NFL free agency roundtable: Rams, Chargers changes, Deshaun Watson and other QBs on move
The NFL league year began Wednesday and the start of free agency is just the beginning to how teams reshape rosters. The Super Bowl LVI champion Rams and the Chargers already made major adjustments with the draft a month away. Los Angeles Times NFL writer Sam Farmer, Rams beat writer Gary Klein and Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller discuss what has happened and what is on the horizon.
If the Rams did want to keep Von Miller, there is no way they could have afforded what the Bills offered the edge rusher. Many claimed Miller did so well with the Rams because of the presence of Aaron Donald. However, it cannot be denied that Donald also was helped with the threats of edge rushers Miller and Leonard Floyd. How big do the Rams need to go to replace the future Hall of Fame defender?
Klein: It wasn’t just what Miller brought to the field, it’s what the championship-proven player provided the Rams in the locker room. Those kinds of guys — future of Hall of Famers, great leaders — are not readily available. If the Rams are not getting production from someone else early in season, Les Snead makes another midseason move.
Farmer: The Rams don’t need to scramble to replace Von Miller. He did a good job for them as a rental, but he wasn’t Von Miller at the apex of his career. Easier to replace an edge rusher than a guy who brings the kind of pressure up the middle that Donald does.
Now that the Rams have added wideout Allen Robinson, does that pretty much mean Odell Beckham Jr. is out of the Rams’ picture? And what might this mean for Robert Woods?
Klein: Beckham remains in the Rams plans if he wants to re-up on another team-friendly deal. Trading Woods has been a possibility from the time he signed his extension in 2020, which gives him a salary-cap number of $15.7 million this season. That’s a heavy load with Cooper Kupp at $18.7 million. As valuable as Woods has been for the Rams, I’m not sure most teams regard him as a No. 1.
The Rams added to a formidable attack by agreeing to a three-year deal with receiver Allen Robinson as Robert Woods and free agent OBJ deal with injuries.
Farmer: I’m not sure that takes OBJ out of the picture, but yes it does pave the way for the team to trade Robert Woods. Woods is a No. 1 receiver for somebody, and the Rams are loaded at the position.
With left tackle Andrew Whitworth retiring and right guard Austin Corbett moving on to Carolina, the Rams will be shuffling the offensive line again. Through what vehicles do you see the Rams revamping the line?
Klein: The Rams drafted Joe Noteboom in 2018 to be Whitworth’s successor, but they probably didn’t anticipate it would take four years. Now that they have signed Noteboom to a new contract, they have their left tackle. The Rams could sign a veteran or trade for one to replace Corbett, or draft and develop one.
Farmer: If history is a guide, the Rams can refashion the line one of two ways: veteran players or rookies. I kid, but Les Snead has done a good job of finding capable linemen — and others — in the later rounds of the draft. Joe Noteboom looks perfectly ready to step in at tackle, and the Rams should be able to piece together the rest of the line.
Speaking of offensive line, the Chargers nearly made the playoff last season despite having a two-year fiasco on the right side. The acquisition of Bryan Bulaga was supposed to solidify right tackle, but he barely played the last two seasons. Two seasons ago, they went the veteran free agent route with right guard Trai Turner but that failed because of injuries. Do you see the Chargers trying a different tact to shore up that side of the line?
Miller: The Chargers drafted an offensive tackle in the first round last year and hit big with Rashawn Slater. Could they repeat that level of success with the No. 17 overall pick this time? That seems very unlikely. Frankly, I keep waiting for them to sign someone like Moses Morgan, a veteran who has proven to be reliable and can stay on the field. But Morgan just signed with the Ravens. The right tackle market has thinned considerably this week. Right now, I don’t have an answer, but the Chargers better. They need to bolster that right side and soon.
Farmer: Not sure what they’re going to do. The offensive line has been an issue for the Chargers long before they moved to Los Angeles.
To bolster their sometimes leaky defense, the Chargers agreed to terms with corner J.C. Jackson and linemen Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson.
Klein: With rising star Justin Herbert still in an affordable window, the seemingly all-in Chargers should do whatever it takes to invest heavily in offensive linemen to keep Herbert out of harm’s way.
Coach Brandon Staley made no qualms about needing pieces on defense, and adding linebacker Khalil Mack, cornerback J.C. Jackson and defensive tackles Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson is an impressive start. What do you think the Chargers need to adjust around this new corps of players?
Miller: What Staley’s doing is rebuilding this defense within his own very exact specifications. Mack and Jackson are perfect examples of this. They are elite talents who can play the way Staley wants to play on defense. That mantra — “play the way we want to play” — is something Staley has repeated publicly maybe 100 times since he was hired by the Chargers last year. The Chargers didn’t have enough Staley players in 2021. That’s changing now.
Klein: I don’t know, but it seems like AFC West teams are making blockbuster moves every hour. Khalil Mack, Russell Wilson, Davante Adams. Wow!
The Chargers introduced Khalil Mack on Tuesday and the linebacker and coach Brandon Staley recalled how the two did special things together in Chicago.
Farmer: That Chargers defense is going to be fun to watch. In fact, this whole AFC West arms race is fascinating.
A lot of quarterback news this offseason. Let’s do some rapid-fire reactions to these guys. Russell Wilson in Denver.
Farmer: Wilson doesn’t necessarily make the Broncos a Super Bowl team yet, but he makes them relevant for the first time in six years.
Miller: Mile-high times in Denver for wideouts Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton, who finally have someone who can throw them the ball!
Klein: Sad to see him leave the NFC West.
Rumors had the Broncos pursuing quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but Russell Wilson was their target all along and keeping that a secret enabled Denver to complete the deal with Seattle.
Mitch Trubisky in Pittsburgh.
Farmer: There were 446 bridges in Pittsburgh. Trubisky is No. 447.
Klein: No way to top Sam’s comment. He hit it out of PNC Park.
Miller: Going from Big Ben to Medium Mitch is less than inspiring to me.
Carson Wentz in Washington.
Farmer: Needs to hire a new stylist. That McDonald’s look isn’t working.
Klein: Three teams in six years is not an encouraging sign.
Miller: If it didn’t work for Wentz playing for Frank Reich, his old offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, I’m not sure why it will work for him now with Ron Rivera.
Where might Jimmy Garoppolo end up?
Farmer: Maybe he’ll take his talents to South Beach.
Klein: Indy seems like a good landing spot.
Miller: This QB musical chairs game is getting hard to follow. I’ll say Carolina since everyone seems to be down on Sam Darnold at this point.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft, which will be held April 28-30 in Las Vegas.
What do you think about that whopping deal to get Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns?
Klein: Matthew Stafford, in line for an extension before the season, has to be smiling.
Miller: My first thought when I heard Watson had agreed to a contract guaranteeing him $230 million was how big of a guarantee will Justin Herbert get when his extension rolls around.
Farmer: That’s staggering money the Browns are paying Watson [ reportedly $230M guaranteed over five years], whose issues — and potential punishment from the league — are not over.
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