of the top defenders in the league, and Michael Brockers, a strong run-defender. Donald and Brockers are back, and their new depth player is former Patriot first-rounder Dominique Easley. A shocking release this offseason, Easley was cut because of some dire locker room issues, but there’s no questioning his talent level. If Jeff Fisher can once again keep a troubled player clean, Easley could have a big impact in Los Angeles.

The Rams also lost a linebacker, but James Laurinaitis’ departure is even less consequential than that of the two defensive linemen. Laurinaitis has been a liability for a very long time, so this is a case of addition by subtraction. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, another early-round choice, Alec Ogletree, has also been a disappointment. He’ll be joined by the pedestrian Akeem Ayers and Mark Barron, who has thrived after transitioning over from safety.

2016 Los Angeles Rams Schedule and Intangibles:
Los Angeles figures to be a horrible homefield advantage for the Rams. When the team played in Los Angeles previously, Steve Young would actually have to tell his teammates to be quiet in the huddle, since the stadium was so silent that the opposing team could hear what they were saying. Los Angeles is full of fake people and has very few real sports fans, so the Rams will undoubtedly struggle at home.

Greg Zuerlein’s nickname is “Greg the Leg” because of his massive kicking power. However, he disappointed in 2015, going just 20-of-30, including 3-of-9 from 50-plus.

Johnny Hekker maintained the highest net-punting average at 44.2 in 2013 and 43.7 in 2015.

St. Louis was great on special teams in 2014, but regressed a bit last year. The team outgained the opposition on both kickoffs and punt returns, but not by a wide margin.

The Rams have quite a few winnable games on their schedule: 49ers (twice), Buccaneers (road), Bills (home), Lions (road), Giants (home), Jets (road), Dolphins (home) and Falcons (home).

2016 Los Angeles Rams Rookies:
Go here for the Rams Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2016 Los Angeles Rams Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2016 Los Angeles Rams Analysis: The Rams are likely to have one of the worst records in the NFL next year. They have a raw, rookie quarterback; a passing game with almost no play-makers; an offensive line with only one quality player; and a defense that lost several key pieces this offseason. Making matters worse, Los Angeles won’t be able to benefit from this, as the team surrendered its 2017 first-round selection to the Titans.

Projection: 3-13 (Tied 3rd in NFC West)

NFL Draft Team Grade: C- Grade

Goals Entering the 2016 NFL Draft: Everyone knows the Rams are going to select Jared Goff No. 1 overall at this point. The rest of the draft needs to be about protecting Goff and acquiring some weapons for him. However, with no second- and third-round selections, that could prove to be very difficult.

2016 NFL Draft Accomplishments: As with the Eagles, the Rams moving up so high ended up costing them. Sure, they obtained Jared Goff, but they didn’t have any other selections until Round 4, and they also lost their first-round choice in 2017. Making this sort of move wasn’t worth the cost. On top of Goff being a sketchy quarterback prospect, there are superior signal-callers entering the draft in the next two years. I’ll use this opportunity to once again spam a link to my 2017 NFL Mock Draft.

As if not owning many resources wasn’t bad enough, the Rams spent their second choice on a recidivist tight end who wasn’t expected to be drafted. Sure, Tyler Higbee is talented, but no one was touching him because of his various legal issues. I liked Pharoh Cooper and Temarrick Hemingway after that, but they weren’t enough to compensate for the other blunders.

I’m giving the Rams a C-, which is the lowest grade I’ve handed out thus far. I can understand why they moved up for Goff, but exercising more patience and building up the rest of the roster would’ve been the better route.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

1. Jared Goff: C- Grade
I’ve already given the Rams a “D” for moving up to the No. 1 pick in my NFL Draft Trade Grades page, and part of this mark has to take the deal into account. Los Angeles was desperate for a quarterback, but didn’t need to panic like this. There will be better quarterback prospects next year – check my 2017 NFL Mock Draft – and 2018 as well, with Josh Rosen set to declare. Rosen and Deshaun Watson are superior prospects – at least at the moment – compared to Jared Goff, who might not even be the top signal-caller in this class.

Goff is a rail-thin quarterback coming out of a goofy spread offense. He had a losing record in college, and his completion percentage wasn’t great. These are all red flags, and it’s baffling that the Rams are ignoring them. The Rams actually liked Carson Wentz more in between the Senior Bowl and Combine, so I don’t know what changed for them. Whatever it is, I don’t agree with it, and our contacts around the NFL feel the same way. For example, one successful offensive coach on a team that doesn’t need a quarterback was completely baffled by Los Angeles’ preference, indicating that Wentz was the easy pick of the two.

I think a C- grade is appropriate for the first-overall choice in the 2016 NFL Draft. This looks to be a bad pick, and the Rams surrendered way too much for it, but I can at least understand why they’re taking a quarterback at this selection.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

110. Tyler Higbee, TE, Western Kentucky: C- Grade
Wow. I did not think Tyler Higbee would be drafted. Higbee, in terms of a pure football player, would’ve been chosen in the second round if there were no other factors involved. However, the issue is that Higbee has both a knee injury and serious character issues. Higbee is a recidivist; he has gotten into trouble countless times, most recently being arrested for assault. He also fled from police. The Rams have taken chances on players with character concerns before, and it has worked out. Perhaps this will as well, but there were teams that didn’t have Higbee on their board, so why risk it this early with so few selections? I was tempted to give this a “Jerrah” (for Jerry Jones), but there’s a chance this could pan out.

117. Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina: B+ Grade
Pharoh Cooper was once considered a second-round prospect, but his stock sunk because of some horrible testing numbers at the Combine. He was a good football player at South Carolina, however, and at the very least, he’ll be a solid a return specialist. The Rams needed more weapons on offense, and this seems like a quality pick.

177. Temarrick Hemingway, TE, South Carolina State: B Grade
It makes sense for the Rams to draft a second tight end, just in case Tyler Higbee can’t stay out of trouble. Based on Higbee’s off-the-field issues, perhaps Los Angeles should’ve just selected Termarrick Hemingway. The South Carolina State product has a ton of upside, thanks to his great athleticism. He’s a project, but he could evolve into a solid weapon for Jared Goff.

190. Josh Forrest, ILB, Kentucky: B Grade
Josh Forrest looks to be a viable backup and special-teamer in the NFL, which is something the Rams needed. Forrest was a solid player at Kentucky after switching positions (former receiver), but he tested extremely poorly at the Combine. There’s nothing wrong with taking someone who could be a capable reserve in the sixth round.

206. Mike Thomas, WR, Southern Miss: A Grade
One team whose sources we trust told us that they were going to consider Mike Thomas as early as the fourth round. I suppose better players fell to them, but the fact remains that Thomas provides great value here toward the end of the sixth round. I like this pick a lot, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Thomas contributed sooner rather than later. His great route-running will help, as will the fact that Los Angeles doesn’t have the best receiving corps.

Season Summary:
The big story for the Rams is obvious. They’re back in Los Angeles, where even fewer people will care about them. As for the actual team, a quarterback is still needed. If the Rams can get one, they might finally reach the playoffs.

Offseason Moves:
  • Rams sign DT Dominique Easley
  • Rams re-sign QB Case Keenum
  • Rams re-sign RB Chase Reynolds
  • Rams re-sign K Greg Zuerlein
  • Rams re-sign DE Quinton Coples
  • Rams re-sign FB Cory Harkey
  • Rams sign CB Coty Sensabaugh
  • Rams re-sign DE Eugene Sims
  • Rams re-sign S Cody Davis
  • Rams re-sign C Tim Barnes
  • Rams re-sign WR Brian Quick
  • Rams re-sign DE William Hayes
  • Rams re-sign OLB Mark Barron
  • Rams franchise CB Trumaine Johnson
  • Rams cut DE Chris Long
  • Rams cut TE Jared Cook
  • Rams cut ILB James Laurinaitis

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: This is a glaring hole on the roster, and it’s one the Rams could address with the 15th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Case Keenum had his moments, but he’s not the answer.

    2. Two Wide Receivers: The Rams need to completely revamp their aerial attack, and that means finding two new receivers. Save for Tavon Austin, the team’s wideouts were an abomination. Re-signed Brian Quick

    3. Center: The other position that needs a major upgrade on offense, center has to be addressed, as Tim Barnes was one of the worst starters at his spot in 2015. Re-signed with Rams (2 years)

    4. Two Cornerbacks: Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are a pair of outstanding cornerbacks, and the Rams struggled when either wasn’t on the field last year. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, both happen to be impending free agents. Franchised Trumaine Johnson; signed Coty Sensabaugh

    5. Defensive End: William Hayes has developed into an outstanding bookend across from Robert Quinn. His contract expires in March, unfortunately. Chris Long was cut as well. Re-signed William Hayes and Eugene Sims; signed Quinton Coples

    6. Middle Linebacker: James Laurinaitis is a big name, but he has regressed recently. He struggled mightily in 2015 and was promptly cut.

    7. Safety: Rodney McLeod has developed into a solid safety, but he’s going to be hitting the market in March. Losing him would be a big blow.

    8. Tight End: Jared Cook is a bum. He has stolen so much of the Rams’ money over the years. He was finally cut.

    9. Offensive Tackle: Greg Robinson has been a huge bust thus far. It’s too early to give up on him, but the Rams need to think about finding some competition at left tackle.

    10. Defensive Tackle Depth: Nick Fairley signed a 1-year “prove it” deal last offseason. He played well, but now he’ll be hitting the market. Depth will be needed if he leaves. Signed Dominique Easley

    11. Kicker: Greg Zuerlein has been inaccurate. Now, he’s a free agent. Re-signed Greg Zuerlein

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2016 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Quinton Coples, DE, Dolphins. Age: 26.
      Signed with Rams (2 years)

      Quinton Coples has been a colossal bust thus far whose lethargy has ruined his career. However, he’s very talented and could develop into a solid player if he gets his act together.

    2. Dominique Easley, DT, Patriots. Age: 24.
      Signed with Rams

      Wow, what just happened? It’s not every day that you see a talented, 24-year-old with no known off-the-field issues get released in the NFL. Granted, Easley hasn’t been able to stay healthy, but to give up on him after just two seasons is inexplicable. The only logical conclusion is that there are some major off-the-field problems concerning Easley that haven’t been reported yet. Thus, I’m going to conservatively mock him as a two-star free agent.

