In only his second season at the helm, Sean McVay took the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl – but it was too much too soon for the young coach and his side, with the NFC champions out schemed and outplayed by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
General manager Les Snead had a busy off-season last year and he is set for the same again this year, with a number of key players due to hit free agency and some vital positions needing to be filled if they are to go deep into the post-season once again in 2019.
The Big Names
Defensively, the Rams have to deal with three big stars who are set to walk out the door. Most importantly, outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh exiting will leave Wade Phillips’ defence short of options.
With options in the draft and free agency to replace Suh, Fowler is likely to be the man they seek to get on a new deal. Having spent a year on the franchise tag, Snead will also have to decide whether to offer safety LaMarcus Joyner, who regressed from his 2017 efforts, a new deal.
On the other side of the ball, prepare for Roger Saffold to become one of the highest-paid guards in the NFL. With a chance Andrew Whitworth could retire before next season, the Rams will be keen not to lose the whole left side of their defensive line.
Other Expiring Contracts
OLB Dominique Easley, OLB Matt Longacre, CB Sam Shields, CB Troy Hill, DE Ethan Westbrooks, QB Sean Mannion, RB CJ Anderson, ILB Ramik Wilson, RB Malcolm Brown, ILB Bryce Hager, CB Dominique Hatfield, WR Jojo Natson, S Blake Countess, DE Morgan Fox, MLB Cory Littleton, CB Kevin Peterson, OLB Garrett Sickels, WR KhaDarel Hodge
2019 Cap Space – $34.29m
Position Needs? DT, OLB, S, TE, FB
Who to target in Free Agency?
Replacing Suh is going to be high on Snead’s to do list during the off-season, with him likely moving on after his one-year deal. He forged an excellent partnership with Aaron Donald and the franchise will be keen to find the same for next season.
Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett, Patriots Danny Shelton and Viking Sheldon Richardson are all defensive tackles that could be on Snead, McVay and Phillips’ shopping list.
The Packers’ OLB Clay Matthews could also be a target if Fowler heads for the exit, while Steelers’ Jesse James would be an excellent addition as a blocking tight end.
Draft Picks – 1 (31), 4 (126), 5 (158), 6 (190)
Having worked hard to bring together a win-now super team this season, the Rams don’t have many picks this year at present.
Defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence could both be targets, if they are not taken earlier. The same applies to edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson. Linebacker Devin Bush and outside linebacker and safety Chase Hansen could also be options.
Outlook for 2019
Just ask the Eagles how difficult it is to return to the Super Bowl. Having finished second best in Atlanta, McVay will be targeting another shot at the Lombardi trophy, and the Rams definitely have the ability to make another appearance come the post-season.
However, with Jimmy Garoppolo returning for rivals the 49ers, the Cardinals hoping for a McVay-like boom under Kliff Kingsbury and the Seahawks’ young stars with another year under their belt, they will be facing a tougher division this year.
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