In my Los Angeles Rams off-season preview story, I predicted that one of the areas to watch out for what the Rams will do was defensive back, because the Rams had a lot of players at that position and they couldn’t possibly pay and/or keep them all.
Basically what the Rams did was let every single one of them go.
Taylor Rapp, a serviceable, above-average safety who was a second-round pick in 2019 signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills Monday. (It sounds to me like a prove-it, no-one-else-wants-you deal).
The Rams used 14 different players in their defensive secondary last year. They still have six on the roster with two more who are free agents.
The Rams can run a nickel defense right now, but that’s about it. Can Aaron Donald cover tight ends too?
These DBs are Gone
If you’re keeping track — and we are — here are the Rams defensive backs who played in 2022 who are no longer with the team:
Jalen Ramsey – You might have heard, Ramsey was traded to the Dolphins for a third-round pick, a reserve tight end and a bag of chips. Oh wait, we didn’t get a bag of chips.
Taylor Rapp – Now a Buffalo Bill. Rapp started 48 games in his Rams career had nine interceptions.
Nick Scott – Scott started 16 games last year for the Rams and had 86 tackles. He’s now a Cincinnati Bengal.
David Long Jr. – Quietly an important rotational player for the Rams the last four years. He had the easy pick six in the playoff win over the Cardinals when Kyler Murray was spooked. Last year he started four games and is now a Las Vegas Raider.
Grant Haley – another Ram who started a one game and is now a free agent. He also has played with the Giants and Saints.
Troy Hill – The one-time, some-time Ram spent a year with Cleveland, then came back to the Rams. He’s a free agent.
Terrell Burgess — played a few games with the Rams, making one start before being waived in November, he’s now a New York Giant.
TJ Carter – played one game in the Rams secondary but was waived last week. He just signed with the Birmingham Stallions of the United States Football League. Chase that dream TJ.
This is just one position group! Look at the turnover. All these guys are gone.
These DBs are Here – for now
Jordan Fuller – He’s going into the fourth and final year of his contract. Fuller got hurt at the end of the Super Bowl season, and only played in three games last year. He’s the Rams most experienced defensive back right now…by default. He’s played in 31 games in his career. (For comparison sake, Jalen Ramsey has played in 108).
Robert Rochell – Entering his third year, has plenty of physical tools, showed some signs as a rookie, but was banished to special teams in 2022. He’s played in 28 games in his career.
Derion Kendrick – A sixth-round pick in 2022 he played well as a rookie making six starts. I mean, he wasn’t a Pro Bowler or anything, but he looked like he can play in the NFL.
Cobie Durant – The other fourth-round pick in 2022, he also played well for a rookie, made only one start.
Quentin Lake – The rookie missed the first half of the season with a mysterious knee injury. Came back and played in nine games and had 10 tackles and a sack.
Russ Yeast – He was a seventh-rounder last year. Yeast started one game, played in 15 and made 20 tackles as a rookie.
Only Fuller and Rochell have Super Bowl rings from the 2021 season.
What Do the Rams Do Next?
Taken alone, losing Taylor Rapp isn’t that big of a deal. The market for him seemed to be lukewarm at best. That’s what one-year deals mean, basically, yeah, we will take you and give you a shot.
But this is now one position group for the Rams that needs bodies at this point.
The NFL is a passing league, you need a quarterback to win at the highest level, which the Rams have, but it’s nice if you can intercept a pass every now and then.
There are still some decent free agent defensive backs out there: Marcus Peters from Baltimore, who was once a Ram, Shaq Griffin from Jacksonville would be an upgrade, so would John Johnson from Cleveland. Johnson played for Coach Sean McVay and the Rams from 2017-2020, and reunions, like we just saw with Bobby Wagner, do work.
But overall, a position that was steady for the Rams is now perhaps their biggest need entering the 2023 NFL Draft. My last mock draft had the Rams going defensive back with their first pick in the second round.
Barring any big changes (and it doesn’t look likely) this group of defensive backs will be one of the least experienced in the NFL when the 2023 season begins.