Up front, Week 16 hero center Tim Barnes will be a free agent who is not worth re-signing. He made four starts in 2013 as he continued to struggle in run blocking and pass protection before playing in only nine snaps in 2014; he beat out the likes of Demetrius Rhaney, Eric Kush, and Barrett Jones who was later cut.
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Barnes was Pro Football Focus’ 26th rated center as the Rams are better suited to look for a replacement in the draft due to the lack of upgrade center’s entering free agency have to offer. One possibility is cutting right guard Rodger Saffold, who is due $6 million next season but underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum after five games; Saffold has played in only 68 of 96 career games, starting in 65; cutting Saffold will give the Rams a little over $61 million in cap space, the third most in the NFL.
This allows St. Louis to pursue free agent guards Kelechi Osemele, Evan Mathis or Ramon Foster, as rookie Cody Wichmann still needs to develop but has shown promise after starting in six games. Kicking Greg Robinson inside is a viable option should the Rams make a splash by signing a left tackle but seems unlikely: there aren’t very many worthy options outside of Cordy Glenn, Russell Okung, and Kelvin Beachum who are expected to be re-signed.
The passing game is obviously in serious need of an upgrade as well as I don’t envision the Rams resigning receivers Brian Quick and Wes Welker, let alone anything outside of a one year deal. The top free agent receiver, Alshon Jeffrey, is the clear-cut number one and will be highly sought after should the Bears let him walk (which I strongly doubt will occur).
Cutting Nick Foles leaves the Rams with $7 million in dead money despite his awful play as Case Keenum will go into next season as the projected starter and second year quarterback Sean Mannion expected to compete. While Keenum’s play improved during Rob Boras’ time as the offensive coordinator, he managed the game more than he has made an impact.
Quarterbacks Brock Osweiler and Kirk Cousins will both be free agents at the end of the season, and will likely seek $6 million+ a year. Both are young (25 and 27 respectively) and both have shown the ability to be franchise quarterbacks, but much like Jeffrey, it’s highly unlikely that the Broncos and Redskins let those guys walk. Thus, the free agent quarterback that makes the most sense is Robert Griffin III.
At the tight end, it’s hard to envision the Chargers not re-signing Ladarius Green to replace an aging Antonio Gates who is also entering free agency, leaving the likes of Coby Fleener and Jermaine Gresham are potential targets. However, the strongest possibility is using their third or fourth round pick on a tight end as Fleener has been a major disappoint as a pass catcher and Gresham has made a name for himself as a blocker. As I discussed in December, Michigan State’s Jack Allen and East Carolina’s Bryce Williams are names to watch for during the Draft.
What happens if…
They sign Robert Griffin III: I believe the Rams will make a concerted effort to go after the former Redskins quarterback as they try to build and progress with the NFL’s youngest roster. I believe RGIII would be a great fit for Boras’ offense that utilizes play action and boot and wants to establish the running game early. Thus, the Rams would have a chance to go after the likes of Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson, or Tyler Boyd early in the draft to bolster their depleted receiving corp.
They don’t sign RGIII: General Manager Les Snead has made it known he wants to build through the draft, and with the large amount of cap space available, it’s difficult to determine whether he will deviate from course. Should he choose not to and skips on signing Griffin (or any quarterback) in free agency, expect the Rams to target a quarterback at 15. There are at least five teams in the top 15 rumored to be considering taking a quarterback but the Rams have the ammunition (two second rounders) to move up in the first to grab their quarterback of the future.
If they can’t nab Justin Tucker or Mason Crosby, expect kicker Greg Zurlein to be re-signed as well.