Rams figure to be active in free agency

Rams General Manager Les Snead was at the podium first. About an hour later, new Coach Sean McVay took his turn.

Their news conferences, and Thursday’s smaller media confabs, were among many tasks to be completed this week at the NFL scouting combine, most importantly interviewing and evaluating draft prospects.

But the combine — and for that matter the draft — are secondary priorities for a team expected to seriously delve into free agency for the first time in years.

The Rams, the NFL’s worst offensive team the last two seasons, have a glaring need at wide receiver and major issues along the offensive line. They also are thin at cornerback and in need of linebacker depth.

And they do not have a first-round draft pick, courtesy of the blockbuster trade that enabled them to choose quarterback Jared Goff first overall last year.

So the Rams are preparing for the start of free agency. It unofficially begins Tuesday with a 48-hour window known as the “legal tampering” period, when representatives for free agents can negotiate with teams but not sign contracts. The first day that players can sign contracts comes two days later.

Teams that have put the franchise tag on players — the Rams tagged cornerback Trumaine Johnson for the second year in a row — already can negotiate long-term contracts with them.

“We're definitely planning to be active,” Snead said of free agency. “But you gotta wait to see how the process goes and see who goes off the board, what they get paid and do they factor into your big picture.

“But I definitely think we need to use free agency to supplement our roster.”

The Rams also must make decisions about their impending free agents.

Receiver Kenny Britt will test the market and running back Benny Cunningham’s status is uncertain. How safety T.J. McDonald could  fit into new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ scheme is still to be determined.

Snead, who survived the firing of former coach Jeff Fisher, and McVay said they are working well together as they assess the roster and formulate personnel strategy.

“We’ve been in communication every single day, constantly talking about situations, scenarios, how we evaluate our players, what we’re trying to do to find players that fit our offensive and defensive schemes,” McVay said. “And really feel fortunate to work with him and looking forward for this partnership for a long time.”

Snead, 46, said he and the 31-year-old McVay are philosophically similar.

“But like anything,” Snead said, “when you have a partner in fantasy football and you’re trying to decide who to insert in fantasy football, you may have a different running back or receiver than your buddy.

“But I think all of those things work together. You try to sit down and have a core philosophy.”

Snead described McVay as “a ball of energy — and it starts at 4 a.m. and it's still going at 10:30 p.m.” He said he was working with McVay and the coaching staff in a collective effort to identify areas that can be addressed through free agency and the draft.

“And those moments start early and go late,” Snead said, “and that’s where you really get that synergy.”

Before the Rams made McVay the youngest coach in modern NFL history, he spent three seasons as the Washington Redskins’ offensive coordinator. He oversaw a unit that in 2016 ranked third in the NFL, with an attack that featured quarterback Kirk Cousins and receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, among others.

Jackson and Garcon are impending free-agent receivers.

When asked whether Jackson was the type of player who could play alongside Rams receiver Tavon Austin, McVay declined to specify, citing tampering rules.

“We had a lot of great players there,” McVay said of the Redskins. “And when you look at the success he’s had over time, he’s a great player. But we’ll visit that at a later date if that’s what it gets to.”

He acknowledged that relationships with players he had coached could be advantageous.

“Well, I think any time that you’re able to be around players in general, you’d like to think that a relationship’s formed with any former player that you’ve worked with,” he said. “And how that affects the way that we’ll move forward, that’ll be determined.”

Notes

After two days of voting by fans, the Rams announced that the 2017 home uniform ensemble would feature a navy blue helmet with white horns and a white facemask, and white pants emblazoned with a single navy blue stripe. The white jersey with St. Louis-era gold accents — which was not put up for a fan vote — is expected to remain until a planned major rebrand for the opening of the Rams’ Inglewood Stadium in 2019. … The Rams this week signed Travis Wilson, a former Utah quarterback whom they plan to try at tight end. The 6-foot-7 Wilson played at San Clemente High.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

 

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