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Top takeaways from Sean McVay's press conference at NFL Annual Meeting: Tyler Higbee update, approach to free agency with OL, and more

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rams head coach Sean McVay on Tuesday spoke with reporters for 30 minutes as part of the NFC coaches breakfast at the NFL Annual Meeting, discussing an injury update on Tyler Higbee and his outlook on the tight end position overall, how things unfolded in free agency with the offensive line, and other timely topics.

Here are some of the key takeaways from that conversations.

Higbee expected to go on PUP list

McVay on Tuesday said tight end Tyler Higbee is expected to go on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

Higbee tore his ACL and MCL in the Rams' wild card playoff game against the Lions in early January. When asked about Higbee's injury at that time, McVay had mentioned Higbee being a possible PUP candidate.

"You just feel terrible with Tyler Higbee getting injured," McVay said. "He's meant so much to our team, but you know he's gonna be a PUP guy for sure. Don't know exactly when to expect them back, but being able to have somebody in addition to what Davis Allen did, I think that gives us the opportunity to maybe mix up some personnel groupings, and then hopefully having Hunter Long come back. And really, really fortunate to be able to have (tight ends coach/pass game coordinator) Nick Caley stay, because he had some opportunities to leave. I'm glad we kept that crazy guy around, he's a hell of a coach."

The update came as McVay spoke about the addition of tight end Colby Parkinson, who the team signed to a 3-year deal last week.

Between Higbee's injury, season-ending MCL injury suffered by Long in early December and Brycen Hopkins becoming an unrestricted free agent, it seemed likely Los Angeles was bound to address that position with Allen the lone healthy and available option in the group at the start of the new league year.

Identifying Jonah Jackson and sliding Steve Avila to center

McVay on Monday confirmed Steve Avila will move from left guard to center after the team signed Jonah Jackson.

According to McVay, each of those moving pieces were late developments in the team's approach to free agency.

Moving Avila to center "was never really part of the plan, until you realize, 'wow, Coleman Shelton voided his contract,'" McVay said, referring to Shelton voiding the final year of his deal and becoming a free agent. They wanted to bring Shelton back, but by nature of evaluating the guard market, getting Kevin Dotson's deal done ahead of the negotiating period, and realizing there was a possibility they could get Jackson, those plans began to fall into place.

"Hey, Kevin's at right guard, Jonah played left guard, and oh by the way, this stud rookie left guard that you had, he was an excellent center at TCU," McVay said. "And when you want to try to be able to improve and push the envelope with the interior parts of the offensive line, it really wasn't part of the plan until you realize, wow, we might be able to get Jonah Jackson, and if we did that, even went back and started watching – and this all came together last minute – TCU, and you say, you know what, he did a great job at center, there's a lot of work."

What's next for pass rush following Aaron Donald's retirement

There's no question that, between the way teams slid protections his direction and the double- and triple-teams he commanded, Aaron Donald was a focal point of the Rams' pass rush.

Now that he's retired, where does L.A. go from here when it comes to building that plan?

McVay said they would have a better idea after the draft.

"I think I'll have a better clarity once we get through the draft, because you don't want to just say, okay, we lost Aaron Donald, so now we've got to go address this position," McVay said. "You want to be able to still continue to find the right kinds of people that it can influence and affect positive change for us. And the rush, whether that's from the edge, from the interior parts, there's a bunch of different ways to influence and affect the quarterback. There's a bunch of quality players in this draft, and exactly who we come away with and how many we come away with that can do that, is something that we're still working through."

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