The Los Angeles Rams decided immediately after last season that it had nearly all the pieces necessary to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2021.
First and foremost, head coach Sean McVay understood his team could not earn itself a Super Bowl 56 home game at SoFi Stadium with Jared Goff at quarterback. So McVay sent Goff and a slew of draft picks to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford.
During the season, the Rams acquired edge rusher Von Miller from the Denver Broncos and signed wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. at a fortuitous moment, as Robert Woods III went down with a season-ending knee injury within days of that transaction.
And this master plan all came together brilliantly, as the Rams reached the title game and knocked off the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20, to win the franchise’s second Super Bowl title.
But the upshot of all the Rams’ moves in 2021 was to leave the team with precious few picks to work with in the 2022 NFL Draft and almost no wiggle room under the salary cap.
That likely means there won’t be that many moving pieces this offseason, placing a premium on quality over quantity.
Here’s the plan of attack for the Los Angeles Rams during the 2022 NFL offseason.
Biggest offseason questions
The biggest question facing the Rams is how they will be able to maneuver in free agency under the restrictions of the salary cap, and who will likely be the victim of a roster purge that frees up more cash.
According to Yahoo! Sports, the Rams have the third-fewest cap space rollover ($137,725) in the NFL, only ahead of the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. That will leave the Rams approximately $1.7 million over the salary cap this offseason.
That almost certainly means some of the team’s current free agents will not be back.
Top free-agency decisions
Key free agents: Von Miller (EDGE), Darious Williams (CB), Sony Michel (RB), Austin Corbett (OG), Odell Beckham Jr. (WR)
The most likely free agent to seek a new team next season is Michel, who filled in admirably after the preseason injury to Cam Akers and the midseason injuries to Darrell Henderson. But with Akers returning in time for the playoffs, it is a near certainty that he will return to being the lead back in 2022, with Henderson the likely change-of-pace back.
Miller is another unrestricted free agent who could well be on his way elsewhere. Miller, 32, earned nearly $20 million this season and has a market value around $9 million.
But the biggest free agency decision revolves around Beckham Jr., who was a major factor in the Rams’ sprint to the Super Bowl and figures to cash in with a huge deal should he opt for free agency in March.
But there are increasing indications that the Rams are not going to let Beckham get that far. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweeted Sunday morning that the Rams were planning to make a serious run at re-signing OBJ despite their narrow margin under the salary cap.
Beckham has indicated he might be willing to take a discount in order to stay with the Rams, which would make the framework for a deal easier to achieve.
2022 NFL Draft needs and potential targets
Draft needs: OT, TE, LB, EDGE, OG
As good as the defense was this season, led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, the Rams will likely use some of their draft capital to shore up their depth on defense. The Rams do not have picks in the first two rounds, but should pick up compensatory picks in the third and fourth rounds and a total of five picks in the sixth and seventh rounds combined as other forms of free-agent compensation.
The team has been successful at identifying talent in the late rounds in the past, so another well-scouted draft could go a long way to filling holes left via free agency.
1 player on each side of the ball who must step up in 2022
The Rams used their first available draft pick, No. 57 overall in the second round, on wide receiver Tutu Atwell from Louisville. He played all of 10 snaps in 2021 before being placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
Especially after Woods’ season-ending injury, the Rams are going to need Atwell to be a serviceable pro next season to complement Cooper Kupp and Beckham, if he re-signs.
On defense, another 2021 draft pick, linebacker Ernest Jones, steadily improved all season, to the point the team felt comfortable trading Kenny Young at the Trade Deadline. The Rams coaching staff praised Jones all season for his development, and he will be called upon next season to take on an even bigger role, especially if Miller leaves via free agency.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference