Rams OL has fans alarmed. How must the team address expiring contracts for 3 starters?

Los Angeles Rams, Rams News, Rams Roster, Alaric Jackson, Coleman Shelton, Kevin Dotson
Los Angeles Rams, Rams News, Rams Roster, Alaric Jackson, Coleman Shelton, Kevin Dotson / Cooper Neill/GettyImages
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II: Left tackle Alaric Jackson

The LA Rams lost a key component to their Super Bowl winning team when the venerable left tackle, Andrew Whitworth, retired from the NFL. Since that time, the LA Rams tried and failed to promote swing tackle Joe Noteboom to take over at the position. In 2023, the Rams tried a new approach and laid the responsibility of protecting Matthew Stafford's blind side on undrafted left tackle Alaric Jackson. Based on the offensive statistics for 2023, particularly in the latter half of the season, Jackson was a success.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Alaric Jackson's contract expires, which forces the Rams to weight their options and execute an action plan to lock down their starting left tackle position for 2024.

Option IV: Extend Him

It many not suit some fans to talk about how Alaric Jackson was a competent and ever-improving offensive left tackle for the LA Rams, simply because he did not hear his name called out during an NFL Draft event. But the bigger question is, can he play left tackle for the LA Rams in 2024? My answer to that is a resounding yes.

The guy showed up for 968 offensive snaps for the LA Rams, all of which at the blind-side left tackle position, and the guy allowed just one quarterback sack. Better still, he was flagged for just three penalties. In their assessment of Alaric Jackson, Pro Football Focus assigned him a rather commendable 2023 grade of 66.2. Not perfect, no. But it is a rather impressive showing for a guy who was paid the league minimum.

Because he is a Restricted Free Agent in the offseason, the Rams can ensure he returns for a Round 2 Qualifying Tender Offer, which works out to a one-year contract for $4.63 million. If another team offers more and the Rams decline or fail to meet those terms, the Rams would be awarded a Round 2 draft pick from the successful team.

Option III: Free Agency

If you intend to shop for a starting left tackle in free agency, you had better pack your checkbook. The Fair Market Value for an NFL starting left tackle is very pricey, even if that player may be slightly less impressive than Jackson once they take to the football field. Occasionally, the NFL Free Agency market is augmented by a disgruntled left tackle who demands to be traded. Those demands eventually cost significant dollars at the next contract extension.

I cannot see the Rams front office being willing to sign any FA offensive tackle to a multi-year deal, signt unseen. And I cannot envision any FA offensive tackle's willingness to sign a prove-it one-year deal with the Rams. But stranger things have happened.

Option II: Promote replacement

The LA Rams roster is bursting with offensive linemen for 2024. Even in the face of three starting offensive linemen on expiring or voided contracts. So there are certainly some options for promotion from among the group. The most obvious is former starting left tackle Joe Noteboom, who continued to play a vital role for the Rams as a swing tackle. The fact that he saw eight starts at three different positions truly tells a tale of how much the Rams relied on him in 2023.

But can the Rams rely on him to be a week to week starter? They haven't been able to do so in the past. Much like Brian Allen, Noteboom simply is injury prone when confronted by the weekly grind of practicing for and performing in NFL games. He can handle a short duration assignment at the position, but I am not confident that he can take over for a full season. Perhaps the LA Rams front office may think otherwise. Do you?

Option I: Draft his replacement

The opportunity to draft a franchise left tackle in the 2024 NFL Draft is alive in well, particularly among the many early mock drafts that surfaced with the arrival of 2024. But was that simply an early notion that gained little traction among LA Rams fans? Or was it simple a temporary notion, a belief that after the end of the 2023 season, simply is less warranted?

Per NFL Draft Buzz.com, the LA Rams have plenty of options if the goal is to select a rookie left tackle to start for the 2024 NFL season. The logic makes sense, as pairing a rookie left tackle with a second-year left guard could give the Rams a dominating offensive line duo for many years to come. But it will come down to the probability of landing a true starting left tackle via the draft. If the Rams front office was confident in their ability to do so, it would have been done in the past. Still, the LA Rams have three picks in the first two days of the 2024 NFL Draft, so I would not rule out this option.

Best strategy: 2nd Round Qualifying Tender Offer - 1 year, $4.63 million