The Los Angeles Rams offense is a top concern of the 2017 offseason so the defense is fine, right? Actually, there are a few positions of need for the defense too. Hiring Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator means a few changes are necessary. Here is a look at those changes:
Cornerback is a huge area of concern. Starting CB Trumaine Johnson is a free agent making this issue even more concerning. General manager Les Snead is tasked with a difficult decision on whether or not to retain Johnson, because he may be too expensive. This leaves the Rams with a roster of E.J. Gaines, Lamarcus Joyner and last year’s undrafted rookies.
New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips could try and coach up some rookies if the Rams wish to focus on the secondary in the 2017 NFL Draft. Still, the best case scenario is if the Rams can work out a fair multi-year contract with Johnson, and shop for maybe one or two lower tiered corners. That said, there are other talented corners who can replace Johnson. The Patriots’ Malcolm Butler will likely command just as much, if not more money than Johnson. A cheaper option would be Texans’ A.J. Bouye, who recently became a top shutdown corner.
If the Rams keep Johnson, they should look at other talented corners. Cap space doesn’t give them much to work with, but they should be able to afford at least a decent option along with Johnson. The Patriots’ Logan Ryan would probably be too much to ask for, but three guys to watch for are the Bills’ Stephon Gilmore, the Jaguars’ Prince Amukamara and the Steelers’ Ross Cockrell. All are underrated and should be signed at a much more affordable price. Thankfully, free agency has plenty of options.
Where to begin with this section? The Rams’ unorthodox defensive scheme last season left them thin at linebacker. They will have the services of Alec Ogletree and rookie Josh Forrest once he returns from injury. Bryce Hager, Cory Littleton, Nic Grigsby and Mark Barron, if you consider him a linebacker, are also on the roster. Phillips mentioned that he wanted to run a 3-4 scheme at times, which means the Rams will need some more capable bodies.
The draft can be an option, but adding a veteran free agent may not be a bad idea. With all the needs the Rams have, it’s doubtful they have the cap space for a Pro Bowler, but some intriguing names can be at the top of the wish list. John Simon of the Texans and Jelani Jenkins of the Dolphins are solid contributors that could be fetched for an affordable price tag. Both are coming off of injuries, so it’s best that they aren’t signed to too long of a deal.
3. Strong Safety
This position could be a non-issue if the Rams re-sign T.J. McDonald at a reasonable price. However, I cannot ignore this spot if McDonald receives a ridiculous offer elsewhere. This position could be addressed in the draft, but there are quite a few big names available that I would love to add like Tony Jefferson (Cardinals), Johnathan Cyprien (Jaguars) or Barry Church (Cowboys), but considering the cap space, that would be too much of a luxury. All that said, it’s doubtful the Rams will need to dive into free agency for a starting strong safety.