Super Bowl teams like the Los Angeles Rams lose crucial talent every single offseason. Other teams will hope they can acquire Rams free agents to fill their own roster needs and build their own championship culture.
That means the Rams may find themselves looking for talent outside of household names. Los Angeles currently holds about $26 million in cap space. Several Rams starters need new contracts and they need to figure out long-term deals for Jared Goff and Marcus Peters too.
Who are some free agents the Rams should consider, beyond the usual names? Here’s a look at bargain free agents the Rams should consider when free agency negotiations open in March.
Edge Derrick Morgan
The Rams needed an edge rusher so bad that they traded for Dante Fowler midway through the season. Fowler had two sacks last year during his time with the Rams but that production may or may not warrant a big deal. The 2016 No. 3 pick of the Jaguars is still trying to live up to the stock he had coming out of Florida St.
Either way, this free agency class features stacks of bargain options for the Rams. Derrick Morgan is a veteran option with scheme versatility to join the Rams.
Morgan registered only .5 sacks last year which was a career low. The 30-year-old veteran battled injuries once again despite starting 12 games. Tennessee might finally move on from Morgan since they essentially drafted his replacement Harold Landry last season.
Los Angeles would sign Morgan with the hopes that last year was a fluke. Morgan should also be open to a bargain contract with the Rams since he’s yet to play in a playoff game. Morgan could get a chance to do just that with Los Angeles. Not to mention, he could sign for one year bargain and thrive with a great Rams defensive line before signing for more elsewhere next year.
Los Angeles could also look at productive aging star rushers like Clay Matthews, Terrell Suggs, Chris Long or Cameron Wake. They could invest in someone else proven with a little more age advantage like Brandon Graham, Bruce Irvin, Markus Golden, Za’Darius Smith or Preston Smith. They could even roll the dice on a giving a more inexperienced player like Shaq Barrett, Aaron Lynch, Shane Ray or Eli Harold a bigger role in their defense. However, Morgan is a nice blend of upside, production and experience which is why he makes sense for the Rams’ bargain search.
Defensive Back Jimmie Ward
Safety is another one of the deepest positions in free agency. Rams safety LaMarcus Joyner played this season on a franchise tag and it is unlikely he gets it again this year. With L.A. having free agent priorities elsewhere, they might look to replace Joyner with another bargain safety in free agency.
The Rams could easily find Joyner’s replacement. Los Angles knows free agent defensive back Jimmie Ward pretty well since he’s spent his career with the 49ers. Ward hasn’t exactly lived up to his 2014 first round draft status even when he is healthy but the Rams could find him as a bargain.
Ward has played inside and outside corner as well as both safeties spots. That makes him similar in versatility to Joyner and similar in size too. If any defense can get the best out of Ward it is the Rams. He’s got two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in limited action for his career with the 49ers.
Otherwise, Ha Ha Cliton-Dix, Tre Boston, Kenny Vaccaro, Marcus Gilchrist, Adrian Phillips and George Iloka are some of the other versatile bargains the Rams could consider. Of course, they’ll get connected to Landon Collins and Earl Thomas at the top of the market but they probably spend that money elsewhere. Either way, the 27-year-old Ward could be a cheap and effective signing in free agency.
Linebacker Deone Bucannon
Speaking of the AFC West, Los Angeles could’ve found some help at linebacker from a NFC West free agent in Deone Bucannon.
Bucannon is a 26-year-old linebacker coming off the worst season of his career. Buccanon only started six games as Arizona went through many struggles last year including a scheme change. Still, the Rams could have capitalized on this by getting Deone to sign a bargain contract.
Last year, L.A.’s linebackers were one of the few weak spots on the team all season. Much is made of Mark Barron’s regression this year even when he was healthy for L.A., and now he’s gone. Either way, the Rams could afford to upgrade the position. That’s especially true when you remember Corey Littleton is also a free agent. Littleton came on as an every down player last season after being used as a special teamer the first few seasons. However, he could cash out with another team in free agency.
That makes the Rams adding a player like Bucannon necessary. Like Barron, Buccannon also made the switch from safety to linebacker. Buccanon is a California native who would thrive with the Rams defense eating up blocks and giving him free reign on blitzes.
Los Angeles might also consider K.J. Wright, or Brandon Marshall.l Those guys have been productive at one point, but they’re bargains due to injury concerns and/or age.
Nonetheless, Buccanon would have made sense for the Rams before he decided to re-join Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay.
Defensive Line Corey Liuget
The Rams need to explore free agency tackles in the event Ndamukong Suh gets a huge contract they can’t match. Ethan Westbrooks has also been a rotational player the last few years but his deal is up too. Don’t forget L.A. can cut ways with Michael Brockers with little dead money as well. That means the Rams should look at a variety of bargain defensive tackles for both starting and depth roles.
Former Chargers tackle Corey Liuget makes sense for a lot of reasons. Liuget was recently cut by the Chargers due to injuries, cap hit and his production falling off.
Still, he brings familiarity with both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses which makes him a fit with the Rams. He obviously knows Los Angeles which is a plus.
Of course he’s only had three sacks in the last two seasons but the Rams don’t necessarily need him to close the quarterback. Added, Liuget might get more chances at the QB with the Rams defense constantly utilizing Aaron Donald’s mismatch problems.
Let’s also not forget Liuget is a 28 and off a big contract. He is probably ready to prove he can still play at a productive level even if it means signing a bargain contract with a contender like the Rams.
Otherwise, the Rams could consider signing other defensive line bargains like Danny Shelton or Mario Edwards Jr. but it all depends on what exactly the want besides Donald if Suh leaves. Do they go after a nose tackle, end or maybe both?
Rams Free Agency
Ultimately, the NFC Champion Rams should once again be a hot ticket in free agency due to their beautiful and growing market as well as their talent on the field and in the coaching staff. However, their current cap situation and upcoming contract extensions might not allow them to sign a ton of big profile guys.
Thus, preparing a run at bargain free agents should be a big part of their upcoming free agency plan. Getting guys who fit the scheme, come with something to prove and are cheap is how the Rams can continue their success next season.