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Next Few Months Will Be Critical For Rams: Here's A Blueprint For Success

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  • Next Few Months Will Be Critical For Rams: Here's A Blueprint For Success

    Kartje: Next few months will be critical for Rams; here's a blueprint for success

    March 1, 2016
    Updated 5:45 a.m.

    The 40-yard dash wardrobe malfunctions and hand-size arguments that defined this year’s NFL Scouting Combine have come to a close. The 2016 salary cap is set (at $155 million). Tuesday afternoon, the franchise tag deadline will pass. In just one week, the NFL’s free agency window will open, with the newly minted – and deeply pocketed – Los Angeles Rams poised to be one of the silly season’s most serious players.

    For Southern California’s new NFL franchise, these next few months will go a long way in determining the team’s direction over the next few years. But with a few pragmatic moves, some smart draft selections, and a couple of well-reasoned risks in free agency, the Rams could turn a hectic few months and a whopping $59 million in cap space into a foundation-building offseason.

    Here, in eight steps, is how General Manager Les Snead and the Rams front office can pull it off:

    1. Use the franchise tag on cornerback Trumaine Johnson, but don’t overpay for his fellow secondary mate, Janoris Jenkins: Today is the deadline for NFL teams to use their annual franchise tag, and reports from the Combine suggest the Rams will use the tag on one of their top-line corners, locking him up for one year with a salary among the top five at the position. For 2016, it would cost the Rams $13.952 million.

    Both Jenkins and Johnson ranked among the best in the NFL at a premium position in 2015, but Johnson was the more impressive of the pair. For his career, Johnson’s passer rating allowed (67.1) is better than that of Carolina’s Josh Norman (72.1), and last season, Johnson made a ton of plays on the ball, reeling in seven interceptions. At 6-foot-2 and just 26 years old, his size and age are assets, too.

    Snead has repeated his intentions to retain both corners. But after Jenkins reportedly turned down a five-year, $45 million offer at the Combine, took to Twitter to complain about the Rams’ “total disrespect,” and then fired his agent, well ... it appears talks aren’t going well.

    Word is Jenkins wants somewhere around $12 million per year, which would put him in the top six or seven highest-paid at the position. For someone as prone to big plays as Jenkins, that’s a lot of dough. He’s worth the Rams’ efforts to try to re-sign him, but with injured corner E.J. Gaines returning, Johnson in the fold, and an improved LaMarcus Joyner at nickel, it’s not a contract for which the Rams should get caught overpaying.

    2. Add a wide receiver with one of your first three draft picks: As bad as the Rams’ quarterback carousel has been over the past decade, the receiver situation has arguably been worse. The Rams haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Torry Holt in 2007.

    Most agree Ole Miss wideout Laquon Treadwell is the one wideout worthy of a mid-first-round selection. As a big, possession receiver in the mold of Dez Bryant, he could be an ideal fit with the Rams at 15th overall. If they opt for a quarterback in the first round or Treadwell is off the board, either of the team's two second-round picks could be used on a receiver. Ohio State’s Braxton Miller or Michael Thomas or TCU’s Josh Doctson could be quality fits in that case.

    3. With their fifth-year options impending, sign Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree to contract extensions: At an affordable rate, the Rams will almost certainly exercise Ogletree’s option, as they did with Michael Brockers last season. The team has expressed its hope for signing him to a long-term deal before 2017.

    Austin, meanwhile, is a little more messy. Since he was a top-10 pick, exercising Austin’s fifth-year option would mean the Rams were on the hook for nearly $11 million in 2017. That’s more than most would pay for a wideout with a season high of 473 receiving yards. But if the Rams can sign Austin, who is still only 24, to a long-term extension, they could bypass that oversized 2017 cap bill.

    4. Let Tim Barnes walk, and draft a center: Barnes was one of Pro Football Focus’ worst-rated centers last season (24th overall), and while he won’t cost much to retain, he doesn’t add much to a line that could use more talent. This year’s draft is also full of potential Day One starters who could be had with one of the Rams’ second picks in Round 2 or in Round 3. Michigan State’s Jack Allen, Notre Dame’s Nick Martin, and Alabama’s Ryan Kelly could all be upgrades.

