The promise of a 3-1 start quickly faded away into a disastrous 4-12 finish for the Los Angeles Rams in their first season back in Southern California. Even in their victories, the offense was atrocious, and with that in mind, here is what the Rams must this offseason to have a chance at being competitive in 2017.
Talent from the offensive line is desperately needed
The Rams have tried to build an offensive line through the draft in the past few seasons but have failed to achieve any success on the field. Unfortunately, that young line now ranks among the worst in the NFL. Los Angeles gave up 49 sacks in 2016, second most to only the Cleveland Browns. Bringing in talent via free agency is urgent. Here are some free agent targets the Rams front office should look for this offseason:
A.Q. Shipley, C – Making only $785,000 for the Arizona Cardinals last season, he is due for a major payday and a player the Rams should look out for. He was the 15th best overall lineman according to Pro Football Focus.
Andrew Norwell, LG – Norwell was an undrafted rookie in 2016, but took his opportunity with the Carolina Panthers and ran with it. He was the fourth best at his position against the rush in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus. Norwell, is a young talented player the Rams should look into if they want to bring in someone on the cheap.
Ronald Leary, LG – The Dallas Cowboys free agent made $2.5 million last season and proved to be a top ten guard. NFL scout Brandon Thorn best described him this way: “ Competitive toughness. Intense desire to finish his opponent.” Toughness is what the Rams lacked upfront in 2016, and a player of his caliber could toughen up a soft and noncompetitive offensive line.
Rams need to acquire legitimate wide receiver talent
Tavon Austin signed a 4 year $42 million contract extension with the team with the hope being that he would solidify his position as the Rams’ No. 1 receiver. Due to a number of factors with the offense, including many dropped passes by him and the rest of the WR corps, that did not materialize. Who can the Rams bring in to help complement Austin?
Michael Floyd, WR – It is more than likely that Floyd played his final game with the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. New England picked up the WR after the Arizona Cardinals released the former Notre Dame standout after a DUI arrest. His size and athleticism are traits that are missing with the Rams current depth. Although it is still not known what action the NFL will take regarding Floyd next season, the Rams could get a very talented receiver producing in Sean McVay’s system on the cheap.
Alshon Jeffery, WR – Jeffery may be the best wide receiver on the market at the moment, albeit with some risks especially for the amount of money his camp will be asking for. He served a four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy last season, but Jeffery still managed to reel in 52 catches for 821 yards and two touchdowns for the Chicago Bears. What is the biggest upside to bringing in Jeffery into the fold? His produces. Between 2013 and 2014, he caught 174 passes for 2,554 yards and 17 touchdowns. If he has put his demons behind him, Jeffery is a Pro Bowl caliber receiver, who could transform the entire offense.
Kenny Britt, WR – Of course the front office could easily bring back the team’s best receiver in 2016, who was Kenny Britt. Despite Tavon Austin garnering most of the accolades early on with his contract extension at the beginning of the 2016 season, it was Britt who became the best receiver on the team. He was the Rams only receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards this season (also the first 1,000 yard Rams WR to do it in nine seasons). Britt also became quarterback Jared Goff’s most reliable target.
The wide receiver position and the offensive line are the two areas the Rams must address moving forward with a major sense of urgency with new head coach Sean McVay at the helm. With a few key acquisitions at receiver and o-line, a quick turnaround for the Rams may not be so farfetched in 2017.
Sources: Brian Kalbrosky, Rams Wire, Brandon Thorn, the Scout Academy and Twitter, John Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer, Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune, Alden Gonzalez, ESPN staff writer, ESPN.com
Martin Cruz is a staff writer for Rams Talk. You can find him on Twitter with the username @MCruz1988.