Rams at risk of losing starters as free-agent negotiation period opens

After two weeks spent accumulating impressive players, the Rams now are at risk of losing some talent.

Monday marks the start of a two-day period in which teams can negotiate with other teams’ pending free agents. Those players can agree to new contracts, but cannot sign them until Wednesday afternoon.

So the Rams’ work is far from done, even after a wild flurry that saw them demolish and partially rebuild their defense. They could lose as many as five 2017 starters to free agency.

Sammy Watkins is at the top of that list. Watkins was only the Rams’ fourth-leading receiver last season but his skill set, which includes top-level speed, could lead a team with a lot of salary-cap space to make a big, multi-year offer. Watkins was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2015 with Buffalo.

The Rams chose this month to apply the one-year franchise tag to safety Lamarcus Joyner instead of Watkins, but still hope that Watkins will return after he fields offers from other teams.

The Rams also have hoped to retain two other starters: veteran center John Sullivan and cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, who thrived in their nickel package last season.

Not expected to return are cornerback Trumaine Johnson — who already got replaced during a busy two-week period that saw the Rams trade for Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, and sign free agent Sam Shields — and veteran linebacker Connor Barwin.

The week doesn’t necessary have to be about losses for the Rams, given that they expect to have just under $40 million of cap room when the NFL’s 2018 season officially opens on Wednesday.

The Rams created much of that room when they traded linebackers Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree, but now they must be replaced, along with the other starters who might be lost to free agency.

Reinforcements also can come through the draft in late April, but it stands to reason that the Rams will keep a close eye on veteran linebackers, as well as a center in case Sullivan signs elsewhere.

The Rams might also examine their options at nose tackle, where they rotated players such as Michael Brockers and Tanzel Smart last season.

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!