After the Rams’ loss in the wild-card round of the 2017 playoffs, coach Sean McVay and front office executives had several weeks to ponder the future before the staff met after the Super Bowl and got down to offseason business.
Those meetings, and the moves that resulted from them, laid the groundwork for building the team and staff that advanced to Super Bowl LIII before losing to the New England Patriots.
So offseason business begins now for the Rams.
On Monday, for example, the Rams officially lost quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor. In a move that had been known for weeks, the Cincinnati Bengals announced that they had hired Taylor as their coach. That means Rams quarterback Jared Goff will have a new position coach for the fourth time in four NFL seasons.
McVay is expected to publicly address that issue and others Tuesday after players clear their lockers and begin an offseason break.
Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, will be entering the final year of his rookie contract next season. He remains a bargain with an $8.9 million salary-cap number, and the Rams are expected to exercise their fifth-year option for 2020.
General manager Les Snead said before the Super Bowl that in assembling a roster his goal was “to continue being sustainable when you do have to maybe give Jared a raise in due time.”
If would not be surprising at some point in the next few months if the Rams broach Goff’s representatives about a preliminary timeline for talks about an extension. They are expected to do the same with McVay, who completed the second year of a five-year contract.
However, there are more immediate concerns as the Rams begin preparations for this month’s NFL scouting combine, free agency and the draft.
After Sunday’s 13-3 loss to the Patriots, several Rams players acknowledged the annual churn of NFL rosters. But they said the Rams have pieces in place to return to the Super Bowl next season.
“We have a great team,” running back Todd Gurley said. “We have a great leader in [McVay]. … We are just starting.”
Said linebacker Mark Barron: “Most definitely, this is a team that can be back here.”
With Gurley, defensive lineman Aaron Donald and receiver Brandin Cooks signed to massive extensions before the 2018 season, the Rams will consider short- and long-term decisions to manage a salary cap that is reportedly projected to be $187 million to $191.1 million, an increase from the $177.2-million cap in 2018.
The Rams have about $34.3 million in cap space, according to overthecap.com.
Defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh played on a one-year, $14 million contract this season. Edge rushing linebacker Dante Fowler, acquired at the trade deadline, had a cap number of $1.9 million in the final year of the rookie contract he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Running back C.J. Anderson, a late-season addition, also will be a free agent, as will safety Lamarcus Joyner, who earned about $11.3 million playing on the franchise tag.
All, presumably, would like to remain with a team regarded as one of the NFL’s best. But financial considerations could make all or some expendable.
The offensive line includes three players with situations that could create turnover. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, 37, is scheduled to have a cap number of $15.9 million.
“I’ll let the offseason play out and kind of see what’s best for the franchise, what’s best for me,” Whitworth said Sunday of his future.
Center John Sullivan, 33, carries a cap number of $4.3 million. Left guard Rodger Saffold, 30, earned nearly $8 million in 2018 in the final year of his contract. He has indicated that he would prefer to remain with the Rams.
Barron, who sat out offseason workouts, training camp and the first four games because of Achilles issues, has a cap number of $9.7 million, defensive lineman Michael Brockers $11 million.
Cornerback Aqib Talib drops from $11 million to $8 million in 2019, and cornerback Marcus Peters is scheduled to earn about $9 million on a fifth-year option.