Rams coaching staff changes after NFC West title season; now to the roster
In the aftermath of the Rams’ playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons last month, their Coliseum locker room was filled with voices of players reflecting on the game and the season.
For Trumaine Johnson, there was a period of prolonged silence.
A reporter had asked the cornerback if it struck him that, after playing six seasons, the last two under the franchise tag, “this could be it for you” with the Rams.
Johnson stared across the room as three seconds passed. Then three more. And then three more.
Johnson finally said he was not worried.
“Time will tell, man,” he said, “Time will tell.”
Johnson’s situation is one of many the Rams began evaluating the week after the Super Bowl, when coach Sean McVay reconvened his staff and met with general manager Les Snead.
It’s a different staff than the one that helped guide the Rams to the NFC West title.
Last season’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, Greg Olson and Matt LaFleur, have moved on. Olson is the offensive coordinator and play-caller for the Oakland Raiders; LaFleur the same for the Tennessee Titans. Tyrone McKenzie, an assistant special teams coach, is now inside linebackers coach for the Titans.
Zac Taylor is the Rams’ new quarterbacks coach. McVay, who calls plays, also hired former UCLA offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch as a senior offensive assistant.
A year after remaking a roster that helped them reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004, the Rams will make more moves to take the next step.
They will decide whom they will cut, whom they might franchise or transition tag, whom they will let walk — or pursue — in free agency, and whom they might select in the April 26-28 draft. Looming over everything is a massive contract extension sought by defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who no doubt upped the price when he was named NFL defensive player of the year. t
“When it happens, it happens,” Donald said of a new deal after a trophy presentation in Minneapolis the night before the Super Bowl.
Donald rested for two weeks after the Rams’ playoff loss but already had begun preparing for the 2018 season in Pittsburgh, his hometown.
“As soon as I get back, me and my brother get back at it,” he said. “Just trying to put in the work.”
The Rams have about $41 million in salary-cap space, according to overthecap.com.
That will increase if they cut loose one or more of their pricier veterans.
Receiver Tavon Austin has a salary-cap number of $8 million in 2018. Linebacker Robert Quinn carries a cap hit of $12.4 million, linebacker Mark Barron $10 million.
Fourteen players — Johnson, safety Lamarcus Joyner and receiver Sammy Watkins among them — are due to become unrestricted free agents when the NFL’s new league year begins next month.
Snead said after the season that he could “definitely” see a scenario in which Johnson returns. The Rams’ cornerback issue is magnified because Kayvon Webster is recovering from an Achilles injury and slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman is among the pending free agents.
Johnson, a Stockton native, earned about $31 million the last two seasons. He sounded as if he wanted to remain with the team that selected him in the third round of the 2012 draft.
“Of course I want to be around,” he said. “But at the same time it’s a business. So I don’t know what’s going on.
“Hopefully we get talkin’ but we’ll see.”
Watkins, acquired in a trade during training camp, said during the season that he did not want to bounce from team to team and quarterback to quarterback. Watkins’ production was not overwhelming — 39 catches, eight for touchdowns — but he remained injury-free. If the Rams put the franchise or transition tag on Watkins, it would give them time to assess whether to sign him to a long-term contract.
Joyner moved from cornerback to safety and increased his market value substantially with an outstanding season. Keeping him is a priority for the Rams.
Linebacker Connor Barwin, center John Sullivan, offensive lineman Cornelius Lucas, running back Lance Dunbar, tight end Derek Carrier, defensive linemen Dominique Easley and Tyrunn Walker, safeties Cody Davis and Isaiah Johnson and snapper Jake McQuaide also are pending free agents.
The Rams did not have a first-round draft pick in 2017 because of the 2016 trade that netted quarterback Jared Goff with the top pick.
They hold the 23rd pick in this year’s draft, which will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In preparation, they will evaluate and interview players at nearly every position during the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in two weeks.
They are expected to focus much of their attention on cornerbacks but also are seeking edge rushers, linebackers, centers and offensive tackles.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.