2019 NFL Offseason: Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams (Last Year: 13-3)

2019 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Blake Bortles, DE/OLB Clay Matthews, S Eric Weddle.
Early Draft Picks:
S Taylor Rapp, RB Darrell Henderson, CB David Long, OT Bobby Evans, DT Greg Gaines. Rams Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB C.J. Anderson, G Rodger Saffold, C John Sullivan, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Dominique Easley, LB Mark Barron, S Lamarcus Joyner.

2019 Los Angeles Rams Offense:
Sean McVay and his coaching staff have been a godsend to Jared Goff, who is not as good as his statistics indicate. Goff threw for 4,688 yards, 32 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions last year, but everyone saw what happened to him when McVay couldn’t out-coach the opposition in the Super Bowl. Goff looked completely rattled and perplexed by Bill Belichick’s schemes, scoring just three points as a result. Luckily for Goff, McVay can get the better of most other coaches in the NFL, so the young quarterback should continue to play well.

That said, it’s fair to expect a decline of sorts from Goff in 2019, thanks to some departures on the offensive line. While McVay has been the primary catalyst for Goff turning things around from his dreadful rookie campaign, the stout offensive line has played a large role as well. The Rams maintained one of the best blocking units over the past two years, but that’s no longer the case. They lost guard Rodger Saffold and center John Sullivan this offseason. Meanwhile, long-time Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth is still around, but he turns 38 during the 2019 season, so he could regress a bit.

Given all of that, Goff’s protection almost certainly won’t be as good in 2019. Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen are expected to replace Saffold and Sullivan, respectively. Noteboom was a third-round pick in 2018, but played tackle at TCU, so he’ll be learning a new position. Allen, chosen one round later the same year, made 38 starts at Michigan State. They, along with Whitworth, will join the other two incumbents on the line: guard Austin Blythe, a mediocre blocker, and right tackle Rob Havenstein, who has performed well under McVay.

The offensive line is far from the only concern the Rams have on this side of the ball. Todd Gurley’s arthritic knees seem to be a major problem. Gurley could barely take the field during the team’s run to the Super Bowl last year. This seems like a long-term concern, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Gurley once again played sparingly in 2019. C.J. Anderson won’t be around to spell Gurley this time, though the Rams spent a third-round pick on the electric Darrell Henderson. The Memphis product isn’t built to handle a heavy workload, but he can go the distance whenever he touches the ball.

Los Angeles’ receiving corps has at least remained intact. This is the strength of the team, and Goff surely will love having his favorite receiver, Cooper Kupp, back from injury. Kupp will re-join Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods in one of the league’s best wideout groups.

2019 Los Angeles Rams Defense:
The Rams assembled one of the most impressive defensive fronts the league has seen in quite some time last offseason. Already possessing Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, the Rams acquired Ndamukong Suh to join the front. The results were good, but not as stellar as everyone predicted. The Rams accumulated 41 sacks, but were just 17th in adjusted sack rate.

Suh has departed to join the Buccaneers, but considering that he had a decline in production last year, he won’t be missed too much. That said, the Rams didn’t find a viable replacement for Suh, so their defensive line won’t be as good in 2019. Donald will still be a dominant force, and Brockers figures to bounce back off a slightly down 2018 campaign, but Los Angeles currently has a big hole at nose tackle.

While Suh has left, the Rams acquired a couple of big-name players to join the defense this offseason. The problem is that both are in their mid-30s and may not live up to expectations. Granted, expectations aren’t very high for Clay Matthews anyhow. The former Packer was a terrific player for a long time, but has regressed in recent seasons. There’s a chance Wade Phillips can get one more half-decent campaign out of Matthews, but that doesn’t seem very likely. Matthews will probably struggle to get to the quarterback across from Dante Fowler, an inconsistent first-round bust.

There’s more hope for the other big-name defensive player Los Angeles obtained this offseason. Eric Weddle signed a 2-year, $10.5 million contract in March, which is an absolute bargain compared to some of the other large deals given to safeties in the spring. Weddle played on a Pro Bowl level for the Ravens over the past three seasons, but as with Matthews, age is a concern. Weddle turned 34 this offseason, so regression is likely to come soon. Weddle should still be a solid player at the very least in 2019, however, and he’ll start next to the talented John Johnson, who is excellent in coverage.