    5. Re-sign safety Rodney McLeod and outside linebacker Mark Barron to reasonable long-term deals, but don’t overpay: McLeod and Barron are both young and athletic, with banner seasons in 2015 that have made them offseason priorities. With speed at such a premium, Barron, a converted safety, could develop into an important centerpiece of the Rams defense, and McLeod, at just 26, looks as though he’s just entering his prime, after finishing 10th in Pro Football Focus’ safety ratings last season.

    Snead will offer both long-term deals, but if either is looking to break the bank, the Rams may have to choose. Given the depth at safety – and lack thereof at hybrid weakside linebacker – Barron is the more important player to sign. But if all goes well, both will be back.

    6. Sign Chargers tight end Ladarius Green: With the third-most cap room of any team, the Rams have to add some toys to their arsenal, right? After the Rams get through their re-signing blitz, any extra money should be spent on offense. With Green, the Rams could have their tight end of the future at a pretty sweet bargain – probably $3 million or so less than they spent on Jared Cook last season.

    Green was seriously underrated in San Diego as the backup to soon-to-be Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, and with the opportunity, he could mold into an athletic freak in the middle of the Rams’ offense. That’s what the Rams desperately need.

    7. Bring back William Hayes on a two-year contract, bid adieu to Nick Fairley and Eugene Sims, and draft a defensive lineman in the top three rounds: Chris Long’s departure already shook up the Rams’ defensive line, but with three more linemen set to be unrestricted free agents, the composition of the Rams’ front is about to change even further.

    Robert Quinn’s return from injury should provide a huge boost, and after Hayes’ solid 2015 season, he should be brought back on a reasonable contract. At 31, teams aren’t busting down the door for his service.

    Sims could also be brought back, but should attract more suitors. The Rams have almost no hope of keeping Fairley, with some team certain to pay him like a three-down starter. And with those losses in mind, you can count on the Rams to invest a pick or two in their already strong defensive front.

    8. Figure out the quarterback situation: Well, that’s another column entirely.

  • #2
    I largely agree with whoever wrote this.

    1) Franchising Tru was the right decision. He is one of the best CB's in the league (How refreshing is it to say that?) and is young and lengthy. Pay the man. I disagree with JJ. I'd still try with all effort to bring him back. I know we can do better than 9mill per year. I wouldn't go as far as 12, but find a way to get him back here.

    2) I agree 10000% here.

    3) Agreed. Both players deserve extensions and are integral pieces of success in horns.

    4) Tim Barnes is no good. In a league with plenty of good C's and a deep class, grab one.

    5) McLeod and Mark Barron are crucial to the success of this defense. They NEED to return.

    6) I've secretly wanted to sign TE Ladarius Green BADLY. I think he's been criminally under-used in SD and he is a playmaker. For the right price (NO JARED COOK), bring him in!

    7) Will Hayes needs to return. I wouldn't mind bringing back Eugene Sims either but understand if he wants to go elsewhere.

    8) Yes.


    • #3
      Originally posted by sosa39rams View Post
      I largely agree with whoever wrote this.
      I agree, it's a straight forward, comprehensive list of actions the Rams should take.

      BTW, Ryan Kartje is a staff sports writer for the Orange County Register.


      • #4
        Originally posted by r8rh8rmike View Post

        I agree, it's a straight forward, comprehensive list of actions the Rams should take.

        BTW, Ryan Kartje is a staff sports writer for the Orange County Register.
        Nice to see someone who's actually knowledgeable talk about the Rams.


        • #5
          We can afford to keep both this year but I do wonder if it's a smart move to try and pay two big contracts to DBs when we've got some other players coming up in the next year or two that will probably need large contracts to retain.


          • #6
            Originally posted by sosa39rams View Post

            Nice to see someone who's actually knowledgeable talk about the Rams.

            In other words, he's no Bernie.....

            But he is in OC, and those of us in OC know our football. So that's no surprise... LOL


            • #7
              I know they are not the priority of the players mentioned, but I want to see Benny Cunningham, Corey Harkey and Brian Quick brought back. Especially Brian Quick who plays a position of sincere need for us. Naturally none of the guys should be overpaid, but they should be easy to re-sign. My hope with Quick is that his injury of 2014 is fully healed and he's ready to ascend to a premium WR.

              Good article Mike. Being in SoCal you're going to be our sportswriter navigator.

              Go Rams!


