At this point in the regular season, it has been another excellent season for Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams. In his first season as the Rams head coach last year, Los Angeles ended up having an 11-5 record. It was the first time they managed to make the playoffs since 2004.
They would lose in the Wild Card round to the Atlanta Falcons by a final score of 26-13. It was a devastating loss for the Rams but was a good building block for the future. Through 15 weeks this year, Los Angeles currently holds an impressive 11-3 record.
Despite their uncharacteristic losses in Weeks 14 and 15 against the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, the Rams are still arguably the best team in the NFL. Not every team is going to win every game in a season, thus making no reason for Rams faithful to panic just yet.
The playoffs will still need to run its course but the Rams season thus far has been remarkable. Every team in the NFL, even the team who wins the Super Bowl, will need to reload and try to get better the following season. Here are a few under-the-radar free agents that the Rams must target this offseason.
3. Terrell Suggs, Outside Linebacker
With the upcoming offseason being filled with plenty of pass-rushers, some will be forgotten among the rest. Jadeveon Clowney and Dee Ford will command a ton of money as outside linebackers, making Terrell Suggs an under-the-radar free agent. Suggs would be a nice addition to a Rams team that lacks depth at the edge-rusher position.
Earlier this season during the trade deadline, Los Angeles acquired Dante Fowler from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Rams gave up a 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 fifth-round pick for Fowler. In the few weeks that he’s been on the team, he’s made a huge difference for the defense.
The problem that could arise with Fowler is the fact that he is also a free agent in 2019. If he continues to play well for the Rams, he’ll likely garner a decent contract from other teams.
Suggs, on the other hand, can likely be had for a fairly cheap price—especially for a contending team. One of those contending teams that could look into adding Suggs if he decides to leave the Baltimore Ravens is the Rams.
Remember when Terrell Suggs' posted a disappointing 40-yard dash time? He covered 40 yards (and a few more) just fine to score here.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 25, 2018
Suggs no longer plays every down for the Ravens, but is still quite effective at rushing the quarterback. In 15 games this year, Suggs has seven sacks and a forced fumble. The seven sacks have him tied with Clowney on the season.
Another reason to bring Suggs in would be for his veteran leadership. For a team full of young talent, having someone like Suggs, who has won a Super Bowl, could be beneficial. The Rams should at least take a look at Suggs this offseason to improve their outside linebacker position.
2. Shaquil Barrett, Outside Linebacker
The outside linebacker position will definitely be an area the Rams target this offseason. If they decide to go the youthful route at the position, Shaquil Barrett will be available.
Barrett has played his only four seasons for the Denver Broncos. In those four years, Barrett has totaled 14 sacks. He has spent that time backing up guys like DeMarcus Ware and now Bradley Chubb. Barrett has the potential to be a very good edge-rusher, but has yet to put it all together to consistently be a threat.
— DLineVids (@DLineVids) September 16, 2017
One obvious reason that the Rams could look to add Barrett is the fact that he played under Wade Phillips while Phillips served as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator.
This season, Barrett has three sacks but recently sustained a hip injury that will sideline him a few weeks. This offseason could be an important one for the 26-year-old outside linebacker.
When you play for the Rams, your job as an edge rusher is easier due to Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, and possibly Ndamukong Suh— who could leave in 2019—wreaking havoc up front. Barrett would never see a double-team and could reach his potential in Los Angeles. Don’t be surprised if the Rams decide to pursue Barrett.
1. Avery Williamson, Inside Linebacker
You can see a constant trend that shows the Rams weakest positions are their outside and inside linebackers. The Rams have been susceptible to the run this season due to starting Cory Littleton and Mark Barron at their inside linebacker spots. Having two guys like Littleton and Barron who lack size but are athletic makes it harder to stop the run.
This is especially true in a 3-4 defensive scheme that relies on inside linebackers to slow the opposing team’s rushing attack. Currently, the Rams are asking two linebackers who are under 235 pounds to take on offensive guards in the ground game. That’s not a battle the Rams are going to win often.
Littleton has been very solid this season with 112 tackles, four sacks, and an interception. The 112 tackles on the year are the most on the Rams’ defense. Barron, on the other hand, has disappointed, to say the least. Since returning from injury in Week 5, Barron has 51 tackles but has looked a step slow.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise if the Rams decide to part ways with Barron to bulk up at inside linebacker. Avery Williamson could be a reliable candidate to fill the gap if the New York Jets decided to not bring him back. This is also if Los Angeles doesn’t give the job opposite Littleton to Micah Kiser, their rookie linebacker out of Virginia. Either way, a change needs to be made for the Rams run defense to improve drastically.
Williamson has 107 tackles for the New York Jets this season. He weighs 246 pounds and has consistently shown he can be a solid run-stopper in his career. With the Rams’ run-defense ranked 23rd in the NFL, it’d be hard to see Los Angeles not consider signing a formidable inside linebacker.