Dante Fowler’s arrival by trade in 2018 gave the Rams a former top-10 NFL draft pick, one capable of providing a potentially dominating edge-rushing presence at a fairly moderate price.
So when Fowler agreed to terms with the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday, the Rams moved quickly to replace him with a player boasting a similar profile.
Leonard Floyd, the ninth pick in the 2016 draft by the Chicago Bears, agreed to terms with the Rams on a one-year contract that reportedly has a base value of $10 million and could be as worth as much as $13 million.
That short-term deal suits a franchise that made burdensome financial commitments to quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, receiver Brandin Cooks and defensive lineman Aaron Donald. And cornerback Jalen Ramsey is next in line for a record-breaking contract.
Gurley and Cooks are regarded as possible trade pieces as a deadline for guarantees to vest for those players and others approaches Friday.
Floyd wasn’t the only move made by the Rams on Wednesday, which marked the start of the NFL’s new league year.
The news surrounding Floyd and Robinson was welcomed by Rams fans. For two-plus days, they had watched with dismay as Brockers, linebacker Cory Littleton, slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman and then Fowler exited as free agents.
Floyd, released by the Bears on Tuesday, will be reunited with new Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, the Bears’ outside linebackers coach in 2017 and 2018.
Whether the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Floyd can approach Fowler’s production and parlay a Rams stint into a long-term deal remains to be seen.
Fowler said in December that he “bet on himself” before last season and signed a one-year, $12-million contract with $2 million in performance incentives. He produced a career-best 11 ½ sacks, and said he would love to remain with the Rams and continue alongside players such as Littleton, Donald and Ramsey.
“It would be nice to stay with the best player in the league, A.D., and have Jalen and me and Cory — that would be really cool,” he said. “But there’s so many good players on this team, and I know how the business goes.”
The Falcons reportedly agreed with Fowler on three-year, $48-million deal.
Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie, but never amassed more than 4 ½ in the next three seasons. In 2019, he had a career-low three sacks. The Bears cut him to avoid paying a $13.2-million guarantee and signed Robert Quinn to a three-year contract that includes $30 million in guarantees.
Robinson, who will turn 25 in three days, agreed to a two-year contract. The former Alabama star was a second-round draft pick by the Lions in 2016. He earned $1.6 million last season in the final year of his rookie contract.
Robinson started a combined 16 games in the last two seasons. He made 40 tackles and had 1½ sacks in 13 games in 2019.
Retaining Whitworth was a priority for the Rams because there is no obvious replacement on the roster.
Whitworth, 38, has played 14 NFL seasons. So the three-year, $30-million deal he reportedly agreed to, with $12 million in guarantees, almost certainly includes two option years.
Whitworth agreed to terms a few hours after the Rams announced they would retain Blythe on a one-year contract. Blythe, 27, earned about $2 million last season, according to overthecap.com.
Whitworth and Blythe helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl in 2018 as part of a line that enjoyed remarkable continuity.
But after Rodger Saffold left to sign a free-agent contract with the Tennessee Titans and the Rams declined to exercise an option on veteran center John Sullivan, coach Sean McVay turned to younger players.
Guard Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen, however, both suffered season-ending knee injuries early in the season. Blythe moved to center, Austin Corbett played left guard, rookie David Edwards played right guard and rookie Bobby Evans supplanted injured Rob Havenstein at right tackle.
After the season, Whitworth said he aimed to remain with the Rams.
“Hopefully, the opportunity will be here,” he said. “Obviously, any time you’re a free agent, you’ve got to listen to everything and figure out what’s best for you.
“But of course, for me and my family, being a Ram would be No. 1, without question.”
The Rams acquired Blythe in 2017 after the Indianapolis Colts put him on waivers. He started at right guard in 2018 and moved to center last season after Allen was injured.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein, backup quarterback Blake Bortles, linebacker Bryce Hager, safety Marqui Christian and receiver Mike Thomas also are unrestricted free agents.