              Related Topics


              • Nick
                PFF: LA Rams Must Add Targets through Free Agency
                by Nick
                MICHAEL RENNER | 3 HOURS AGO (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

                There is an obvious glaring need for the Los Angeles Rams heading into 2016, and itís every position on offense outside of running back. There are a few holes on the defensive side of the ball, but they have to do better than their 17.5 points per game in 2015 to have any chance of making the playoffs. The Rams have already started their housecleaning process in preparation for free agency by releasing Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, and Jared Cook. That leaves them with a projected $58 million in cap space to work with, one of the highest figures in the league.

                CB Trumaine Johnson and/or CB Janoris Jenkins

                I say and/or here because resigning two young starting cornerbacks coming off of career years could start getting pricey, but cornerback is quickly becoming one of the most premium positions in the NFL. If I had to choose between the two, Iíd likely go with Johnson for the consistency over his career, but with his length (6-foot-2-inches) and seven interceptions a year ago, he may be the higher priced of the two.

                FS Rodney McLeod

                McLeod is another piece that needs to be retained from their solid secondary. The former undrafted free agent has developed into one of the better coverage safeties over the last two seasons, and finished 2015 as our 10th-highest graded safety overall.

                DE William Hayes

                This one is a no-brainer. With Chris Long out of the picture and Eugene Sims also a free agent, Hayes will be in line for a large snap increase if he returns. The 31-year-old has always excelled in a backup role for the Rams, but took it to the next level this year with an increase in snaps, and was our 11th-highest graded edge defender. Coming on so strong late in his career, Hayes likely wonít have a huge market beating down his door, similar to Jason Hatcher a couple years back.

                WR Brian Quick

                There was a time at the beginning of the 2014 season when it looked like Quick might turn into the No. 1 receiver that the Rams so desperately need. After injury cut short his season that year, the former second-round pick never quite recaptured that form in 2015, hauling in only 10 of his 32 targets on the season. Theyíll be very little market for Quick in free agency, so itís worth bringing back a guy who theyíve spent four years developing already.

                Let walk
                C Tim Barnes

                The former undrafted free agent was our 24th-ranked center last year in his first full season as a starter. With so much invested along the offensive line from the 2015 draft, itís worth looking there for a starting center in 2016.

                DT Nick Fairley

                Fairley is a great fit for the Ramsí scheme and put up a fantastic season with the team last year, but someone else is going to...
                -02-22-2016, 01:55 PM
              • Nick
                Bonsignore: Rams trade quickly changes complexion of their offseason
                by Nick
                Bonsignore: Rams trade quickly changes complexion of their offseason
                By VINCENT BONSIGNORE | [email protected] | Daily News
                PUBLISHED: February 23, 2018 at 4:53 pm | UPDATED: February 23, 2018 at 5:48 pm

                As the sun quietly began rising over Los Angeles Friday morning, the Rams faced the formidable task of figuring out a way to keep intact a defense for which key defensive backs Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner were on the brink of unrestricted free agency, and All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald sat at the doorstep of a huge pay day from a new long-term contract.

                With roughly $50 million to work with under the NFLís hard salary cap and other areas of need on a young, promising roster, retaining Johnson and Joyner while also hooking up Donald was certainly doable.

                Albeit with some creative and clever number crunching, and likely at the expense of releasing or restructuring the contracts of a few veteran players, letting other free agents walk and perhaps leaving some areas of need unaddressed. The dizzying cost of doing business in the NFL can be cruel, tricky and frustrating at times.

                That was early morning Friday. By mid morning everything had changed.

                And for the better after General Manager Les Snead went all commando again with another aggressive move.

                Snead is building quite reputation for stealth maneuvering, and the Rams are much better off for it. Two years ago it was trading up to the top of the draft to grab franchise quarterback Jared Goff. Last year it was the bolt of lightening at the end of training camp when he traded for dynamic wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

                And on Friday, he was in the process of reeling in one of the best lock-down pass defenders in the NFL, in a move that makes as much sense on the field as it does on the payroll.

                In another blockbuster, the Rams acquired Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters, whose 19 interceptions over the past three seasons are the most in the NFL. Peters stands to make just $1.7 million in base salary in 2018, and will be under control for the next two years at a reasonable cost once the Rams pick up his fifth-year option for 2019.

