As the Rams prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 5 of 8: Offensive line.
Throughout the last two seasons, no NFL offensive line could match the Rams in terms of cohesion.
The starting lineup was the same in every game in 2017 except for the finale, when coach Sean McVay held out starters. The lineup was the same for every game in 2018.
Two of the mainstays from the lines that helped the Rams win NFC West titles are gone.
Veteran left guard Rodger Saffold signed with the Tennessee Titans. Veteran center John Sullivan remains an unsigned free agent.
Two draft picks from last year will step into their roles.
Joseph Noteboom, a third-round selection from Texas Christian, will replace Saffold. Brian Allen, a fourth-round pick from Michigan State, will get the opportunity to replace Sullivan.
The line will feature veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth, Noteboom, Allen, right guard Austin Blythe and right tackle Rob Havenstein. Blythe also can play center.
Quarterback Jared Goff is confident that Noteboom and Allen can step up and fill the void left by the departures of Saffold and Sullivan.
“If their chance is now, I’m excited for them. I’m excited to grow with them.”
As they did last year when they drafted Noteboom and Allen to serve as rookie apprentices, the Rams will seek to select more offensive linemen in the April 25-27 draft.
The Rams have the 31st overall pick and six picks in Rounds 3 through 7.
“It will be a good year to try to get another quality OL that you can hopefully redshirt,” general manager Les Snead said, adding, “The goal is to get younger.”
Noteboom served as a swing tackle last season, practicing at both tackle spots and guard. The Rams might look for a similar player again.
“There’s some good depth inside in this draft so I think you can expect to see us like we did last year add a couple guys that hopefully we project as [eventual] starters,” McVay said.
Under contract for 2019*: Andrew Whitworth ($16.7 million), Rob Havenstein ($8.3 million), Austin Blythe ($2 million), Joseph Noteboom ($831,349), Brian Allen ($741,734), Darrell Williams ($570,000), Jamil Demby ($570,000) and Aaron Neary ($570,000)
Free agents: Saffold signed a four-year, $44-million contract with the Titans that includes $22.5 million in guarantees. Sullivan might be an option if Allen suffers an injury or struggles. After the draft, the Rams could look for veterans to add depth.
Draft: As they did last year when they drafted Noteboom and Allen, the Rams would like to find offensive linemen who can apprentice as reserves and then move into more significant roles.
Roster decisions: Whitworth is in the final year of his contract and, possibly, his career. The Rams prepared for that by drafting Noteboom in 2018. Blythe also is in the final year of his contract.
*Salary-cap numbers per overthecap.com
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