New faces: S Eric Weddle, OLB Clay Matthews, S Taylor Rapp, QB Blake Bortles, RB Darrell Henderson, CB David Long
They’re gone: DT Ndamukong Suh, G Rodger Saffold, C John Sullivan, S LaMarcus Joyner, LB Mark Barron, RB C.J. Anderson, LB Ramik Wilson
2019 snapshot: After assembling a “Dream Team” of sorts last spring, the Rams quieted considerably this offseason, limited by a lack of cap space despite a number of players hitting free agency. Suh, Saffold, Joyner and Barron all seemed like obvious candidates to walk, and Sullivan’s retirement wasn’t a shock.
What was surprising is that L.A. did essentially nothing to replace either Saffold or Sullivan, trusting that 2018 draft picks Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen can step in to start at left guard and center, respectfully. The Rams appear to be happy with the sophomores’ progress.
The defense took an interesting turn, with Weddle and Matthews arriving to provide veteran savvy, and potentially a more schematically diverse approach from coordinator Wade Phillips. Both have declined physically, but if the normally straightforward Phillips wants to get more creative, he certainly can. Dante Fowler was retained, but his contract (one year, $12 million with $2 million in incentives) doesn’t offer much surplus value.
For the second consecutive year, a series of trades in the draft brought a deep class, led by Rapp and Henderson. Rapp, who has been compared to Weddle for his instinctive play, should contribute early as a dime linebacker, and Henderson could bring another dimension to the offense as a big-play threat and spread receiving option. Long wont’ play much but provides some insurance behind contract-year CBs Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.
Get to know… OLB Samson Ebukam.
His training camp started with a whimper because of a hamstring injury, but Ebukam is a definite breakout candidate in Phillips’ defense. If you didn’t see him flash in previous seasons, he could excel with more pressure on the opposite side, push the Rams pray will come from Clay Matthews & Co.
Worth the investment?
–Coming off a 13-win season and a Super Bowl appearance, the Rams should at least push on their over/under total of 10 wins. But there are a few key holes, making the over less than a slam dunk.
–The Rams have three players with less-than-astronomical MVP odds, with Jared Goff and Aaron Donald at +4000 and Todd Gurley at +5000. Goff is the most realistic candidate, but we’d still pass given how much of his success is credited to McVay.
Bottom line: The Rams should be able to overcome most of their losses, but the lack of additions along the O-line is mildly concerning. Health and development from Noteboom and Allen will be critical.