With Johnson tagged, Rams must let Jenkins walk

Analyst Mike Renner identifies the top free agent priorities for the Los Angeles Rams.

| 9 months ago
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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.)

Re-sign

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.

Let walk

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.

Target

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.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • bill jaffe

    i think the need at QB outweigh’s a lot moves they make and in LA they need to be a winner quickly or the fans will go elswhere

    • crosseyedlemon

      The Rams will be far better off in LA than they were in St.Louis which has always been a baseball town. I also don’t think they need to win quickly…it’s not as though the Lakers are going to steal away any fans.

      • Nick_CT

        LA is a basketball town even if the Lakers suck

        • Rick S.

          LA as a Sports town…
          1. College Sports, esp USC football & UCLA basketball
          2. Lakers
          3. Dodgers
          4. Clippers
          5. Whichever NFL team is currently the most popular.

          • Nick_CT

            yes those teams exist there and the Kings do too but its a BBall town

          • Djengo Unchained

            Not knocking UCLA and USC- but the only time L.A actually focuses on them is when they play each other…

            Other than that it’s
            1) LAKERS
            2) clippers, dodgers, kings, now to be rams, sparks, galaxy etc. ( in which ever order you see fit)

        • crosseyedlemon

          The Lakers have been trying their best to convince fans that beach volleyball or water polo is the sport they should be following.

      • jill1664

        St Louis is just a baseball town? I’m not sure Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk saw it that way. I’m afraid you’ve bought a fiction the Rams’ owner was selling in order to justify the move.

        • AZPete

          Absolutely.

    • McGeorge

      Wouldn’t it be fun if the Rams signed RG3 and he was at least moderately effective? That would be a fairy tale ending to a great trade.

      • bill jaffe

        and not out of the realm of possibility

        • McGeorge

          I don’t follow the Red Skins.
          What is the general consensus as to why RG3 crashed after a good rookie year? Does he not study? Maybe he’s not that good?

          • bill jaffe

            well remember he got hurt in that play off game against Seattle so he spent most of the second off season rehabbing so he really did not get a chance to learn more of the offense. then he got hurt again and spent another off season rehabbing and not learning the new offense. so in reality he’s never had a chance to learn a complete offense. i think the Rams could benefit by giving him a chance . if they do giving him an up tempo kind of offense which suits his skills gives him the best chance to succeed

          • jill1664

            I think and hope that RGIII could be successful, but I believe that part of his problem was how Snyder elevated him to favored son status. RGIII seemed to spend more time at the podium than he did studying film and practicing his craft, and it appeared that some of his teammates weren’t happy about his seeking the limelight. It looked pretty clear before he was replaced that the OLine was more effective protecting Cousins than protecting RGIII. Snyder is a businessman, and RGIII’s early popularity seemed to be what he wanted to exploit, but that isn’t always conducive to team cohesion.

        • Chuck

          Not out of the realm of possibility, no, but I don’t think it’s a good fit. RGIII struggles in drop back schemes, and that’s exactly what the Rams do. While he definitely has some skills, it’s seems like a square peg.

      • Joshua Lowe

        I live in the DC area. Hell no to RG3. He doesn’t study and too brittle. STOP THE STUPID NOW!

      • t.w.

        there is a huge bust sticker on his name (rg3)

    • LakerSteve

      While I agree the Rams need to address QB, they don’t need to find their franchise guy this season in order to appease fans. That may be the case for you, but certainly not for any of the Rams fans I know. As for QB, I’m hoping they grab a talented but raw mid-round QB and start developing him. It’s unlikely to help this season, but it’s the right path to take.

      • bill jaffe

        just going by LA’s history they do not support losing teams well
        as to the QB issue they have to do something their as they are killing a good defense by having it on the field to much Todd Gurley can’t be their only weapon

        • LakerSteve

          I guess you’re right Bill. The LA fans stopped supporting the Dodgers when they weren’t winning, and Staples Center has been empty since the Lakers fell apart. Errrr….. wait… no, that didn’t happen. The Dodgers, even in their worst seasons, have remained one of the top teams in MLB in attendance and the Lakers continue to fill Staples even though they totally suck. Sure, if the Rams decide to run the team into the ground like Georgia did then many of the less committed or new Rams fans will stop patronizing the games, but the chance of that happening any time soon is highly unlikely.

          As for a QB, yes, we all agree they need a QB.

      • Bernard

        That’s what Mannion was supposed to be for. He’s got good upside just his footwork needed work

      • David Bussey

        So the mid-round to late round qb’s like Mannion, Gilbert, Null, Fitz and Smoker????? I think not. Either grab one of the top two or don’t even touch a q.b. this year. And it the Rams don’t start winning in two years, they will turn their back on them again. And the Rams will be back in Cleveland before we know it.. (just a little sarcasm)

        • Chuck

          Disagree, Shaw and Brissett are both solid QB’s that I’d be happy with them drafting. Doesn’t have to be the top two. Why not have some competition?