Unless Weddle completely falls off, the main concern pertaining to the Rams’ secondary will be the cornerbacks once again. Marcus Peters struggled last year, while Aqib Talib missed half of 2018 because of an injury. Talib turned 33 this offseason, so a decline is expected for him as well.

The linebacking corps, meanwhile, is the weakest part of the defense. Cory Littleton is a special-teams standout, and he thrives in coverage, but he gets completely abused in run support. That could be a huge problem with Suh no longer around to protect him. The Rams lost Mark Barron to the Steelers, so they don’t have a viable replacement next to Littleton. Micah Kiser, chosen in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, is the favorite to start next to Littleton.

2019 Los Angeles Rams Schedule and Intangibles:
It’s no surprise that Los Angeles has been a horrible home-field 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. It’s no surprise the Rams were 3-5 at home in 2017 while being 7-1 on the road. They were 8-1 as hosts in 2018, but failed to cover the spread in most of their home games. In a crumbling city comprised of heavy traffic, high taxes, countless homeless people, diseases from the 1800s, and insufferable celebrities who think they know what’s best for everyone else, there aren’t many people who care about professional football.

Greg Zuerlein’s nickname is “Greg the Leg” because of his massive kicking power. He lived up to his nickname last year, hitting 27-of-31 tries, including 4-of-6 from beyond 50.

Johnny Hekker maintained the highest net-punting average at 44.2 in 2013, 43.7 in 2015 and 46.0 in 2016. He was second in 2017 and 2018, only behind Tennessee’s Brett Kern (2017) and Thomas Morstead (2018).

The Rams have a tough schedule. Many of their early opponents are expected to make a run at the playoffs, and that includes the Panthers (road), Saints (home), Browns (road), Seahawks (road), 49ers (home), Falcons (road), Steelers (road) and Bears (home).

2019 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.

2019 Los Angeles Rams Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2019 Los Angeles Rams Analysis: The Rams will continue to be very competitive because they have lots of talent and are coached extremely well. However, there are several concerns. The Rams played a long season in 2018, only to come up short in the Super Bowl. Not only might there be a hangover; the older players on the roster could be worn out. The Rams are an old team, and some of their aging veterans could regress in 2019. Furthermore, the offensive line, which was instrumental in the team’s success over the past two seasons, isn’t nearly as strong as it once was, thanks to some departures. As a result of this, as well as the fact that all three NFC West foes figure to be better in 2019, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Rams miss the playoffs this year.

Projection: 9-7 (Tied 2nd in NFC West)

2018 Projection: 9-7. 2018 Actual Result: 13-3.
2017 Projection: 3-13. 2017 Actual Result: 11-5.
2016 Projection: 3-13. 2016 Actual Result: 4-12.

NFL Draft Team Grade: B Grade

Goals Entering the 2019 NFL Draft: The offensive line has been a major reason why the Rams have been so successful the past two years. The blocking unit took some hits, however, losing Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan this offseason, so Los Angeles must find some blockers this offseason. It also has some areas to address on defense. Cornerback and edge rusher were issues last year, and now the team must replace Ndamukong Suh. A new running back must be obtained as well because of Todd Gurley’s concerning knee problems.

2019 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Rams entered the weekend with no selections after No. 31 overall until the end of the third round. They were desperate to trade down, and they did just that. Repeatedly. In fact, they didn’t make a selection until No. 61 overall.

It was worth the wait for Rams fans, as their front office obtained some stellar values in 61-79 range. They began with safety Taylor Rapp, who was a steal at the end of Round 2. Running back Darrell Henderson and cornerback David Long were also solid choices. Henderson provides a nice insurance policy for Todd Gurley and his troubled knees, while Long could contribute as a rookie at the Rams’ problematic cornerback position.

The Rams didn’t address their offensive line until their fourth pick, which was a reach in Bobby Evans. Another lineman, David Edwards, was not a good selection in the fifth round because he resembled a human turnstile at Wisconsin last year. Because of the Rams’ inability to help improve their offensive line, they can’t be graded very highly. However, they did very well otherwise, particularly in regard to obtaining more resources.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

61. Taylor Rapp, S, Washington A Grade
The Rams finally made a pick! Taylor Rapp was once expected to be chosen late in the first round, but a poor combine performance and an injury – the two may have been connected – dropped him into the second frame. With that in mind, I think the Rams are getting good value with Rapp, and I love that they traded down so many times. Rapp will be a nice successor for Eric Weddle in a year or two.

70. Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis B+ Grade
I had Darrell Henderson going to the Rams with their first pick in the third round, so I like the range for him. This is exactly where Henderson should have gone. He’s not an every-down ball-carrier in the slightest, but he’s an explosive play-maker who will be a nice insurance policy for Todd Gurley and his troublesome knees.

79. David Long, CB, Michigan B+ Grade
The Rams had to address cornerback after struggling with the position last year. David Long is a cornerback with great awareness, but struggled with penalties at Michigan. Still, he fills a need and the range as a mid-third-round prospect. This is a solid choice all around.

97. Bobby Evans, OT, Oklahoma C- Grade
This seems like a reach to me. I had Bobby Evans projected as a fifth-round pick, mocking him at No. 171 overall. Evans is strong, but happens to be a raw blocker without much upside. The Rams needed offensive line help, but they could have done better than this.

134. Greg Gaines, DT, Washington B+ Grade
Greg Gaines offers little upside with sub-par testing numbers, but he played better than the analytics indicate. Gaines is a tough, hustling defensive tackle with a great motor. He should be a solid rotational defensive lineman for the Rams moving forward. This is a solid choice.

169. David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin C Grade
David Edwards was a human turnstile for the Badgers this past season. He was once considered a second-round prospect by some, but the tape crushed his draft stock, and rightfully so. I actually think this is still a bit too high for him.

203. Marcus Green, WR, Louisiana-Monroe B Grade
I didn’t have Marcus Green as a draftable prospect, but we’re past pick No. 200 and are heading toward the end of Round 6, so that’s not such a huge deal anymore. Still, there’s some good value still available, so the Rams could have done better with this choice.

243. Nick Scott, S, Penn State B Grade
Nick Scott’s amazing pro day probably got him drafted. Scott showed the potential with some stellar testing numbers, so I can see why the Rams are taking a flier on him. They need a safety for the future, so perhaps they’ll be able to develop the undersized Scott over the next couple of years.

251. Dakota Allen, LB, Texas Tech D Grade
I can’t really get behind this pick. Dakota Allen is a mediocre athlete with very little upside. Even worse, he was charged with burglary where he broke into a house, stole some guns and then sold them. This seems like a wasted selection.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Rams won the NFC Championship in high controversy. What goes around, comes around, as they were dominated in the Super Bowl. Their defense played well, but Jared Goff was a disaster. Now, the Rams will have to move forward with some of their key veterans heading into free agency and retirement.

Offseason Moves:
  • Rams sign DE/OLB Clay Matthews
  • Rams sign QB Blake Bortles
  • Rams sign S Eric Weddle

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Edge Rushers: It’s odd that the Rams’ top priorities are on defense, but that happens to be the case. They don’t have a viable edge rusher. They traded for Dante Fowler, but he wasn’t very good for them, logging just two sacks in Los Angeles. He’s hitting free agency anyway. The Rams need two new edge rushers. Re-signed Dante Fowler; signed Clay Matthews

    2. Linebacker: The other linebackers need an upgrade as well. Cory Littleton was the Rams’ top player at inside linebacker, and he was just fine defensively (much better on special teams.) Los Angeles needs a better player at the position.

    3. Cornerback: An improved edge rush would help the secondary, but the cornerbacks must be fixed anyway. Marcus Peters was a big disappointment, while Aqib Talib will begin to regress soon. The Rams need at least one new cornerback.

    4. Defensive Tackle: It doesn’t sound like Ndamukong Suh will be back next year. He played very well for the Rams, but wasn’t dominant, so he’s not worth the money.

    5. Center: John Sullivan was the weak link up front this past season. Sullivan is past his prime and must be replaced.

    6. Guard: Rodger Saffold will enter free agency this March. He’s been the team’s best interior offensive lineman over the past few years.

    7. Safety: Lamarcus Joyner is an important free agent the Rams must re-sign. If they don’t, they’ll have a big hole at safety. Signed with Eric Weddle

    8. Backup Quarterback: Sean Mannion was one of the worst backup quarterbacks in the NFL, but he’s an impending free agent anyway. Signed Blake Bortles

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2019 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Eric Weddle, S, Ravens. Age: 34.
      Signed with Rams

      Eric Weddle played on a Pro Bowl level last season, so Baltimore’s decision to cut him was purely financial. The Ravens are saving $7.5 million in cap space by releasing Weddle. The star safety turned 34 this offseason, and he should be able to perform on a high level for another year or two.

