If the Rams had their own comeback player of the year team award, defensive back Jordan Fuller would've made an argument as one of the strongest candidates for the 2023 season.
After an injury-shortened 2022 season limited him to just three games, he bounced back in 2023 by starting all 17 regular season games, tying his single-season career high for interceptions (3) and finished second on the team in total tackles (94) – all of which followed being voted a team captain by his teammates for a second time in his four seasons.
Now, the 2020 sixth-round pick is a pending unrestricted free agent with his rookie contract scheduled to expire at the start of the new league year on March 13.
In terms of durability, production and leadership, Fuller was a valuable piece to a young Rams secondary last season.
An ankle injury sustained in Week 18 sidelined Fuller for the Rams' wild-card playoff game, but that shouldn't take away from the fact that he led the team in takeaways created – he had three forced fumbles in addition to his three interceptions – and was still important in Los Angeles becoming a playoff-bound team.
Rams general manager Les Snead was asked last week, after talking about the special chemistry of this year's team, how much that comes into consideration when a team captain like Fuller is a free agent, and Snead said "we definitely have to talk about that."
"Because any time a leader goes out, it's probably hard to replace that exact leader, and at that point in time, it's very important to identify, 'okay, what as a person, as a leader, what leadership tools is someone providing,'" Snead said. "'If that person's walking out of the building, for whatever reason – whether it's Whit retiring, whether it's we've paid some players, can't pay another play and they get an opportunity somewhere else – it's one you need to discuss what left the building. Take skillset out of it, in terms of leadership, do we have someone from within that can fill it? And at the end of the day, even if that person can fulfill it, if that person has the potential to fulfill it."
If the Rams choose not to extend or re-sign Fuller, they could look internally at Russ Yeast or Quentin Lake as the next man up. Entering their third seasons in 2024, both have starting experience. While Yeast has more at safety and Lake more at star, both are still well-versed in how the secondary operates.
In terms of external options, Los Angeles historically has found those replacements via the draft rather than free agency.