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Rams draft analysis: Defensive backfield is deep, but backups are needed

Rams draft analysis: Defensive backfield is deep, but backups are needed
Rams cornerback Aqib Talib talks to a coach during training camp in August. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

As the Rams prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 3 of eight: Defensive backs.

The addition of veteran safety Eric Weddle increases the star power for a Rams secondary that already boasted plenty.

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Weddle and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters have combined for 13 Pro Bowl appearances — six by Weddle, five by Talib and two by Peters. After a standout performance in 2018, third-year safety John Johnson appears on track to earn postseason honors as well.

“John Johnson is one of the better safeties in this league that’s only getting better and better,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.

The four starters are part of a deep defensive backfield that includes slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman, cornerback Troy Hill and versatile safeties Blake Countess and Marqui Christian, among others.

But McVay and general manager Les Snead are not averse to adding more in the April 25-27 draft.

“To say you wouldn’t look to find a versatile piece, there’s definitely a possibility of that,” McVay said.

Weddle, a 12-year veteran, signed with the Rams after he was released by the Baltimore Ravens. He replaces Lamarcus Joyner, who signed a free-agent contract with the Oakland Raiders.

Hill, a restricted free agent who has yet to re-sign with the Rams, can play inside and outside.

But the spotlight remains on Peters and Talib, acquired in headline-grabbing trades before the 2018 season.

Peters finished strong after playing through an early-season calf injury and struggling through much of the season. He had a career-low three interceptions.

Talib was sidelined for eight games after suffering an ankle injury in the third game against the Chargers. He came back and provided the leadership the Rams expected from an 11th-year pro.

Robey-Coleman played well in the slot, though he found himself in the middle of controversy late in the season, notably because of a non-call by officials in the NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints. Robey-Coleman also made controversial comments about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady before the Super Bowl.

Under contract for 2019: Marcus Peters ($9.1 million), Aqib Talib ($8 million), Nickell Robey-Coleman ($6 million), Eric Weddle ($5.8 million), Blake Countess ($2 million), John Johnson ($867,214), Marqui Christian ($720,000), Dominique Hatfield ($645,000), Dont’e Deayon ($645,000), Darious Williams ($570,000), Kevin Peterson ($570,000), Ramon Richards ($495,000), Steven Parker ($495,000).

Free agents: Weddle returns to Southern California, where he attended Rancho Cucamonga Alta Loma High. Joyner left after playing on the franchise tag. Cornerback Sam Shields, who played for the Rams last season after sitting out nearly all of the previous two because of concussions, is still on the market.

Draft: The Rams are set with starters and backups, but will look for a safety who can contribute immediately. Talented players who can cover are at a premium, so the Rams also could be looking for a cornerback to apprentice.

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Roster decisions: Peters is playing on his fifth-year option, and the Rams have indicated that they will explore an extension. Talib is in the final year of his contract.

NEXT: Special teams.

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