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Rams aim to combine trade acquisitions with later draft picks

Trading for Jalen Ramsey was less of a risk than drafting a potential player, say the Rams.
Trading for Jalen Ramsey was less of a risk than drafting a potential player, say the Rams.
(Carmen Mandato / Getty Images)

An October trade for star cornerback Jalen Ramsey netted the Rams a generational talent, a player projected as a franchise cornerstone for years to come.

In addition to the record-breaking contract Ramsey is expected to eventually demand, the deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars came with a high price: The Rams gave up first-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 NFL drafts.

After the Rams completed a 9-7 season and did not reach the playoffs, general manager Les Snead defended the trade.

“The reason we did it is, a little easier bet, knowing what you were getting than in the draft,” Snead said, “especially when you’re picking, let’s call it, in the 20s and later.”

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Without a first-round pick, the top prospects at this week’s NFL scouting combine will warrant only middling interest from the Rams who, barring a trade back into the first round, again will not select a player until well after the first 32 are off the board.

The Rams have not picked in the first round since 2016, when they traded up 14 spots to take quarterback Jared Goff at No. 1.

While the Rams’ new home at SoFi Stadium rises in Inglewood, the team is making sure they can improve after a 2019 season that “wasn’t up to our standards.”

Goff helped lead the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018. He subsequently signed a $134-million extension, joining Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, running back Todd Gurley and receiver Brandin Cooks as recipients of a megacontracts. Heading into the start of free agency next month, those deals leave the Rams with about $15 million in salary-cap space, according to overthecap.com.

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Snead and coach Sean McVay are expected to be asked about the cap situation, their draft strategy and more when they hold news conferences Tuesday.

Snead and McVay are part of a smaller-than-usual Rams combine contingent. New offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley and several assistants remained in Southern California, where they will analyze tape of combine workouts while continuing to prepare for the Rams offseason program.

The absence of some coaches and scouts, according to Rams officials, is related more to cost efficiency than the team’s draft position.

The Rams have six picks in the April 23-25 draft, one each in the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. They could add two more if they are awarded compensatory picks for the departures of free-agent offensive lineman Rodger Saffold and safety Lamarcus Joyner after the 2018 season.

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The Rams as of Monday had not made a headline-grabbing offseason move that had become something of a Snead trademark the last few years. In 2018, Snead arrived in Indianapolis having dealt for cornerback Marcus Peters. As the combine began, Snead traded linebacker Robert Quinn.

“As a general manager you don’t want to be reckless but you definitely want to attack,” Snead said in January. “You want to be in attack mode and take advantage of the opportunities that do exist.”

Will the Rams re-sign free agent left tackle Andrew Whitworth?
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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A year ago, just as the combine was getting underway, veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth announced he was returning to the Rams for the final year of the $33.75-million contract he signed in 2017. That did not stop the Rams from evaluating offensive linemen Bobby Evans and David Edwards during the combine and then selecting them in the third and fifth rounds, respectively, of the 2019 draft.

Evans and Edwards began last season as backups. They became starters after second-year pros Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen suffered season-ending knee injuries, and veteran Rob Havenstein also was sidelined because of injuries.

Whitworth, 38, again is topical as the combine begins. Whitworth, center-guard Austin Blythe, edge rusher Dante Fowler, linebacker Cory Littleton, defensive lineman Michael Brockers, kicker Greg Zuerlein and backup quarterback Blake Bortles are pending unrestricted free agents.

Greg Robinson remained in a West Texas jail without bond Wednesday after federal agents said they found 157 pounds (71.21 kilograms) of marijuana in a rented vehicle in which he and two other people were riding.

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Whitworth will evaluate his market, but it would not be a surprise if he re-signs with the Rams. Regardless of Whitworth’s future, the Rams are expected to eye offensive tackles, edge rushers, inside linebackers, defensive linemen and defensive backs at the combine.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that are free agents that are very important pieces that we want to be able to get back,” McVay said. “In some of these instances, 31 other teams have a say, and there is an element of what you can do within the framework of ways of on-boarding and re-signing.

“Whether it’s free agency, trades, draft acquisitions — so we’re looking at all of those avenues.”


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