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Austin Blythe helps anchor offensive line for second-straight season | Free Agent Spotlight

The Rams offensive line enjoyed stability in 2020 and was recognized by Pro Football Focus as the NFL's No. 3 offensive line in 2020 and an honorable mention for offensive line of the year.

Staying mostly healthy certainly played a big role in it, as well as center Austin Blythe.

Brought back on a one-year deal last offseason, Blythe proceeded to start all 16 regular season games in 2020 at a position which requires strong communication and command of the gameplan each week. It was the third time in four seasons he played in every game, and the only season he didn't during that span – 2019 – he missed just one.

Now, for the second time in as many years, Blythe is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 17.

So what's next for Blythe and the Rams?

One option would be signing Blythe to a long-term deal to retain a key piece to the offensive line. The 29-year-old Blythe has been consistent and durable, as previously noted. Plus, for a Rams team with aspirations of becoming the second team to win a Super Bowl on their home field next season, they need to look no further than how Super Bowl 55 unfolded last Sunday for examples of the importance of both to an offensive line, and more broadly the entire offense.

If Los Angeles and Blythe opt to go in different directions, L.A. could turn to fourth-year center Brian Allen as his replacement.

Allen was inactive for 15 of the Rams' 16 regular season games in 2020 while dealing with what head coach Sean McVay said in late November was a knee issue similar to the one he had in 2019. However, McVay also said then that Allen was making positive progress, enough that the team didn't think he would be a candidate for injured reserve.

When healthy, Allen played in 23 of 32 regular season games his first two seasons, including starting the first 10 of 2019 prior to the aforementioned season-ending knee injury against the Steelers.

If Allen isn't their answer, the Rams could also turn to the draft to find a new center.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that teams had a positive experience with installing offenses virtually during the 2020 offseason. And with another virtual offseason expected in 2021, they might have to do it again.

However, even if that process wasn't as difficult as expected, re-signing Blythe would make the most sense for him and the Rams. It would maintain continuity along a top-performing offensive line. Plus, if there ends up being no on-field work again until training camp this offseason, retaining an experienced center like Blythe would mitigate the impact of those lack of reps.

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