The LA Rams had every reason to panic during their 2019 NFL season after the offensive line was ravaged with injuries. In the heart of the epidemic, the LA Rams front office mobilized and began to add offensive linemen to the roster. One signing was Arizona Cardinals practice squad offensive lineman Coleman Shelton. That move helped reinforce the Rams thinning ranks at offensive center
Another move was trading a fifth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for interior offensive lineman Austin Corbett. At the time, Corbett was benched after a failed attempt to start for the Browns. He was drafted by the Browns with the 33rd pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure certainly applies in the case of Corbett. By his second season, Browns’ websites were declaring Corbett as the worst pick of the last 20 years.
It was that tone that placed Corbett at risk of being cut. So when the Rams sashayed in to offer a draft pick for the guy, it was interpreted by many as though the LA Rams were fleeced in a desperate attempt to thicken the offensive line depth chart. Well, that was the initial reaction, at least.
The tables turned rapidly
Almost as soon as the trade occurred, we liked the strategy. The Rams pulled a bench-warmer off the roster of the Cleveland Browns, helped the Browns’ salary cap a bit, and converted a 2021 fifth-round pick into a 2018 second-round drafted rookie. But it would have been all for naught if not for the direction and mentorship of LA Rams offensive line coach Aaron Kromer.
Corbett did not suit up as soon as he got off the plane. In fact, he was inactive against the Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals. It was not until Brian Allen fell to a season-ending injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers that Corbett saw his first action with the LA Rams by taking over at right guard. He then shifted to the left guard the following week and remained in that role through the rest of the season. He converted to the right side for 2020 and played the entire season there.
Thankfully, the Rams got him quickly enough to ensure that he could realize his full upside. That upside has been realized for the most part. After playing left guard in 2019 and playing right guard in 2020, Corbett has established himself as a plug-n-play offensive lineman. Now, he gets to try his hand starting at the offensive center position for the LA Rams in 2021.
When the trade first occurred, many weighed in believing that the Browns had won that trade. It’s pretty clear that the Rams have gotten significant value out of that exchange. The Rams have enjoyed a starting left guard, right guard, and likely offensive center for the cost of one fifth-round pick. That’s not just a significant return on investment, it borders on outright theft.