The final whistle of the Super Bowl marks the end of the 2021 season. That solidifies all draft positions and gets us looking to free agency as the next chance for teams to make significant changes to their rosters. In this series, I’ll break down the needs and goals of every team as it relates to the 2022 offseason. Included will be cap space, cut candidates, positions of need, and plenty of other useful stats and notes as we prepare for free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft. Special thanks to Over the Cap, Pro Football Reference, Pro Football Focus, and Ben Baldwin’s RBSDM.com for all of the useful stats they track and house.
Rams 2021 Recap
The Rams have made a habit of doubling down on their current roster in recent years, but 2021 was a different beast. After taking zero first-round picks from 2017 to 2020 because of veteran-based trades, the Rams made the ultimate commitment to winning now by acquiring a quarterback. They moved two first-round picks and a third-rounder to swap Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford. After making the playoffs in three of their past four seasons with Goff, the belief was that upgrading on a quarterback that was widely thought to be the definition of replaceable would be enough to get them over the hump. That idea proved to be incredibly correct. Following two years of stagnation with Goff at the helm, Stafford led the offense to finish seventh in points and eighth in EPA per play. After incinerating the Cardinals in the Wild Card Round, LA rattled off three wins by exactly three points en route to the franchise’s second Super Bowl victory.
Key Offensive Stats
- Points per game: 27.1 (7th)
- Dropback EPA: .18 (4th)
- Passing yards per game: 273 (4th)
- Rush EPA: -.09 (20th)
- Rushing yards per game: 99 (25th)
Although Stafford was the big addition, Cooper Kupp looked like an entirely new player as well. He led the league in receiving yards, receptions, yards after the catch, and yards per route run. He fell four catches and 17 yards short of the single-season records for both stats. As the MVP is now an award for quarterbacks, Kupp was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year. Odell Beckham was brought in midseason to boost the team’s receiving room. Instead, he was quickly forced into the WR2 role after Robert Woods went down with a torn ACL. Beckham scored five times in the regular season and two more times in the playoffs, matching his total in two and a half years with the browns. An improved receiving room and smarter coaching unlocked Stafford. His 6.8 percent touchdown rate was the best mark of his career while his 8.1 yards per attempt trailed only his 2019 campaign. The run game was unimpressive. Darrell Henderson was unable to stay healthy but ran at 4.6 yards per carry. Sony Michel led the team with 845 rushing yards but didn’t show enough to be brought back if the team has faith in Cam Akers, who missed the regular season with a torn Achilles’ tendon.
Key Defensive Stats
- Points per game: 21.9 (15th)
- Dropback EPA: .03 (12th)
- Passing yards per game: 242 (22nd)
- Rush EPA: -.12 (6th)
- Rushing yards per game: 103 (6th)
Much like the offense, a trade halfway through the year pushed LA over the edge. Von Miller was acquired as the missing piece to an already stout defense and he didn’t disappoint. Miller recorded five sacks in eight regular season games. He added another four in the playoffs, two of which came against Joe Burrow in the Super Bowl. Aaron Donald did that thing where he was the best tackle in the game again and totaled 12.5 sacks. Similarly, Jalen Ramsey earned the highest PFF grade for a cornerback. It was his second time holding the crown of No. 1 corner. LA's defense wasn't elite but it had enough studs to hold its own when backed but a top-tier offense.
Rams 2022 Offseason
Total Draft Value
Notable Free Agents
OLB Von Miller, WR Odell Beckham, RG Austin Corbett, C Brian Allen, RB Sony Michel, CB Darious Williams
Andrew Whitworth ($16 million in savings), Tyler Higbee ($5.2 million)
Notes: Los Angeles's total draft value is the sum of the value of every pick they own using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger NFL Draft Trade Value Chart. The values are only estimates until the NFL announces compensatory picks. Cap savings are listed assuming the player is cut before June 1st.
The Rams don’t have any good cut candidates to get under the cap. LA will almost certainly not cut Whitworth but his contract won’t stay in its current form. If he does return, the two sides will have to agree on a restructure. The Rams have a few notable backup tight ends on the roster including fourth-round pick Brycen Hopkins and Kendall Blanton, who was signed to a year-year deal after the season ended. If they view either as a potential starter, Higbee could become expendable.
This is only the Rams’ top need if Whitworth retires, but the Rams also need Whitworth to retire to help their cap situation. Joseph Noteboom has played well in a few spot starts, mostly at left tackle, over the past two years. He would be the obvious choice for the job but is also a free agent. They will make him a multi-year offer to return, but tackle-needy teams with more cap space could out-bid LA.
Corbett can play both sides at guard and center, though right guard is still his best fit. The flexibility he offers could make him a priority over Allen. Bringing back both would be ideal but may not work for LA’s tight budget.
Williams, an impending free agent, started 13 games for LA last year and totaled 964 snaps at outside corner. The Rams have 2019 third-round pick David Long and 2021 fourth-round pick Robert Rochell as their only backfilling options. Long was already playing a mix of slot and outside last year. Going into 2022 with Rochell as a starter on the outside and Long in the slot would be risky, but the Rams may have to gamble on their young corners while addressing other positions.
The Rams went from a team capped at nine wins to making two Super Bowl appearances in Sean McVay's five years with the team. That is naturally going to draw the eyes of teams looking to hire young staffers of their own. Because of the league's constant search for new offensive minds, McVay has lost three offensive staffers to head coaching jobs since joining the team. He also lost Brandon Staley on the defensive side of the ball to a head coaching job. Though many coaches were poached from his team this offseason, the biggest name to go was OC Kevin O'Connell. Serving as LA's offensive coordinator for two years earned O'Connell a job as the Vikings' next head coach. Liam Coen was tabbed to replace him. Coen served as an assistant positions coach for three years under McVay before taking a job as Kentucky's offensive coordinator. The perenially disappointing Wildcats secured their fourth 10-win season in school history on the back of over 32 points per game. McVay is no stranger to turnover on his staff and this season will be no different. The next man up has experience in the system and proved he knows it well with an impressive season in the collegiate ranks.
There has also been some buzz around McVay leaving the NFL for a cushy broadcasting job. McVay also only has two years remaining on his current contract. All reports have indicated that the Rams will pay him an obscene amount of money to return and he is expected to take their offer.
The champagne hangover will settle in soon. LA doesn’t have a draft pick in the double or single digits. Their first selection is a third-round compensary picked earned when the Lions hired one of their executives, Brad Holmes, to be the next GM of the Detroit Lions. This pick comes at the end of the round, placing it around No. 103. They also have some work to do to get under the cap. That’s simply the price one pays to hoist a Lombardi Trophy.
Beckham has already alluded to a return while Miller seems open to a quick departure. The offensive line will also be a focus of the offseason as two starters are free agents and another is set to retire. Bringing back as much of the cast as possible for the encore will be the Rams’ goal but they may have to cut some corners along the way.