The 2017 NFL new league year officially started this past Thursday at 4 p.m. and with it came a lot of transactions. The LA Rams made a far larger splash in free agency than many expected. They also cut ties with some well-known veterans. It’s time to grade every move the Rams have made early on in the new league year.
Andrew Whitworth, OT-
It seems like nobody saw this coming. Andrew Whitworth was presumed to be returning to the Bengals or looking for a contender to sign with. Instead the Rams inked the 35-year-old 3-time Pro Bowl left tackle to a reported 3-year, $36-million contract. The only real knock on the signing is Whitworth’s age. This contract will probably take him to the end of his career. Despite his age he was a top five left tackle last season and debatably the best blindside pass blocker in the league. Whitworth will keep Jared Goff clean and fits Sean McVay’s deep passing offense. McVay needs a left tackle that dominates pass protection, like he had with Trent Williams in Washington. The added bonus here is Whitworth’s veteran locker-room presence. He’s known as a great teammate and leader. He’s type of player to help with a culture change.
Robert Woods, WR-
Robert Woods again. Attacks the outside shoulder or "edge" of CB. Takes his chest to the knee at the top so he can explode out of break. pic.twitter.com/BZgfbSkYw6
— Blair Hoenk (@CoachHoenk) February 28, 2017
The Rams definitely need playmaking wide receivers. Other than Tavon Austin they don’t have much. Letting Kenny Britt walk was bold, but he didn’t fit what Sean McVay looks for in a receiver. Robert Woods was a solid pickup, but a fairly expensive one. The Rams signed Woods to a reported 5-year, $39-million contract. That’s a lot of money to pay a guy that’s never cracked 700 yards in his career. On the bright side, Woods gives the Rams a veteran number two receiver with reliable hands. He’s almost like a Pierre Garcon-lite. Woods is a technician with very clean routes. He’s a good fit for the offense if the Rams don’t ask him to be the number one receiver. Putting Woods as the number two with Austin in the slot, and drafting a potential number one receiver like Zay Jones would benefit Goff immensely.
Aaron Murray, QB-
Aaron Murray is probably just a “camp arm.” He spent last season on the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad after being cut by both Kansas City and Arizona. At this point in his career it’s pretty clear he isn’t an impactful NFL quarterback. The contract was undisclosed and it’s a pretty irrelevant signing. Murray was a great college player and Georgia fans are probably the happiest about the move.
Lance Kendricks, TE-
This was a long time coming for the Rams. Kendricks has has never been better than average and last year he was a hole more than a help. He has far too many drops and isn’t much of a route runner. Kendricks was essentially the product of a team lacking a real starting tight end. Now that they’ve cut him they’ll avoid a yearly $4.25-million cap hit. He was also not guaranteed any money, meaning the Rams lose nothing by cutting him. Now a young player like Tyler Higbee or a tight end from this deep draft class can be given the opportunity to step-up.
Eugene Sims, DE-
Eugene Sims was an aging, 31-years-old, rotational defensive end. He also doesn’t fit Wade Phillips 3-4 scheme. He wasn’t paid much making the cut pretty irrelevant in terms of cap space, but it was a smart move. There was no sense in keeping a player to miscast in a defense he doesn’t fit.
Tim Barnes, C-
The Rams cutting Barnes was a little bit shocking. He isn’t a great player by any means, but he’s an average NFL center. Barnes looked like the guaranteed starting center for the Rams in 2017. He’s not great at anything, but he isn’t awful either. Barnes also wasn’t on a big contract, meaning cap space couldn’t have played a role. This was a questionable move for a team with too many holes along the offensive line. They’ll definitely need to sign or draft a center to start for them in 2017 because as of now nobody on the roster is good enough.
Tre Mason, RB-
The story of Tre Mason is a sad one. A once promising career thrown away because of poor choices. Head injuries apparently changed Mason drastically and led him down a dark path. This cut should have happened awhile ago. He missed the entire 2016 season when the Rams placed him on the reserve/did not report list.
William Hayes, DE, and a 7th-round pick for a 6th-round pick-
Trading William Hayes to essentially move up 17 spots in the draft was interesting. Hayes has been a very good player for the Rams, especially against the run. Just like Sims it seems this move was made because of scheme fit. Hayes is too small to play the 5-technique position in a 3-4 front. It seems the Rams decided he’s also not athletic enough to stand-up and play the edge linebacker positon. It’s likely he wouldn’t have fit either spot, but trading a very good run defender and average pass rusher to move up that late in the draft is odd. Wade Phillips tends to find ways to use productive players whether they fit his system or not. Hayes’ ability vs the run seemed like a good enough reason to keep him.