9 biggest questions the Rams are facing this offseason

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Cameron DaSilva
·8 min read
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After coming up short in the second round of the playoffs, the Rams have less than eight months to prepare for next season. The next few months will include free agency, the draft and a lot of difficult roster decisions, putting the Rams in a tough spot with limited offseason capital.

There are a lot of questions still to answer, too, both on the roster and the coaching staff. It’s early in the offseason, but it’s a good time to look ahead to some of the pressing issues Los Angeles will face in the coming months.

Here are the nine biggest questions for the Rams as the offseason gets underway.

Is Jared Goff the solution at quarterback?

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

This is a question that will be asked all offseason, and it’ll only be a question because Sean McVay helped make it one. During his final two media sessions of the year, McVay said Goff is “the quarterback right now,” and then doubled down by not committing to him as the starting quarterback in 2021 – or that he’ll even be on the roster. McVay said they’ll have competition at every position, and quarterback won’t be excluded from that. In all likelihood, Goff will be with the Rams next season, simply based on the fact that they can't conceivably cut him without taking on more than $65 million in dead money. However, when free agency and the draft roll around, we’ll learn a lot more about the Rams’ plans at quarterback moving forward.

How can they create more explosive plays?

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

This was a point of emphasis for McVay after the loss to the Packers. He pointed out that based on the way the offense operated, they were forced to sustain 10- and 13-play drives to score touchdowns rather than being able to strike quickly with big plays. That was a staple of the Rams offense in 2017 and 2018, but big plays have been lacking as of late. The question now is how the Rams can create more explosive plays. Can they simply bring in a deep threat like Kenny Stills or John Ross? Does the offensive line need to improve in pass protection? Does Goff just need to take more shots? With the way the Rams’ current wide receiver group is constructed, there isn't a true deep threat like Brandin Cooks was. Adding one in the draft or free agency will be a start, but that won’t be the only way to create more big plays.

Will Andrew Whitworth be back at left tackle?

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Based on the way Whitworth has talked in the last month or so, it sounds like he wants to stay with the Rams and continue playing in 2021. But that doesn’t mean he’s certain to reclaim his spot as the starting left tackle next season. He carries an $11.2 million cap hit in 2021, which is fairly high for a 39-year-old offensive lineman. The Rams can cut him this offseason and save $5.3 million, though they’ll also take on $5.8 million in dead money. It’s not an impossible move to make, but it is an improbable one. And with the way Whitworth played this season, there’s little reason to believe he can't continue to perform at a high level. It’s just a matter of whether the Rams believe he’s worth the $11 million price tag with a younger and cheaper option on the roster (Joe Noteboom).

How will the running back group shake out in 2021?

(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Cam Akers closed out this season as the unquestioned starter at running back, finishing the year on a high note with more than 250 yards from scrimmage in the postseason. But that was also with Darrell Henderson sidelined by an ankle injury, so there wasn’t as much competition as there was when all three backs were healthy. When next season begins, will Akers remain the workhorse? Or will Henderson chip away at his playing time and carries? Based on the way Akers finished the season and accounting for McVay’s end-of-season comments about the rookie becoming a “focal part” of the offense, it’s likely that Akers will continue to get the bulk of the work in the backfield next season. The committee approach worked to an extent this season, but Akers got into a rhythm the more he played and it’s hard to discount the value of that.

How many free agents can the Rams afford to keep?

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There will be a lot of tough decisions for the Rams to make this offseason, especially in free agency. Leonard Floyd, John Johnson, Troy Hill, Austin Blythe, Josh Reynolds and Gerald Everett will all become unrestricted free agents, while Darious Williams is set to become a restricted free agent. Johnson will be difficult to retain, as will Floyd. Williams can be kept with a first- or second-round tender, which is good, but it will still cost the Rams at least $3 million. The Rams don’t have a quality replacement for Blythe, which makes him an important player, while Reynolds and Everett are likely to leave. Hill is a wild card because David Long Jr. has potential but his playing time has been minimal. With the salary cap almost certain to drop next season, spending money will be tough to come by. That will limit the Rams’ options when it comes to outside free agents, too.

How will Brandon Staley be replaced?

(AP Photo/Greg Beacham)

Staley left to become the head coach of the Chargers, leaving a void at defensive coordinator. All signs point to Raheem Morris taking over the position, bringing along with him head-coaching experience and a strong connection with McVay. But this question is more about replacing Staley in a philosophical and schematic sense than a physical one. He helped the Rams finish first in total defense this season and his system was one players loved playing in – specifically Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. So how will the Rams replace that scheme and continue to have the level of success they had under Morris or whoever replaces Staley? It all starts with Donald and Ramsey, but the next defensive coordinator will need to get the most out of lesser-known players such as Williams, Troy Reeder, Justin Hollins and Jordan Fuller the way Staley did.

What will be the biggest area of need?

(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

This depends a lot on who the Rams lose in free agency. But looking at their roster right now, the linebacker unit will be one major position of need. Troy Reeder, Micah Kiser and Kenny Young did nothing to lock up spots on the roster in 2021, nor should they be counted on to start again next season. Travin Howard was in line to start next to Kiser this season before getting hurt in camp, so there’s a chance he’ll take on a bigger role next season. But regardless, the Rams need to add help at this spot during the offseason because they didn’t get strong enough play out of their linebackers. Outside linebacker faces some uncertainty, too. Floyd will be a free agent, and an expensive one, at that. Samson Ebukam’s contract will expire and it’s hard to say Hollins, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Terrell Lewis will be capable starters. So this will be another position of need.

Is Van Jefferson ready to step up as a starting WR?

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Assuming Reynolds leaves in free agency, the Rams will need a new No. 3 receiver to play alongside Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Jefferson will get the first chance to fill that void and he should be able to do so as a former second-round pick. Jefferson’s role was limited this season because of the Rams’ depth at wideout, but the path should clear for him to contribute more. McVay loves the potential of this young receiver, possessing strong hands, great route running and good quickness in the open field. The Rams could add help at wide receiver even still, but Jefferson should be expected to fill the void left by Reynolds if he leaves. This is exactly why Los Angeles drafted him 57th overall in last year’s draft.

What's the plan for Brycen Hopkins?

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The same question about Jefferson applies directly to Hopkins – though on a less urgent level. Hopkins was purely a luxury pick in the fourth round last year, with the Rams knowing they already had Tyler Higbee and Everett on the roster. But they prepared for the potential departure of Everett in 2021 by drafting Hopkins. Higbee will still be around next season and should remain the starter, but it’s reasonable to think Hopkins will be asked to contribute far more than he did this season when he played just two offensive snaps all year. As a dynamic receiving threat, he could be a secret weapon for McVay next season as the No. 2 tight end.

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