A year removed from winning the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams face an existential question this offseason: Are the Rams closer to the team that won Super Bowl LVI, or are they more resemblant of a rebuilding team after last year’s 5-12 fiasco?
It’s a tough question to answer. You could argue that Los Angeles’ season was solely derailed by the injury bug, as Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald and practically the entire starting offensive line ended the year on injured reserve.
You could look at a roster that still has a strong core intact and has Sean McVay returning after another flirtation with retirement and say “with better injury luck, they’ll be a playoff team once again.”
But on the other hand, last season showed how flying too close to the sun and going all out to win a championship can get you burnt. Los Angeles has star power, but their lack of draft picks in recent years resulted in a roster that was completely depleted once the stars went down.
Given the LA Rams salary cap issues (they are $14 million over right now), Los Angeles’ actions early in the offseason suggest it will take a more frugal approach in 2023. The Rams released linebacker Bobby Wager a year after signing him in another win-now move. Star cornerback Jalen Ramsey is on the trade block. Kupp’s contract could be reconstructed. Leonard Floyd could become a cap casualty.
All of this is to suggest that the Rams might not be big spenders this offseason like they have in the past. For the first time in a long time, they could operate with an eye toward the future. With that being said, here’s a wish list of things they should accomplish during free agency.
Add Depth Along the Offensive Line
The Rams started 12 different combinations along the offensive line in 2022, by far the most in the league. Los Angeles’ all-in mentality was particularly detrimental to the depth of that unit. The Rams gave up the third-most sacks in the league last season.
Los Angeles should benefit from better health alone. But they could use an addition or two to help fortify the unit. Center Ethan Pocic could be a good option to back up the oft-injured Brian Allen. Pocic had a strong season with the Browns and has familiarity with Los Angeles’ zone blocking scheme, as it’s similar to what’s run in Cleveland.
Guards Justin Pugh, Daniel Brunskill and Jon Feliciano could also be affordable options to bolster the interior offensive line.
Shore Up the Secondary
The Rams didn’t get much out of their rookies in the secondary and could lose starting safety Taylor Rapp in free agency. If L.A. can get Rapp back on a team-friendly deal, that’d be a big win. Regardless, they need to add some impactful players on the back end of their defense. Some of the top free agent safeties who could hit the market include Jessie Bates, Jordan Poyer, Vonn Bell and Adrian Amos.
Find Some Affordable Weapons
Cooper Kupp is an all-world player when healthy. That’s a given. The problem is Los Angeles doesn’t have much around him besides the disappointing Allen Robinson. The Rams need some more depth at receiver and tight end to take some of the attention off of Kupp. Perhaps they reunite with Robert Woods after he was let go by Tennessee. They could also add a cheap tight end like Robert Tonyan or Hayden Hurst to give Stafford another option besides Tyler Higbee.
Add Another Edge Rusher
Even if the Rams keep Leonard Floyd, they could afford some help along the edge. Von Miller’s absence was felt on this defense, as Los Angeles posted just 38 sacks in 2022 after posting 50 during the Super Bowl season.
Adding just one more legitimate threat to the front seven could give this Rams defense an advantage. Assuming Aaron Donald will garner double teams up the middle, Floyd and whoever plays opposite him will often be matched up one-on-one. A stronger pass rush could protect a weakened secondary that could be without its star cover corner in Ramsey.
Obviously, the Rams can’t break the bank for a pass rusher, so someone such as Yannick Ngakoue could be out of their price range. But players like Kyle Van Noy, Lorenzo Carter or Jason Pierre-Paul could be veteran options willing to join the Rams at a bargain.