    2. Clay Matthews, DE/OLB, Packers. Age: 33.
      Signed with Rams (2 years)

      Clay Matthews looked like a shell of his former self in 2018, logging just 3.5 sacks. He had some sacks nullified because of bogus penalties, but Matthews was definitely not the same player. He might have one more solid season left in the tank, but it’s probably more likely that his career is over.

    3. Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars. Age: 27.
      Signed with Rams (1 year)

      Blake Bortles has the talent to be a franchise quarterback, but he just doesn’t care about football. Rather than studying film and working on his craft, Bortles has opted to party his career away. That said, he’s still young enough to turn his life around. He’ll turn 27 in April, so he has time to find a passion for football. Perhaps getting cut by the Jaguars will serve as a wake-up call for him.

    Los Angeles Rams Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Rams. Age: 32.
      Signed with Buccaneers (1 year)

      Ndamukong Suh had an impactful year with the Rams in 2018, but wasn’t quite the dominant force we’re used to seeing. Age is beginning to become a factor, as Suh turned 32 in January. Still, he should be a force in the interior for a couple more seasons.

    2. Lamarcus Joyner, S, Rams. Age: 28.
      Signed with Raiders (4 years)

      Lamarcus Joyner has been a stellar safety for the Rams over the past couple of years. He hasn’t played a full season since 2015, which is a bit of a concern, but he should still command a high price tag in free agency this spring.

    3. Rodger Saffold, G, Rams. Age: 31.
      Signed with Titans (4 years, $44 million; $22.5 million guaranteed)

      Rodger Saffold used to be very injury-prone, but he hasn’t gotten hurt in a couple of years. Saffold turns 31 in June, which is not ideal, but considering that guards can play on a high level into their mid-30s, Saffold should continue to be a solid starter.

    4. Cory Littleton (RFA), LB, Rams. Age: 26.
      Tendered by Rams (2nd round)

      Cory Littleton misses lots of tackles, but he covered very well in space as the Rams’ top inside linebacker. He was also an ace special-teamer. He’s still young, so perhaps he’ll be able to improve his tackling.

    5. C.J. Anderson, RB, Rams. Age: 28.
      Signed with Lions (1 year)

      It’s bizarre that C.J. Anderson was on the open market for so long. Some team finally signed him, and Anderson rewarded the Rams for doing so. Anderson had two terrific performances down the stretch in relief of an injured/resting Todd Gurley. Anderson is still just 28, so he can be a starter.

    6. Dante Fowler, DE, Rams. Age: 25.
      Re-signed with Rams (1 year)

      Dante Fowler has tremendous talent, but is a lazy person and thus has never been able to live up to his No. 3 overall status from the 2015 NFL Draft. Perhaps Fowler will grow up and develop a love for the game, but no one should be holding their breath.

    7. Dominique Easley, DT, Rams. Age: 27.
      Dominique Easley has been miscast in the Rams’ 3-4 defense. He’s a 4-3 three-technique defensive tackle, and he could perform in that role elsewhere. Of course, he’d have to stay healthy, which is something he hasn’t been able to do throughout his career.

    8. Mark Barron, LB, Rams. Age: 29.
      Signed with Steelers (2 years, $12 million)

      Mark Barron has never been a very good player, but he’s coming off his worst season yet. That might be because he was dealing with an ankle injury he never fully recovered from. However, Barron turns 30 soon, so further regression could be coming.

    9. John Sullivan, C, Rams. Age: 34.
    10. Troy Hill (RFA), CB, Rams. Age: 28. — Tendered by Rams
    11. Sam Shields, CB, Rams. Age: 31.
    12. Ramik Wilson, ILB, Rams. Age: 27.
    13. Malcolm Brown (RFA), RB, Rams. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Rams
    14. Eath Westbrooks, DE/DT, Rams. Age: 28.
    15. Matt Longacre, DE/OLB, Rams. Age: 27.
    16. Bryce Hager, ILB, Rams. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Rams
    17. Sean Mannion, QB, Rams. Age: 27.
    18. Morgan Fox (RFA), DE, Rams. Age: 24.
    19. Nick Williams, WR, Rams. Age: 28.

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

    2025 NFL Mock Draft - May 12

    Fantasy Football Rankings - May 9

    NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

    NFL Picks - Feb. 12