They began offseason workouts as the ultimate longshots, undrafted free agents trying to make a team that went to the Super Bowl the previous season.
But linebackers Natrez Patrick and Troy Reeder and wide receiver Nsimba Webster made the Rams’ 53-man roster.
“I’m kind of still at a loss for words,” Patrick said Saturday after practice. “I just feel blessed.”
The Rams finalized their roster Saturday afternoon by cutting 17 players, including several from their last two draft classes.
Defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers, who sacked New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, running back John Kelly and linebacker Trevon Young were 2018 draftees who were waived. Linebacker Dakota Allen, a seventh-round pick in April’s draft, also was cut.
The Rams can sign 10 players to their practice squad Sunday, and could make more moves before and possibly after next Sunday’s opener at the Carolina Panthers.
“What I like about this roster is [it’s] a nice mix of veteran players that may be on their third, fourth contracts, but have a lot of wisdom, experience and want to be a part of something special,” general manager Les Snead said during a news conference. “You got a lot of guys in their prime and a lot of guys that are young, that are going to help us in areas and you never know when.”
Coach Sean McVay said tough decisions were required as the Rams projected not only the roster but the 46 players who would be active for games.
“What I’ve begun to learn over the last three years, especially, is there’s some nuances, there’s some layers,” McVay said.
Kelly might have been caught between those layers. The decision to cut him and former Trojan Justin Davis leaves the Rams with only three running backs— Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown and rookie Darrell Henderson.
“We’ve got a couple of things that could explain that a little bit later down the road,” Snead said.
McVay said the decision to cut Franklin-Myers, a key rotational player last season, was a result of “not what John didn’t do, but what some other players did do.”
Patrick made the team with outstanding play on special teams and as both an inside and outside linebacker. The 6-foot-3, 242-pounder went undrafted after being arrested three times on marijuana-related charges while at Georgia. Brad Holmes, the Rams’ director of college scouting, lives in Atlanta and saw Patrick play in high school and college, Snead said. Holmes urged Snead to sign him.
“Brad comes to us … and says, ‘If we’re going to use that spot, I’d love to give this kid a shot,’” Snead said.
Patrick was grateful for the opportunity and made the most of it.
“God has a funny way of doing things, and I’m fortunate for it,” Patrick said. “I’m just glad to be in the position I am today, and I’m just happy to be able to lay that part of my life to rest. Just lay everything to rest and just progress.”
Reeder, who played at Delaware, also performed well on special teams and made his presence felt as an inside linebacker.
“In a funny way, the high level of the linebackers we have elevated my ability,” Reeder said. “It helped me learn at a lot faster rate, bringing out the best in me.”
Webster made numerous plays during the preseason as a receiver and kick returner.
“He’s a guy that just jumped out at you no matter what it was,” McVay said.
Webster played at Eastern Washington — the same school that produced Rams receiver Cooper Kupp, linebacker Samsom Ebukam and offensive lineman Aaron Neary, who was on the practice squad last season.
Webster is now part of a receivers group that includes Kupp, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas and JoJo Natson.
“When I came in, what stuck in my mind was, just go out there and give your best effort,” Webster said. “If it was at special teams or receiver, just give it your all. You don’t want to have any regrets.”
Rams roster by position:
Quarterbacks (2): Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
Running backs (3): Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson
Receivers (7): Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas, Nsimba Webster, JoJo Natson
Tight ends (3): Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
Offensive linemen (8): Andrew Whitworth, Joe Noteboom, Brian Allen, Austin Blythe, Rob Havenstein, David Edwards, Bobby Evans, Jamil Demby
Defensive linemen (6): Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Morgan Fox, Tanzel Smart, Greg Gaines
Linebackers (10): Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager, Clay Matthews, Dante Fowler, Samson Ebukam, Troy Reeder, Travin Howard, Natrez Patrick, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Justin Lawler
Cornerbacks (6) : Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Troy Hill, David Long, Darious Williams
Safeties (5): Eric Weddle, John Johnson, Taylor Rapp, Marqui Christian, Nick Scott
Specialists (3): Greg Zuerlein, Johnny Hekker, Jake McQuaide
Reserve/injured: LB Micah Kiser
Suspended: OL Aaron Neary
Linebacker Micah Kiser, who had pectoral surgery after the third preseason game, was placed on injured reserve. Linebacker Justin Lawler, who had foot surgery, remains on the roster. Snead said he would meet with trainer Reggie Scott “and then determine what’s the best course of action” with Lawler. ... If quarterback John Wolford, waived on Saturday, clears waivers, the Rams are expected to sign him to the practice squad. ... Last year, as contract negotiations with defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s representatives got closer to a conclusion, Snead said the sides were “in the same ZIP Code, area code, ballpark.” Asked if it was the same for negotiations with quarterback Jared Goff’s representatives, Snead joked, “We are in the same state. ... I do know this, Jared wants to be a Ram for a long time, we want him to be a Ram for a long time and we will continuously try to work to make that happen.”… Other players released Saturday: receivers KhaDarel Hodge and Alex Bachman, offensive linemen Chandler Brewer and Jeremiah Kolone, defensive linemen Marquise Copeland and Landis Durham, linebacker Josh Carraway and defensive backs Kevin Peterson, Dominique Hatfield, Dont’e Deayon and Steven Parker.