Rams in free agency: More questions than answers

Friday, March 18, 2016 11:23 PM

Rams in free agency: We say the glass is half-emptyAt what point can we let the skepticism-unto-pessimism take root? After a week and a half of the 2015 free agency period, believing the now-Los Angeles Rams will turn around a dozen years’ worth of a cumulative .333 mark (okay, so technically at 64-127-1, they’re exactly one tie against San Francisco in 2012 better than .333) is approaching impossible.

While LARams.net can state that Les Snead’s bunch hasn’t been entirely slack during the past 10 days, the net loss thus far has outpaced the gains. The call from our perspective looks something like the following.

The plusses
At least we can see that Snead has a grip on the front-office fundamentals in that he recognizes the obvious strengths of the current Rams roster. LB Mark Barron and DE William Hayes were the first Rams to be re-signed as clear priorities; DE Eugene Sims was officially reupped last Sunday. Since the pass rush of the front seven was the brightest spot of a pretty murky 2015 season, we’ll give kudos for bringing these guys back.

Added to the mix – either as a DE or an OLB – is former New York Jet/Miami Dolphin Quinton Coples, who signed with the Rams through 2017 yesterday. This one feels like a decent acquisition, particularly in light of Nick Fairley’s situation (more on him below), with Coples to take a second-string role behind Hayes.

On the offensive end, also among early re-signings were center Tim Barnes and WR Brian Quick. Barnes helped anchor a, let’s say “youthful”, offensive line which showed improvement toward the end of 2015. (Although, truth be told, degeneration of this cobbled-together, shockingly inexperienced bunch is close to inconceivable.)

The re-signing of Quick, on the other hand, tells us more about the continuing woeful state of the Rams’ receiving corps as well as the paucity of viable free agent WRs than about the man’s ability and/or success. Granted, we have to give Quick a bit of a break, saddled as he was with two well below-average quarterbacks “throwing” to him, but how much of the chicken-and-egg element can we ascribe to passers and catchers within the NFL’s 32nd “best” passing offense?

The minuses
While the pair of re-signings within the front seven were positive, LARams.net isn’t exactly digging on the depth in this area for ’16. To be sure, many Rams fans agree that the time had come to part ways with the post-prime James Laurinaitis, so we’ll have to accept that release. The imminent departure of Nick Fairley, though … here’s to thinking that could hurt this year.

As the Rams thin out on the defensive end, why would the team let go of perhaps the league’s top front-line backup? You can readily bet that a team like the New Orleans Saints will be starting a guy who appeared in all but one game for the Rams in 2015 – and Fairley’ll be playing with a chip on his shoulder.

For now, sure, Rams fans are more than happy with a lineup that includes Sims, Hayes, the incredible Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, but gods help us when the injury bug bites because as it stands, after that it’s Coples and, um, Louis Trinca-Pasat, maybe…?

The biggest negatives – and greatest disappointment – of the entire free-agency period for the Rams are clear: The early losses of Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod to the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively, are gonna hurt this secondary. Talk all you want about Jenkins in particular benefitting from that fantastic pass rush that had opposition QBs chucking interceptions, why wouldn’t a team keep an admittedly hit-or-miss coverage guy for a scheme that fosters such a style? Maybe (probably) $7 million per year is too much for the Giants to be paying Jenkins, but we’d dare suggest that it might have been a reasonable rate in Los Angeles.

So now we’re left with question marks in the pass D. The re-signing of backup safety Cody Davis was an okay move given the circumstances, while former Tennessee Titans CB Coty Sensabaugh comes aboard.

Sensabaugh would appear to be a steadier presence than Jenkins in the deep-ball game – he was good for an impressive 60 tackles last season – LARams.net isn’t entirely sure that this facet cries for development when the center of the field at mid-range remains a massive blind spot for the Rams D. Also: Snead et al are paying Sensabaugh a reported $19 million for three years? What was that about Jenkins’s deal…?

The questions
Has the Rams’ brain trust again essentially forgotten about the offense? To wit: If Snead was willing to consider bringing aboard Peyton Manning at quarterback for surely outrageous sums of theoretical money, why was no overture made to, say, Brock Osweiler? And will the front office continue to ignore the potential of taking on, say, Ryan Fitzpatrick, if only for a season or two?

(By the way, here and for the remainder of this section, we can ignore any arguments about salary cap, when Stan Kroenke’s pockets have been demonstrated never to be deeper and Nick Foles is currently sucking up about $8 million in space.)

At tight end, meanwhile, few Rams fans will miss Jared Cook but, whoa, did the New England Patriots’ signing of Martellus Bennett hurt – especially when coupled with the revelation that the Chicago Bears had been shopping him around for about a year previous. Did the Rams really not have a shot at this guy?

And what about halfbacks? With Tre Mason already having been in Jeff Fisher’s doghouse before that gnarly tasing incident, who else will form this part of the depth chart after Todd Gurley and the criminally underrated Benny Cunningham?

So, yeah. While Snead and Fisher certainly impressed with last year’s draft selections, coming up with three viable starters plus later adding the undrafted Trinca-Pasat and supplementally drafting potential stud Isaiah Battle. But once again, these Rams appear to have far too many holes to fill – particularly with exactly one guy’s job safe – by a half-dozen untested draft picks.

Like we say, it’s tough to be optimistic right now.

– written by Os Davis

Tags: News, Rumors