In Joe Noteboom's mind, there was only one place he wanted to be as free agency approached.
The goal for the Rams offensive lineman was always to return to Los Angeles. And it was accomplished in short order, as he and the team agreed to terms on a three-year contract during the negotiating window that he officially signed on March 16.
"I wanted to come back here, that was my main thought," Noteboom said during a video conference with reporters Monday.
In doing so, Noteboom helps ensure as seamless of a transition at left tackle as an NFL team could hope for.
The 26-year-old Noteboom will succeed 40-year-old Andrew Whitworth – who announced his retirement on March 15 – as quarterback Matthew Stafford's blindside protector after backing up Whitworth over the last four seasons.
During that time, Noteboom played in 47 games, which included six starts at left guard prior to a season-ending torn ACL and MCL in 2019, then nine games at left tackle in 2020 while Whitworth recovered from a knee injury, then two games at left tackle in 2021. He also started against the Buccaneers in the Divisional Round of this year's playoffs when a knee injury kept Whitworth out of that game.
When not starting last season, he served as the extra tight end in heavy formations when the Rams made adjustments to their run game late last season and began using those formations more.
"Joe does an outstanding job," Stafford said during a video conference with reporters Monday. "I mean, he's a plug-and-play player for us. Wherever we needed him, he stepped in and played at a high level against some really quality opponents. Looking forward to seeing his development on the left side and seeing him do his thing for a bunch of years."
Noteboom is well-positioned to continue doing that because of working with Whitworth and the example Whitworth set. Among the biggest takeaways from that experience for Noteboom was the professional Whitworth was and the way he carried himself, like coming in early and how he took care of his body.
Of course, the on-the-field teaching was valuable, too, but his ownership of a process that allowed him to continually play at a high level physically, as well as his community work, leadership in the locker room and treatment of younger players.
It gave Noteboom a clear plan on how to be successful at that spot, and the confidence succeed moving forward.
"Being behind him, there's no other better situation in the league," Noteboom said. "Sixteen-year vet, Walter Payton Man of the Year, I mean, to step into this role, I've had a blueprint for it for four years. I was watching his every move on and off the field, so that's what gives me confidence to go into this position."