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Rams

Rams enter NFL draft seeking successor to left tackle Andrew Whitworth

Rams lineman Andrew Whitworth protects quarterback Jared Goff from Chargers defensive lineman Joey Bosa during a joint practice at StubHub Center on Aug. 5, 2017.
Rams lineman Andrew Whitworth protects quarterback Jared Goff from Chargers defensive lineman Joey Bosa during a joint practice on Aug. 5, 2017.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

As the Rams prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 7 of 10: Offensive line.

As they let a parade of defensive players exit via free agency, and cut star running back Todd Gurley, the Rams made their priorities clear by re-signing offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and versatile offensive lineman Austin Blythe.

“I was really excited to get those guys back, and I think I feel so comfortable with both of them,” quarterback Jared Goff said Wednesday during a video conference with reporters. “Getting those two guys back for my confidence, and just feeling good in the pocket is good.”

The Rams are attempting to rebound from a disappointing 9-7 season that resulted in missing the playoffs for the first time under coach Sean McVay.

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After two seasons of rare continuity, the Rams offensive line in 2019 was patchwork because of injuries. Left guard Joe Noteboom and center Brian Allen suffered season-ending knee injuries. Right tackle Rob Havenstein also was sidelined for the final seven games because of injuries.

With the Rams cutting Todd Gurley and trading Brandin Cooks, coach Sean McVay is expected to put more emphasis on tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett.

Blythe moved from right guard to center, and rookies David Edwards and Bobby Evans took advantage of opportunities to become starters. Austin Corbett, acquired in midseason trade with the Cleveland Browns, also stepped in and became a starter at left guard.

Who will play where during the upcoming season is to be determined, but the overarching question for the Rams’ line is the same as it was in 2019: Who will eventually succeed Whitworth? The 14-year veteran signed a three-year contract but is regarded as year-to year.

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“You do take it a year at a time,” McVay said recently.

Rams running back Malcolm Brown (34) is congratulated by center Austin Blythe (66) and wide receiver Robert Woods (17) following Brown’s touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during a September game last season in Charlotte.
Rams running back Malcolm Brown (34) is congratulated by center Austin Blythe (66) and wide receiver Robert Woods (17) following Brown’s touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the first half on Sept. 8, 2019 in Charlotte, N.C.
(Brian Blanco / Associated Press)

Noteboom was regarded as Whitworth’s heir apparent after the Rams drafted him in the third round in 2018. The knee injury stifled Noteboom’s progress, however, and there are still questions about whether he can effectively play such an important position.

Evans, a third-round pick in 2019, played right and left tackle in college at Oklahoma.

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The Rams do not have a first-round pick in the April 23-25 draft. They have two picks in the second round, two in the third, and one each in the fourth, sixth and seventh rounds.

General manager Les Snead said “the plan was set” when the Rams drafted Noteboom. But plans can change.

Ready for a different kind of NFL mock draft? Football experts join Times NFL writer Sam Farmer to predict the first round of the 2020 draft.

Who is under contract: Havenstein ($7.8 million), Whitworth ($6.7 million), Blythe ($3.9 million), Corbett ($1.2 million), Noteboom ($955,000), Allen ($922,000), Evans ($881,000), Jamil Demby ($750,000), Edwards ($741,000), Chandler Brewer ($675,000), Coleman Shelton ($675,000), Nate Trewyn ($675,000), Jeremiah Kolone ($610,000).

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Free agents: Last season, the Rams could have used an experienced lineman for depth, but they did not add any through free agency. Barring injuries to the current group, they might again sit out adding a veteran.

Draft: The Rams could use one of their second-round picks on an offensive tackle if a highly valued prospect is still on the board at picks 52 or 57.

Roster decisions: Havenstein has three years remaining on the $32.5 million contract extension he received before the 2018 season. If Evans wins a starting spot, the Rams might attempt to trade Havenstein. Blythe signed a one-year contract, so he will be a free agent again in 2021.

NEXT: Running backs.


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