                The trade wonít be official until March 14, the official date the NFL trading period for 2018 begins, but sources have confirmed the deal is agreed to and in place.

                Just like that, the Rams got younger, better and more financially flexible as they approach an offseason for which improving on last yearís surprising 11-5 finish and closing ground on the elite teams in the NFL is the singular priority.

                Boom. What a way to kick off the offseason.

                In one move, the Rams changed the entire complexion of their to-do list. From the draft to free agency to financial flexibility, the dynamics are dramatically altered.

                Peters will cost the Rams a yet-to-be-disclosed package...
                -02-24-2018, 05:11 AM
              • TheBritishRam
                Move Over Seahawks, the Rams Have the Best Defense
                by TheBritishRam
                By Andy Benoit,

                The past two years, the best defense in pro football has resided in the NFC West. That will be true again in 2015, only this time it won’t be the Seahawks’ D. It will be the team that beat the Seahawks in the Edwards Jones Dome last season. The Rams have won just 13 games during Seattle’s two years of dominance, but they’ve been a team full of young players who are now ascending into the early parts of their primes. The average age of a Rams’ starting defender is 25; the average level of athleticism is “somewhere off the charts.”

                Let’s start with the area fans are most familiar with: the defensive line. It features the game’s most explosive edge rusher, Robert Quinn, and, already, the game’s most explosive interior gap-shooter, Aaron Donald, last year’s 13th overall pick. Donald has extremely quick get-off, well-honed footwork and the capacity to shed blocks and redirect in traffic. Though he’s at his best fighting the run, he’s capable of also being a 10-sack pass rusher (rare for a defensive tackle).

                Head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have done a great job building the rest of this D-line. In their first year here, 2012, they drafted Michael Brockers in the first round. He’s turned out to be an outstanding pass rushing setup man in sub-packages and a tough one-on-one block on base downs. Fisher and Snead also locked up Chris Long to a long-term deal their first year, which has paid dividends, and they signed former Titan William Hayes to provide depth. And the one remaining player they inherited, Eugene Sims, has blossomed into a productive, versatile backup, capable of starting for many 4-3 teams. (He may get that opportunity next year; Sims is in the final year of his contract. Long’s 2016 cap number is $14.25 million, which the club is unlikely to keep on the books, and Hayes is in the final year of his deal. There will be a hole to fill at defensive end.)

                Sims can also play defensive tackle, though with Fisher and Snead snagging free agent Nick Fairley this past offseason, there won’t be as many snaps available there. Fairley’s reliability is questionable—why else would such a gifted 27-year-old garner only a one-year, $5 million deal in free agency?—but when he’s right, he’s similar to Brockers, only with more natural leverage and a little better initial quickness.

                At the linebacker level, James Laurinaitis is an intelligent point man whose pre-snap adjustments, blitzes and disguises give this defense diversity. But the headliner of this group will be Alec Ogletree, the 2013 first-round pick who last season began consistently playing up to his considerable level of raw talent. Ogletree, a safety at Georgia, covers ground in the...
                -08-12-2015, 01:47 AM
              • sosa39rams
                2016 Off-season
                by sosa39rams
                I've been curious and want to work out some numbers for the off-season. Let's assume next year the NFL Salary cap does not rise or fall. We have 143.28 million to operate with. Now, for 2016, the Rams have 31.92 million free. Let's look at some up-coming free agents:

                Offense: (R= return, DNR= do not return)
                Case Keenum DNR
                Benny Cunningham R
                Chase Reynolds R
                Cory Harkey R
                Brian Quick DNR
                Wes Welker DNR
                Justice Cunningham DNR
                Tim Barnes R

                There are some good players here. Let's start at the top. These suggestions are just the way I feel. Benny Cunningham has been a very solid KR for the Rams as well as a 3rd down back. I would be in favour of bringing him back. Chase is an excellent ST'er - also a fan of him returning. Cory Harkey has been a chess piece playing all over the field. Quick has had all the time in the world to breakout, and looked primed to do it last year. This year is a different story and he doesn't look promising. Welker as of now we'll say he won't be returning. Cunningham is replacable. I'd return Barnes as well for the right, cheap, price.

