With Johnson tagged, Rams must let Jenkins walk
There is an obvious glaring need for the Los Angeles Rams heading into 2016, and it’s every position on offense outside of running back. There are a few holes on the defensive side of the ball, but they have to do better than their 17.5 points per game in 2015 to have any chance of making the playoffs. The Rams have already started their housecleaning process in preparation for free agency by releasing Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, and Jared Cook. That leaves them with a projected $58 million in cap space to work with, one of the highest figures in the league.
(Editor’s note: This article was updated on March 4, 2016.)
FS Rodney McLeod
McLeod is another piece that needs to be retained from their solid secondary. The former undrafted free agent has developed into one of the better coverage safeties over the last two seasons, and finished 2015 as our 10th-highest graded safety overall.
DE William Hayes
This one is a no-brainer. With Chris Long out of the picture and Eugene Sims also a free agent, Hayes will be in line for a large snap increase if he returns. The 31-year-old has always excelled in a backup role for the Rams, but took it to the next level this year with an increase in snaps, and was our 11th-highest graded edge defender. Coming on so strong late in his career, Hayes likely won’t have a huge market beating down his door, similar to Jason Hatcher a couple years back.
WR Brian Quick
There was a time at the beginning of the 2014 season when it looked like Quick might turn into the No. 1 receiver that the Rams so desperately need. After injury cut short his season that year, the former second-round pick never quite recaptured that form in 2015, hauling in only 10 of his 32 targets on the season. They’ll be very little market for Quick in free agency, so it’s worth bringing back a guy who they’ve spent four years developing already.
CB Janoris Jenkins
With Trumaine Johnson under the franchise tag for a shade under $14 million next season, there is little doubt about Jenkins’ fate. While Jenkins is a solid corner coming off a career year, it wouldn’t be fiscally responsible to commit almost $25 million in cap space to two starting cornerbacks, with neither having graded higher than 20th among starters for a whole season.
C Tim Barnes
The former undrafted free agent was our 24th-ranked center last year in his first full season as a starter. With so much invested along the offensive line from the 2015 draft, it’s worth looking there for a starting center in 2016.
DT Nick Fairley
Fairley is a great fit for the Rams’ scheme and put up a fantastic season with the team last year, but someone else is going to pay him like a starter. Fairley’s build isn’t suited for the nose, and with Aaron Donald already manning the three-tech position better than anyone else in the NFL, Los Angeles would be silly to pay big money to a backup.
S/LB Mark Barron
Quality safety/linebacker hybrids are an invaluable weapon in modern defenses, and the Rams would love to have Barron back, but the question then becomes, for what price? He may be a man without a defined role, with Alec Ogletree returning and his top-10 pedigree likely pushing the price too high.
LT Kelvin Beachum
Beachum is only two seasons in, but it’s time to seriously reconsider Greg Robinson’s role as the starting left tackle. Robinson has been among the lowest-graded left tackles in each of his first two seasons, and he has a myriad of issues that can’t just be fixed overnight. Beachum would be on the complete opposite end of the spectrum in pass protection, and provide some stability on the edge.
TE Ladarius Green
The Rams simply need as many weapons as they can get on offense. Green has been stuck as a backup to Antonio Gates his entire career, but even in limited snaps, he’s always graded out extremely well as a receiver. His 79.1 receiving grade in 2015 trumps Jared Cook’s 47.7 grade by some margin.