4-time Pro Bowler can ease concerns about LA Rams' RB Kyren Williams

Signing a four-time Pro Bowler who's still on the free-agent market can ease any concerns the LA Rams have about the injury history of returning running back Kyren Williams.
Los Angeles Rams OTA Offseason Workout
Los Angeles Rams OTA Offseason Workout / Ric Tapia/GettyImages

LA Rams running back Kyren Williams made some brief cameos at mandatory minicamp, but the foot issue that disturbed his offseason was just the latest of many concerns the LA Rams should have about the long-term durability of their lead running back.

Those concerns would be eased if the Rams made a late foray into free agency. It's worth the trip because Rams General Manager Les Snead would find four-time Pro Bowler RB Dalvin Cook still available on the veteran market.

Cook's a good fit on many levels. Not just because of his history of strong production. He's also shown the versatility to thrive in rushing schemes featuring zone, gap and counter plays.

The Rams' running game evolved last season from the outside zone-stretch head coach Sean McVay had long adored. His method for moving the ball on the ground morphed into reliance on a simple, power-based concept defined by double teams along the interior.

Williams was a key cog in this transformation, but his lengthy injury history means No. 23 needs some solid, proven cover.

Kyren Williams concerns aren't going away

The Rams can't ignore Williams' injury record. Not after he "sat out nearly all team on-field activities during the offseason program," according to Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.

Klein reported how Williams "participated in a couple of jog-throughs in the final weeks and said he would be ready for training camp." The Rams again find themselves needing to take a leap of faith to believe the 23-year-old will be fully healthy when it matters most.

This is far from the first time McVay and his staff have had to cross their fingers and hope. Williams broke his foot shortly after being selected in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL draft, but that was just the start of his problems.

A high-ankle sprain landed him on injured reserve for five weeks last season. Williams even ended what was otherwise a prolific campaign by breaking his hand against the Detroit Lions in the playoffs.

That's a lot of setbacks for a young player to overcome so early in his career. It's why some see unfortunate echoes of the Rams past, specifically related to another oft-injured running back, Todd Gurley.

Comparisons between Gurley and Williams sharpen the focus on other options on the depth chart. As Klein pointed out, there's no shortage of alternative runners, including rookie running back, Blake Corum.

The third-round pick in this year's draft has obvious potential, while veteran free agent running back Boston Scott is tough and resourceful. Yet, the question remains could either make the same impact as Williams, even when running behind a stout offensive line?

Cook would be more of a sure thing, provided he resembled the back who once dominated for the Minnesota Vikings.

Dalvin Cook would revive career with Rams

Cook played his best football in Minnesota, before tepid stints with the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens. While his production has dwindled, Cook still offered exciting glimpses of the player he was, like this off-tackle run against the Houston Texans in the postseason.

Playing for the Ravens got Cook re-acclimated with power running. He'd easily turn the Rams' favored 'Duo' concept into some big plays.

McVay and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur would also value Cook's ample experience running zone-style plays. Cook had his best season in 2020, playing in Minnesota for OC Gary Kubiak, a disciple of Mike Shanahan, perhaps the most faithful proponent of the zone-stretch ground attack in NFL history.

The cutback runs against the grain of defenes pursuing horizontally became Cook's forte. Like this zone dash against the Green Bay Packers, highlighted by ESPN's Matt Bowen.

Adding Cook to their rotation would give the Rams a skilled back capable of stepping in and executing every facet of their scheme if (or when) Williams is struck by injury again. Cook lending his experience to Corum would also increase the chances of the Rams getting an immediate return from one of the key members of their draft class.

Snead still has $9,202,345 worth of space under the salary cap, per Spotrac.com, so handing Cook a team-friendly deal is well within the Rams' means. This move makes too much sense not to happen.