NFL

Stay or go? Predicting the fate of the Rams’ top 7 pending free agents

The Los Angeles Rams are less than two weeks removed from being crowned champions in Super Bowl LVI. The Rams were able to overcome a four-point deficit in the fourth quarter thanks to a time-consuming, game-winning drive from Matthew Stafford that was capped off by Cooper Kupp’s second touchdown of the night.

After partying for a week, there isn’t much time for the Rams to remain in celebration mode with free agency and the draft right around the corner.

Entering the offseason, Los Angeles has a handful of notable free agents that it’ll need to make decisions on. With restructures and extensions, the Rams can free up cap space to give them more wiggle room to retain some of their pending free agents.

While the Rams take some time to determine their free agency plans, I’ll be doing my best to predict what players could return and which ones could be on their way out this offseason.

Von Miller

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The most notable free agent for the Rams this offseason is Miller. He was acquired via trade from the Denver Broncos earlier this season, and after a slow start in Los Angeles, he showed flashes of his All-Pro form as he recorded nine sacks in the final eight games of the season (including the playoffs).

Miller, who turns 33 next month, logged two sacks in the Super Bowl versus the Bengals to aid the Rams in being crowned champions. During the team’s Super Bowl parade, Miller seemed adamant about running it back with the Rams next season despite being a free agent.

Given his age, Miller this may be his last opportunity to net a lucrative contract — albeit, likely a short one. However, money might not be a major concern for Miller as he could be looking to bolster his resume even more for when his career comes to a close.

Prediction: Miller stays with the Rams on a one-year deal

Odell Beckham Jr.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Aside from Miller, another big name expected to hit free agency is Beckham. He signed with Los Angeles following his release from the Cleveland Browns thanks to Odell Beckham Sr.’s uncanny ability to edit highlight videos.

Throughout the season, Beckham appeared to build a decent rapport with Stafford that carried over into the playoffs. We saw glimpses of Beckham still being a Pro Bowl caliber wide receiver in the postseason as he totaled 21 receptions for 288 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams’ four playoff games.

Sadly, in the Super Bowl against the Bengals, Beckham suffered a torn ACL in his left knee (for the second time in his career). If Beckham didn’t get injured, there’s a chance we’re talking about him being the Super Bowl MVP and not Cooper Kupp. With Beckham expected to rehab with Robert Woods this offseason, I expect him to return to the Rams in 2022.

Prediction: Beckham stays with the Rams on a one-year deal

Darious Williams

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

On the opposite side of the field as Jalen Ramsey, Williams has played a vital role in Los Angeles’ defense in recent years. Williams put together a spectacular year with the Rams in 2020, snagging four interceptions and breaking up 14 passes.

It was a different story for Williams in 2021 as he was inconsistent for a majority of the regular season while he did step up his level of play in the postseason. The former undrafted cornerback did notch a career-best 71 tackles and broke up nine passes this season as he prepares to enter free agency.

Seeing how the Rams have handled the cornerback and safety positions in years past, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see them let Williams walk in free agency. There’s a chance that Los Angeles loses Troy Hill and Williams in back-to-back years, making the cornerback position one they’ll need to address this offseason.

Prediction: Williams signs with another team in free agency

Austin Corbett

(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

The Rams offensive line was a massive question mark entering this past season, especially with the team taking Tutu Atwell instead of Creed Humphrey in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft. Even though Atwell had a minimal role in his rookie season, the offensive line of the Rams was a pleasant surprise.

Alongside Brian Allen and David Edwards, Austin Corbett helped form a stout interior on Los Angeles’ offensive line. Corbett played 99.17% of the Rams’ offensive snaps (second-most on the team behind Edwards) and allowed only three sacks in the regular season.

There were murmurs that Corbett could play the center position in 2021, but McVay elected to go with Allen instead. Given the performance of the offensive line this season, it’s safe to say that McVay made the right choice keeping Corbett at guard.

Prediction: Corbett signs with another team in free agency

Sony Michel

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of the 2021 season, the Rams had a variety of injuries occur in their running back room. Cam Akers sustained a torn Achilles in training camp while Raymond Calais and Xavier Jones both suffered season-ending injuries.

With Los Angeles dealing with a multitude of ailments to their running backs, they elected to acquire Michel in a trade with the New England Patriots. Michel would share the backfield with Darrell Henderson Jr. until Akers was able to make an improbable return to the offense in Week 18.

The former first-round pick of the Patriots would lead the Rams in rushing with 845 yards as he instilled a level of physicality that the other running backs were unable to achieve. Despite Michel’s efforts this season, it’s hard to envision him returning to the Rams with Akers and Henderson likely to share touches next season.

Prediction: Michel signs with another team in free agency

Joseph Noteboom

(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

Not enough can be said about how dominant Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein were for the Rams this season. Whitworth and Havenstein were invaluable for Los Angeles, but when Whitworth was forced to miss time during the regular season, Noteboom did a remarkable job filling in.

Noteboom, who was taken in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft out of TCU, has spent the past few seasons learning behind Whitworth. There aren’t many players that get to spend time behind an All-Pro (potentially Hall of Fame) left tackle like Whitworth.

During the season, Les Snead revealed that there were teams attempting to trade for Noteboom, to which the Rams said no. Seeing that Los Angeles didn’t want to part ways with Noteboom yet, and the chance that Whitworth retires this offseason, I believe Noteboom will be back with the Rams next season.

Prediction: Noteboom stays with the Rams on a three-year deal

Brian Allen

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Last but not least, the most surprising player — at least for me — this season was Allen. He hadn’t shown much promise in his first three seasons in the NFL from 2018 to 2020, but with Austin Blythe departing in free agency last offseason, the Rams placed their confidence in Allen to replace him.

Most fans were clamoring for the Rams to take Humphrey in the 2021 NFL Draft instead of Atwell, which continues to be a heavily discussed topic. Despite the criticism he received from fans (me included), Allen performed well for the majority of the season.

All that matters is that he helped the Rams win the Super Bowl and he kept Stafford upright, for the most part. With the relationship between a center and quarterback being crucial for every team, I’d expect Los Angeles to do what they can to retain Allen for at least another season.

Prediction: Allen stays with the Rams on a two-year deal

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