          • LakerSteve

            Exactly Chuck. It’s an inexact science. Was Brady top 2? How about Russell Wilson? Marc Bulger, like Brady, was a 6th rounder. So were Matt Hasselbeck and Mark Rypien. Oh, and Kurt Warner? Yeah, undrafted…

          • AZPete

            Are they any better than Sean Mannion?

          • Chuck

            I said Shaw and Brissett when I really meant Cook and Prescott. Not sure if they’re better, but a decent competition between them is good. I think we’re better off dumping Foles, so I don’t mind two mid round QBs competing.

        • LakerSteve

          And who are these TOP TWO QBs in your opinion David? As for your assumption that the fans will “turn their back on them again” if they don’t win in a couple of years, it appears you don’t really understand what happened with Georgia in Los Angeles. If Kroenke decides not to build a stadium and then moves the team to freakin’ Anaheim and runs them into the ground, then, yeah, many fans may bail.

    • Chuck

      It’s so refreshing to hear the fans already talking about the need for the Rams to win or else. Wow, LA folk are something else, huh? Can’t believe I used to identify as one.

  • Rams757

    So let Mark Barron walk ( FYI he is the reason James L. was cut. )… But resign B. Quick..? Somebody that hasn’t done good in 4 years..? At least Mark had 100+ tackles..

    Resign..
    Tru Johnson , Mark Barron , and Will Hayes…

    Let everybody else go..
    J. Jenkins going to ask for the same amount as Sean Smith.. Rather have Smith from KC over Jenkins..
    Rodney McLeod… I think it’s a lot of FS in FA that can replace him.
    Nick F can come back depending on the amount he wants. Mike Brockers is more important.
    B. Quick.. Trash. Get a WR in the Draft…

    Target..
    Alshon J. would be nice. But we know he going to stay with the Bears.
    That TE from SD wouldn’t be a bad sign..
    A new LT , C , and a guard needs to be a target. Cut R. Saffold.
    And a QB wouldn’t be bad.

    • Bernard

      Finally someone who makes sense!

    • Ramokowski

      I think we have a real chance at signing Jeffrey. This is his opportunity to be a star in LA–and get paid. Chicago is not getting better. Signing Jeffrey would be a complete game changer for LA and make Austin even more dangerous. Sign him!

    • Chuck

      You underestimate McLeod. We just revamped our o-line. With the exception of maybe a center. I don’t see any addittions to be made. Keep Saffold, he’s good and we need depth. And for the relatively low cost, I’d rather keep our core special teams unit intact. ST is so important and it took a few years to get everyone up to speed, why start over? Just to save $1.5/2mil? Nah.

      • Rams757

        No underestimate needed.. He is no stand out safety. He can be replaced..

        And so Greg is good..? What depth with Saffold? The depth is playing because he is hurt. LT LG and C can be a need.. C is a must need.

        We have a great special teams coach. I think we will be fine.

        It’s no way you are a Rams fan and you don’t want to upgrade nothing.. Lol. Haven’t won 8 games in years.. And we have 50+ mill in cap and you don’t want to do nothing but resign and keep a special teams together..? Man please….. Lol.

        • Chuck

          $50mil is going to go quickly by keeping our guys that we’ve developed. Not sure why that doesn’t make sense to you. Greg, and the entire line showed great improvement down the stretch. An actual Rams fan would know that. No need to revamp it, allow them to grow. Saffold is good enough that he’s worth the risk. Let him and Reynolds fight for the starting spot. That way, between the two of them we have great depth. It took our ST coach three years to get our teams playing well. He may be great, but why start over. And I never said we don’t need upgrades, I I just think it should mostly be done through the draft. The Rams have a solid team, I can’t believe you are unable to see that. Please…

  • jill1664

    I have some questions about this. First of all, I think you need to keep Mark Barron because you just got rid of James Laurinaitis. Secondly, I like Ladarius Green, but comparing his stats to Cook’s when he had Phillip Rivers as his QB seems far fetched. I’m not saying Cook is a great receiver, but I’m not sure Green is either. That’s like saying that the milk glass that has no spills is the better glass, when the pourer for the one created some of the spills. Understanding that TEs can move and glasses can’t, it still makes a difference who is doing the pouring and how it’s done.

  • Mike Walters

    Why in the ….. did they draft Mannion in the third round if they didn’t think he could play??? They had an opportunity at the end of the year last season to see what he could do, but they played Keenum, who they have known full well for years what he can and can’t do. How many times have they released Keenum? Maddening.

    • Chuck

      They’ve released Keenum once, and they were playing to win, so they let him play. They do think Mannion can play, but he needed a lot of work. Wasn’t ready to showcase his skills yet.

  • Chuck

    Resign Barron, without question. He has a defined role, weak-side LB/S. It’s not time to bring in outside help for LT. If they want to make it an open competition in house, fine, but bringing in a FA at this point is silly. Unless, they cut Saffold and kick Robinson inside, then maybe, but no.