Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) and running back Todd Gurley (30) run off the field during game against the Miami Dolphins at the LA Coliseum in Los Angeles, November 20, 2016. File photo by Jon SooHoo/UPI | License Photo
The Los Angeles Rams quickly began work trying to rebuild their team in the image of new head coach Sean McVay, an energetic, offensive-minded leader who puts as much emphasis on chemistry, leadership and locker-room presence as he does finding the right talent and scheme fit.
By the end of the first phase of free agency, McVay and the Rams found a high-end answer to their left tackle position and a veteran leader whose impact will be felt in multiple ways.
They also added a dependable weapon for young quarterback Jared Goff, a versatile, veteran playmaker for new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme and perhaps a new starting cornerback.
And in landing Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth, dependable wide receiver Robert Woods, high-motor outside linebacker Connor Barwin and on-the-come cornerback Kayvon Webster, the Rams added as much character as they did talent to help improve their 4-12 team from a season ago.
"I think they are taking on our image, kind of what we've all agreed that we're looking for," McVay said. "When you really look at some of the players that we've acquired; when you look at an Andrew Whitworth, you look at a (running back) Lance Dunbar, Robert Woods -- especially just on offense -- get Kayvon Webster and Connor Barwin -- these are good people that kind of represent what we want to be in terms of that football character: accountability, coach-ability, you can depend on these guys. Then, they also have a certain way about themselves when you talk about them."
Woods, who comes home as a former USC star, won't be called upon to blow the top off a defense, but he is a precise route runner with dependable hands and is a willing, active run blocker.
The Rams also addressed their backup running back position with the signing of former Cowboys backup Dunbar, re-signed kicker Greg Zuerlein, added a third quarterback in Aaron Murray and addressed their defensive line depth with veteran Tyrunn Walker.
Among the losses were veteran defensive linemen Eugene Sims (released), William Hayes (traded to Miami), veteran running back Benny Cunningham (signed with the Bears) and starting center Tim Barnes, who was released. Veteran safety T.J. McDonald signed a free-agent contract with the Miami Dolphins and wide receivers Kenny Britt and Brian Quick signed with Cleveland and Washington, respectively.
Here is a closer look at where the Rams are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft, at No. 37th overall.
2016 finish: 3rd NFC West (4-12-0)
TOTAL OFFENSE: 262.7 (32nd)
RUSHING: 78.3 (31st)
PASSING: 184.4 (31st)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 337.0 (9th)
RUSHING: 103.8 (16th)
PASSING: 233.3 (10th)
1. Wide receiver: It's a been a well-established problem for the Rams, but they simply haven't been able to uncover a game-changing wide receiver. And while they added veteran Robert Woods in free agency, he isn't the elusive big-time downfield threat they sorely need.
2. Safety: Veteran T.J. McDonald signed as a free agent with the Dolphins, leaving the Rams with only Maurice Alexander as a starting safety. With precious few desirable free-agent possibilities, the Rams figure to address the position in a draft fairly deep at the position.
3. Center: The Rams released veteran center Tim Barnes during the early stage of free agency, and while they chased Buffalo restricted free agent Ryan Groy with a contract offer sheet, the Bills wasted little time matching the offer. The Rams did reach agreement with John Sullivan, but that is, at best, a short-term solution.
KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 6)
CB Trumaine Johnson: FFA; signed tender of $16.74M March 6).
K Greg Zuerlein: UFA; $6.75M/3 yrs , $750 SB/$2.375M guaranteed.
LB Connor Barwin: FA Eagles; 1 yr, terms unknown.
RB Lance Dunbar: UFA Cowboys; $1.5M/1 yr, $1.375M guaranteed.
QB Aaron Murray: FA; terms unknown.
C John Sullivan: UFA Redskins; 1 yr, terms unknown.
DL Tyrunn Walker: UFA Lions; terms unknown.
CB Kayvon Webster: UFA Broncos; $7.75M/2 yrs, $1M RB/$4.25M guaranteed.
T Andrew Whitworth: UFA Bengals; $33.75M/3 yrs, $5M SB/$15M guaranteed.
WR Robert Woods: UFA Bills; $34M/5 yrs, $15M guaranteed, $5M injury only at time of signing.
C Tim Barnes (released).
WR Kenny Britt: UFA Browns; $32.5M/4 yrs, $6.5M SB/$17M guaranteed, $6.5M injury only at time of signing.
RB Benny Cunningham: UFA Bears; $855K/1 yr, $80K SB.
DE William Hayes (traded Dolphins).
QB Case Keenum: UFA Vikings; terms unknown.
TE Lance Kendricks (released).
S T.J. McDonald: UFA Dolphins; terms unknown.
WR Brian Quick: UFA Redskins; UFA Rams; $855K/1 yr, $80 SB.
DE Eugene Sims (released/failed physical).
NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 37 overall)
Curtis Samuel, WR/RB, Ohio State. The Rams will be looking to add playmakers to help young Jared Goff. Pairing Samuel with Tavon Austin would force defenses to counter with lighter, quicker defensive backs, which could re-open running lanes for Todd Gurley. Samuel is a Percy Harvin clone with electric agility and speed.
Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado. A player with versatile experience in the slot and outside, Awuzie provides immediate depth at cornerback for the Rams and a player who can grow into one of the top defensive backs in the NFC West.
Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?
Based on the team's current status, there are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate check out NFLDraftScout.com's full mocks and ratings.
--Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. TSX team insiders contributed to this article.