When looking at the Rams since the start of 2017, there may not be a single player who has made more of an impact on and off the field than left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
He is unquestionably one of the most important leaders in the Rams locker room, and helps set the standard with his high level of play down in and down out. You also may have noticed how he’s nearly always the first one on the field from the sideline when the offense takes over a possession, sprinting to where the rest of the team will huddle.
And off the field, Whitworth was the NFL Players Association 2019 Alan Page Community Award winner, having led Los Angeles’ player efforts to support the Thousand Oaks community after the tragic Borderline shooting and the devastating wildfires that ravaged the area.
At the age of 37, Whitworth has a decision to make: Will he return for another season?
He has one year remaining on the three-year contract he signed with L.A. at the outset of free agency back in March 2017. And he’s clearly still performing at a high level. While it’s not everything, Pro Football Focus rated Whitworth as its No. 5 offensive tackle in the regular season and put him No. 29 on its top 101 players of 2018.
Just after the conclusion of the Super Bowl, Whitworth said he didn’t know if he would retire.
“I'll let the offseason play out and kind of see what's best for the franchise, what's best for me and see what happens,” Whitworth said on Feb. 3.
Check out the top photos of the Los Angeles Rams offensive line and quarterbacks from the 2018 season.
Head coach Sean McVay said just after Super Bowl LIII that the Rams will let Whitworth take the time he needs in order to make the decision that’s best for him and his family.
Whitworth then told Petros and Money of AM 570 LA on Feb. 13 that he’ll ideally make a decision on whether or not to retire by the start of free agency on March 13.
If Whitworth returns, that would be a strong boost for continuity with the Rams’ five up front.
But if Whitworth decides to retire, the club does have a strong internal candidate to replace him.
L.A. selected Joseph Noteboom at No. 89 overall in the third round during the 2018 NFL Draft. Noteboom played in spot duty for Los Angeles on the offensive line, totaling 78 snaps in his rookie year. He also played 20 percent of the team’s special teams reps.
But perhaps more importantly, Noteboom took significant practice reps throughout the season. For much of 2018, Whitworth and Sullivan would have veteran rest days on Thursday — the Rams’ most strenuous practice of the week. That meant both Noteboom and fellow rookie center Brian Allen were able to practice with the first-team offense.
Right guard Austin Blythe went through the same process in 2017 — filling in at center for Sullivan during practice — and it gave him the kind of experience that paid dividends in 2018, as he stepped in at right guard and played each of the Rams’ 1,100 offensive snaps during the regular season.
And so while Los Angeles would certainly like to have Whitworth back in the fold for next year, with run game coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer in the fold, the Rams should still be in good shape even if Whitworth decides to call it a career.