    3. Coty Sensabaugh, CB, Titans. Age: 27.
      Signed with Rams (3 years)

      Coty Sensabaugh was one of Tennessee’s top cornerbacks this year, though that’s not saying much. Sensabaugh, who has been OK in the nickel before, is coming off a down year.

    Los Angeles Rams Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Janoris Jenkins, CB, Rams. Age: 27.
      Signed with Giants (5 years, $62.5 million)

      Janoris Jenkins is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. He didn’t play all that well in 2014 because of a lingering knee injury, but he bounced back with a very strong 2015 campaign. Just 27, Jenkins has a very bright future ahead of him.

    2. Nick Fairley, DT, Rams. Age: 28.
      Signed with Saints (1 year)

      What I wrote about Nick Fairley last year still applies: “If Nick Fairley is trying his hardest, he can be one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Unfortunately, Fairley has a history of lethargy and character issues that make him a big risk.” Fairley signed a 1-year “prove it” deal with St. Louis and played extremely well. He has earned a larger contract this offseason, but teams should still be wary.

    3. Trumaine Johnson, CB, Rams. Age: 26.
      Franchised by Rams

      After a solid 2014 campaign, Trumaine Johnson improved markedly and performed exceptionally well this past season. He completely erased some of the stud receivers he covered.

    4. Rodney McLeod, S, Rams. Age: 26.
      Signed with Eagles (5 years, $37 million)

      Rodney McLeod was solid but unspectacular in 2014, but made big improvements to his game last season. McLeod was excellent, showing no weaknesses.

    5. William Hayes, DE, Rams. Age: 31.
      Re-signed with Rams (3 years, $17.5 million)

      Everyone knows about Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald and Chris Long, but William Hayes has been a solid player on St. Louis’ defensive front as well. Hayes gets solid pressure on opposing quarterbacks and even happens to be better in run support. Unfortunately, he turns 31 in May, so he doesn’t have many strong seasons remaining.

    6. Chris Long, DE, Rams. Age: 31.
      Signed with Patriots (1 year)

      Chris Long used to be a great defensive end, but he has fallen off recently. He played in just six games in 2014, and then a knee injury rendered him ineffective this past season. Perhaps he’ll be able to rebound, but at 31 (in March), his best days are long gone.

    7. Mark Barron, OLB/S, Rams. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Rams (5 years, $45 million)

      Mark Barron was a big disappointment after being chosen with the seventh pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He improved this past season, however, as the trick was to use him at linebacker, where he performed admirably.

    8. Jared Cook, TE, Rams. Age: 29.
      Signed with Packers (1 year, $3.65 million)

      Congratulations are in order for Jared Cook, who stole a ton of money from the Rams’ organization. I hope he left the building for the final time holding a white bag with a dollar sign on it for good measure. Cook is very physically talented, but he doesn’t care about becoming a better player. He’s running out of time to overcome his extreme lethargy, but he’s still worth a shot on a 1-year “prove it” deal.

    9. Greg Zuerlein, K, Rams. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Rams

      Greg Zuerlein has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, but he’s not very accurate. He was just 20-of-30 in 2015.

    10. Brian Quick, WR, Rams. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Rams (1 year)

      Brian Quick was a second-round pick in 2012, but has never lived up to his potential. Quick looked like he was going to have a strong 2015 campaign, but a shoulder injury derailed his chances. Perhaps he’ll be better in 2016.

    11. James Laurinaitis, ILB, Rams. Age: 29.
      Signed with Saints

      James Laurinaitis looked like he would be a great pro for a very long time in his first couple of NFL seasons, but he has inexplicably regressed since. He was so bad last year that he could’ve been considered the worst starting linebacker in the NFL. I’m not sure what happened to Laurinaitis, and there’s still time to turn things around, but if he weren’t such a big name, I’d probably have him as a 1.5-star player; I’m just listing him here because he’s a big name and needs a write-up.

    12. Case Keenum, QB, Rams. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Rams

      Case Keenum had a couple of quality outings to close out the 2015 season. He threw four touchdowns to just one interception, and he completed 60.8 percent of his passes. Keenum proved to be a huge upgrade over the incompetent Nick Foles.

    13. Cory Harkey, FB, Rams. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Rams
    14. Eugene Sims, DE, Rams. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Rams (3 years)
    15. Tim Barnes, C, Rams. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Rams (2 years, $5.5 million)
    16. Benny Cunningham (RFA), RB, Rams. Age: 26. — Tendered by Rams (original)
    17. Daren Bates (RFA), OLB, Rams. Age: 25. — Signed with Raiders
    18. Cody Davis (RFA), S, Rams. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Rams (2 years)
    19. Wes Welker, WR, Rams. Age: 35.
    20. Nick Toon, WR, Rams. Age: 27.
    21. Chase Reynolds (RFA), RB, Rams. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Rams
    22. David Arkin, G, Rams. Age: 28.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    Top 90 | QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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