The 2019 season is about halfway done, so why worry about 2020 free agency? It more or less gives us an indicator of what to expect for the upcoming offseason. In reality, general manager Les Snead has plenty to think about, especially with not a ton of cap space to work with. Keep in mind, the list below doesn’t include John Johnson or Jalen Ramsey but they too will be looking for new contracts despite not having expiring contracts.
Unrestricted Free Agents
OLB Dante Fowler ($12 million in 2019)
OT Andrew Whitworth ($11.25 million in 2019)
DL Michael Brockers ($11.08 million in 2019)
ILB Cory Littleton ($3.095 million in 2019)
K Greg Zuerlein ($2.25 million in 2019)
QB Blake Bortles ($1 million in 2019)
ILB Bryce Hager ($805,000 in 2019)
S Marqui Christian ($637,550 in 2019)
WR Mike Thomas ($614,018 in 2019)
OG Austin Blythe ($600,497 in 2019)
Restricted Free Agents
KR/PR JoJo Natson ($645,000 in 2019)
DE Morgan Fox ($645,000 in 2019)
OT Kyle Murphy ($88,000 in 2019)
Exclusive-Rights Free Agents
RB John Kelly ($570,000 in 2019)
OLB Josh Carraway ($570,000 in 2019)
TE Johnny Mundt ($525,000 in 2019)
C Coleman Shelton ($495,000 in 2019)
S Jake Gervase ($495,000 in 2019)
Setting aside the RFAs and the ERFAs, the Rams have 10 UFAs to make a huge decision on. This is a side effect of locking in players for multiple years. Now expiring contracts are harder to sign, the cap can’t handle marque free agent additions and the Rams are notorious for trading away NFL draft picks.
So are the Rams doomed? Not necessarily. The Rams still have a talented team, but Snead will likely have to continue to find ways to create cap space. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. For example, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib both had expiring contracts and both would require a huge payday at the end of the season. So rather than getting nothing for them, they went out and got Ramsey and Kenny Young. Doesn’t seem like much, but think of it as an adjustment to when the Rams were left empty with Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.
That said, the Rams will have to make some sacrifices. Fowler is due for a major payday. He’s finally living up to his potential, and other teams will likely overspend to nab a good pass rusher. To put things into perspective, he’s getting paid $12 million this season, this means he will command similar money but for at least a four or five-year deal.
Like it or not, Whitworth is going to have retire at some point. This would be a huge blow to the offensive line. He clearly isn’t in his prime anymore, but the Rams are familiar with how tough it is to find a good left tackle. Even if the Rams persuade Whitworth to come back, it won’t be cheap since he’s earning $11.25 million this season.
Littleton could command a hefty payday too. The Rams have had him at a bargain the past few years, but they must decide if they can match the large offers he will likely receive.
Speaking of offensive linemen, Blythe’s contract is up too. While he’s not an elite guard by any means, he’s certainly exceeded anyone’s expectations. It’s doubtful he’d ask for much more, but he could ask for more than $600,000 per year.
Brockers is a bit tough to predict. He has played better than last season. Brockers certainly won’t earn nearly as much as his previous contract. I can see the Rams offering him another contract considering it’s significantly less. However, other teams might be willing to overpay too.
This leaves us with Greg “the Leg,” and he’s likely a priority. As many teams in the NFL are starting to realize, it’s not easy finding a quality and consistent kicker in the league. Zuerlein is easily one of the better kickers and will ask for a premium kicker’s salary.
The Rams haven’t had a reliable backup QB, but Bortles does give the Rams peace of mind. Other teams would like to potentially sign him as a back up or compete for a starting role.
Christian is a solid backup to have for safety and for the hybrid linebacker role. It probably wouldn’t cost too much to bring him back, but something to keep in mind.
As for the rest, Thomas and Hager are respectable reserve players that shouldn’t command a ton of money to keep them. Either way though, it wouldn’t be a huge loss if they walked.