The Rams have been struggling with limited cap space for the past few offseasons. Earlier this week, the Rams restructured Cooper Kupp’s contract which made an additional $10.44 million available in cap space.
Obviously, the team will use some of this money to sign their rookies, but there could very well be excess left over after those signings. Let’s look at some free agents that GM Les Snead should consider signing.
John Johnson III, Strong Safety
As stated in my previous article, the Rams’ secondary lacks both depth and experience. Enter Strong Safety John Johnson III, who played for the Rams from 2017-2020. This would be a great fit considering his familiarity with the team, especially with Free Safety Jordan Fuller and new Defensive Backs/Pass Game Coordinator coach, Aubrey Pleasant.
Fuller and Johnson III were the starting safeties for the Rams in 2020; a season where the Rams’ pass defense ranked first in yards allowed (3051 yards) and first in touchdowns allowed (17 TDs). Pairing these two with Aubrey Pleasant’s intense coaching style could reinvigorate the secondary after a lackluster 2022-23 season.
Dalton Risner, Offensive Guard
Pro Football Focus (PFF) currently has the Rams' offensive line ranked 28th in the league based on their data. The current line consists of Joe Noteboom, Steve Avila (rookie), Brian Allen, Coleman Shelton, and Rob Havenstein. From that group, Noteboom, Shelton, and Allen all missed time last season.
The O-line could use some depth in case injuries strike again next season and Risner would be a solid player to add depth to the line… if not take over a starting role from one of the less-reliable players. Risner’s PFF stats showed improvement last season, especially in pass protection which the Rams sorely need to improve to keep 35-year-old Quarterback Matthew Stafford healthy.
Yannick Ngakoue, Defensive End
Alright, I will admit it, this one does not seem very likely. Ngakoue would be very expensive to sign (possibly even out of the Rams’ price range) as he has been one of the most consistently dominant DEs in the league.
He has had eight sacks or more in every season since he turned pro in 2016 and is in the top 10 for combined pressures and sacks from 2018 until now.
While the Rams would have to spend most of their newfound budget on him, I think it would be worth it to see him paired with Aaron Donald for the season.
Marcus Peters, Cornerback
Marcus Peters would help add some experience to a young secondary while returning to the Rams, for whom he had previously played two seasons.
Like John Johnson III, he has experience with Pleasant and is a veteran player with a history of success, but that is about as far as the positives go here. As one of the most highly valued remaining Free Agents, Peters will want a big contract, especially with rumors circulating that the Raiders are interested.
Personally, I prefer the addition of Johnson III over the addition of Peters anyway. Peters is already 30 and he didn’t stand out as much as Johnson III during his previous stint in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, the Rams need experience in the pass defense and Peters could provide that, so it is worth considering for the front office.
DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver
I know, every fan and their uncle thinks Hopkins should play for their favorite team. So why should he come to play for the Rams on what would have to be a much smaller contract than what he could get elsewhere? Honestly, I don’t see why he would unless he just wants to stay in the Southwest for some reason.
Much like Ngakoue, this is a “wishful thinking” pick. If a contract could be agreed upon that satisfies both parties, it could drastically improve the Rams' deep-ball attack. If this signing happened, it would make for some exceptional highlight reels and would open up a lot of exciting opportunities for new Offensive Coordinator Mike LaFleur.
The main issue is the Rams' tight cap space, which will probably be a big enough problem to keep this from becoming a reality.
There are countless more options for the Rams in Free Agency, but for this article, I kept it just to the players that could provide the biggest "splash" for the Rams this Fall. Based on the Rams' salary cap limitations, they probably could not sign any more than one of the players listed above.
Although, if they were to sign someone from this list, any one of them would be a major improvement upon what the Rams currently have on their depth chart.
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