                Defense: (R=return, DNR= do not return)
                Nick Fairley DNR
                Matt Longacre R
                Will Hayes R
                Eugene Sims DNR
                Doug Worthington DNR
                Mark Barron R
                Daren Bates R
                Janoris Jenkins R
                Trumaine Johnson R
                Rodney McLeod R
                Cody Davis DNR
                Christian Bryant DNR

                I think Fairley was a 1 year rental and will be paid too much to keep around. Longacre has shown some good stuff and will be cheap. I think Hayes is willing to stay around. He had a chance to leave us 3 years ago for a starting job and bigger pay but returned. Now he may end up starting here and will be paid roughly the same I'd say. I think Sims will probably be gone as he's 29 and this will be his last chance to scoop some decent dollar. Worthington is bottom of the roster. I would bring back Barron but only for the right price. Bates is a ST captain and good depth. Jenkins will be hard to predict, but he's been playing lights out and deserves a return, same goes for Trumaine Johnson. McLeod will be relatively cheap and is a solid player within our system. Cody Davis and Bryant are replaceable talents.

                Now, I'd like to look at some hypothetical contracts. I'll try justify them by looking at similar player's contracts and constructing something similar.

                Benny Cunningham: Total: 2.25 M (Yearly: 750,000) 3 yrs
                Chase Reynolds: Total: 1.75 M (Yearly: 585,000) 3 yrs
                Cory Harkey: Total: 7.2 M (Yearly: 1.8 M) 4 yrs
                Tim Barnes: Total: 2.85 M (Yearly: 950,000) 3 yrs

                Matt Longacre: Total: 1.2 M (Yearly: 300,000) 4 yrs
                Will Hayes: Total: 14 M (Yearly: 3.5 M) 4 yrs
                Mark Barron: Total: 10 M (Yearly: 2.5 M) 4 yrs
                Daren Bates: Total: 5 M (Yearly: 1...
                -11-12-2015, 06:55 AM
              • ram3057
                Bonsignore: Aggressive Rams acting like team that knows itís on cusp of Super Bowl
                by ram3057
                By VINCENT BONSIGNORE | [email protected] | Daily News
                PUBLISHED: March 9, 2018 at 2:17 pm | UPDATED: March 9, 2018 at 3:18 pm

                The best track and field coaches will tell you races begin long before the actual gun goes off. Training. Mental preparation. Strategic planning. All of those lead-up factors play a major role in the eventual outcome. And while no race is ever won before it actually starts, many have certainly been lost.

                Clearly, the Rams are trying to avoid the latter.

                And they are doing it by acting every bit like a franchise situated in the second-biggest market in the country, one that genuinely believes itís on the cusp of Super Bowl contention and is confident in the leadership and culture in place to add difference-making players with the kind of bold, combustible personalities that sometimes accompany them.

                The new league year doesnít technically begin for another five days, but when the gun sounds to set off free agency and the opportunity for teams to reshape their rosters and fill needs and better position themselves for the 2018 season, the work general manager Les Snead and head coach Sean McVay and Vice President of Football Operations Kevin Demoff have put in prior to the actual frenzy has already given them a major leg up on the process of building off last yearís surprising 11-5 season.

                The Rams are thinking big.

                Like Super Bowl big.

                And they are doing so with a level of intelligence and calculation often lacking when teams take big, mighty swings for the fences only to be undone by their own aggressiveness.

                The Rams are being bold and smart. Thatís a fine line that often gets crossed.

                By agreeing to trade for Chiefs and Broncos Pro Bowl cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and trading away linebackers Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree and using their franchise tag to guarantee the return of safety Lamarcus Joyner, the Rams have already addressed a major area of need while preserving the financial flexibility to do even more.

                Peters and Talib provide Wade Phillips with two critical components for his 3-4 defense: A pair of elite cornerbacks whose coverage skills will create more opportunities for the front seven to pressure the quarterback. And they make as much money combined (about $12 million) as it likely would have cost to retain free agent to be Trumaine Johnson by himself.

                Meanwhile, both are under contract for the next two seasons on their base salaries. To put that in perspective, just imagine what it would cost in salary and signing bonuses to reel in players of Petersí or Talibís caliber on the open market. Let alone two.

                Yes, both come with big personalities and emotional levels that sometimes need checking, but the Rams believe they have the necessary leadership in place to manage them accordingly.

                Joynerís return keeps intact...
                -03-09-2018, 04:24 PM