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How Will the Rams Approach Free Agency?

Posted Mar 8, 2017

As the new NFL league year approaches, Rams insider Myles Simmons takes a look at how L.A. may address its own free agents as well as adding some from other teams.

The NFL’s “legal tampering” period is already underway, with free agent deals reportedly being agreed to in principle across the league. With the Rams sporting a new coaching staff, it’s reasonable to assume the club’s roster will undergo a fair amount of turnover between now and the start of the regular season. Free agency is one avenue for Los Angeles to make that happen.

So how will the Rams approach free agency this year? Last week at the NFL Combine, general manager Les Snead detailed the organization’s usual methodology when it comes to offseason talent acquisition.

“Philosophically we're always: Draft first and develop from within. But you’ve definitely got to use free agency to supplement,” Snead said. “With that, similar to the draft but different is, OK, you've got a board of UFA's, that you would like to acquire. Some of them get franchised before we get to next Monday and maybe your board changes. And then the market forces that go into it, because we've got a budget to work with.

“We're definitely planning to be active, but you’ve got to wait to see how the process goes and see who goes off the board, what they get paid, and do they factor into your big picture,” Snead continued. “But I definitely think we need to use free agency to supplement our roster.”

While head coach Sean McVay is heading into his first free agency period with the club, he said last week having Snead continue as Los Angeles’ general manager is helpful in putting together a free agency plan.

“The thing you feel great about with Les being where it’s a new staff coming in, he’s got a jump on kind of what the draft has available, where there’s depth at certain positions that we need to address,” McVay said. “And that’s going to dictate what we do in free agency — maybe we’re able to address a certain need in the draft because there is a little more depth at a certain spot. So we expect to acquire some good players both through free agency and the draft and it’s something we’re looking forward to.”

Two orders of business the Rams have taken care of over the last week are placing an original-round tender on restricted free agent defensive tackle Dominique Easley and placing the franchise tag on cornerback Trumaine Johnson for the second year in a row. While trade rumors regarding Johnson surfaced on Monday, last week Snead said the club will likely get through the offseason program before having any more long-term contract discussions with the 2012 third-round pick.

“I think what we're going to do with Trumaine is, because everyone is knew, we need to work together, live together, see if we all fit. Does Tru fit Wade, does Wade fit Tru? Because it's obvious by the tag number and what corners get paid, it's a heavy investment and you want to be right. Especially when you go long term,” Snead said.

But when it comes to the Rams’ own unrestricted free agents, two of the most notable names are safety T.J. McDonald and wide receiver Kenny Britt. Asked about them at the Combine, Snead essentially had the same answer for both players.

“We have to figure out if there’s a fit with us, with him,” Snead said of Britt. “With the new offense, we have to make sure that we’re going to put in the skill guys who are fits for Sean. We’re still in that process, but I know Kenny’s going to test the market.”

And McDonald?

“It’s definitely a different scheme, but that’s what we come to the Combine for. T.J., all of our upcoming UFAs, we’re definitely meeting with them here going into next week, see how that goes and evolves,” Snead said. “Again, it’s a big-picture map. Where does TJ fit, do you need something else instead of him, thinks like that. That’s what we’re working through now.”

As for external additions, two offensive positions the Rams may address are wide receiver and offensive line. Snead said the Rams have a good sense of the market and who may fit with McVay’s offense. But it’s a bit more difficult to turnover a majority of those on the offensive line.

“I do know this: We’re definitely inclined to try to figure out who in house is going to be one of our best five. And not just best five, but No. 6, No. 7, because that means something on game day,” Snead said. “But we’re also talking about, ‘Hey, what’s the advantage of adding someone in free agency, even the draft, to help that unit out?’ It’s a puzzle that we’re trying to figure out now. But there’s definitely going to be some guys in house that are in our lineup next year.”

Still, Snead said the Rams will likely target some defensive players as well, with the scheme change from a 4-3 to a 3-4.

“There's some positions we're adding to our defense we didn't have before,” Snead said. “It's not just one position, it's multiple.”