There’s no better place to be than reigning Super Bowl champions, and the Los Angeles Rams are still basking in the glow of their first franchise title in over 20 years. But reality is going to hit the Rams soon enough, as free agency looms in less than a month and the team is faced with several major roster decisions.
In order to capture a Super Bowl title, the Rams mortgaged a great deal of their ability to improve the team this offseason, both in terms of free agency and the NFL Draft. Famously, because of the trade that brought in quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Rams do not have a draft pick in the first two rounds this season.
And their salary cap situation is not much better. As of the Super Bowl, the Rams have roughly $8.8 million in cap room to sign free agents come March 16. And a decent number of their most-coveted free agents are players on their own team. Here are the four players the Rams should be focused on to try and repeat as champions in 2022:
Odell Beckham Jr., WR
Before the Super Bowl, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Rams would re-sign Beckham to a long-term deal after Beckham played a huge role down the stretch and in the early rounds of the playoffs to get the Rams into the Super Bowl.
And when Beckham scored the Rams’ first touchdown in Super Bowl 56, the likelihood of a deal only grew more certain. But then, Beckham tore an ACL running a passing route, and suddenly everything changed.
Now, the veteran receiver will probably not get a long-term deal from any team, including the Rams. But the injury now increases the chances that the Rams bring Beckham back on a team-friendly “make-good” deal that would allow Beckham to return in 2022 when healthy and, in essence, audition for the Rams and the rest of the league before opting for free agency in 2023 unless the Rams decide to extend him.
The bottom line for the Rams is that they can retain Beckham without using up their precious cap space, and with Robert Woods also returning from a major injury, they can feel good that at least one of them can line up opposite Cooper Kupp when the season begins in September.
Von Miller, EDGE
Like Beckham, Miller was acquired at midseason and played a huge role in winning the Super Bowl. The 32-year-old edge rusher collected four sacks in the Rams’ three postseason games, giving him nine total over the 11 games he played for Los Angeles in 2022.
Miller still has a lot to offer, and the Rams would love to keep him, but Miller has indicated he would like to explore his free-agency options. The Rams, as a general rule, do not use the franchise tag, so they would just be another team on Miller’s free-agent list. But he is a known commodity to the Rams, and it would be in their interest to persuade him to stay in Los Angeles.
Duane Brown, LT
Normally, bringing in a 36-year-old free agent isn’t seen as a youth movement, but should Andrew Whitworth decide to call it a career at age 40 after winning the Super Bowl, then Brown would be an upgrade, in terms of getting younger on the offensive line.
Brown is certainly familiar to the Rams as a divisional opponent, and the four-time Pro Bowler knows a little about how the Rams like to do things, as the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator last season, Shane Waldron, had been on the Rams’ staff the previous four seasons.
There are a few quality offensive tackles named Brown that will be free agents next month, including Trent Brown from the New England Patriots, who could be available to the Rams at a discount, which is what the cap-strapped Rams would prefer to work with.
Anthony Hitchens, LB
The Rams’ best linebacker last season was Ernest Jones, and that’s hardly a bad thing, as Jones was a rookie in 2021. But if your best player at the position is a rookie, that’s a spot that could use an infusion of veteran talent.
The Kansas City Chiefs may have provided the Rams with their top linebacker target on Tuesday by cutting Hitchens, who became a salary-cap casualty. The Chiefs saved $8.4 million by cutting Hitchens, but it was not because of any fault in Hitchens’ play. The 29-year-old played a key role on the Chiefs’ Super Bowl championship team in 2019 and would provide some valuable experience in the middle of the field.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference