Rams offseason questions: Will defense undergo another shift?

The Rams reached the Super Bowl in just their third year back in Los Angeles, though the season ended in disappointing fashion with a 13-3 loss to the Patriots. As they look to make these types of runs into February a habit, what are their pressing questions as the offseason begins?

1. Is it time to back up the Brink’s truck for Sean McVay?

The 33-year-old has three years left on the five-year deal he signed when the Rams made their gamble on the youngest head coach in modern NFL history in Jan. 2017. But McVay has transformed the franchise on and off the field in a little more than 24 months, putting them in position to compete not just with the Chargers, but also the Lakers and Dodgers in the sprawling Los Angeles market. If McVay’s mentor, Jon Gruden, is worth $100 million over 10 years to the Raiders, certainly Rams owner Stan Kroenke would be smart to lock up his most important asset for a long time.

2. Is there any way to keep the offensive line together?

Besides McVay’s turnaround of Jared Goff, perhaps the biggest factor in the Rams' rise over the past two seasons has been the fortification of the offensive line. When the quintet won the NFL’s offensive line of the year award at NFL Honors on Saturday, the group completed a rise that began when Pro Football Focus rated it No. 31 in the league entering the 2016 season. A year later, it was transformed by the free agent signings of tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan and the hiring of Aaron Kromer as line coach. But Whitworth, 37, and Sullivan, 33, could retire in the offseason, and guard Rodger Saffold, one of the team’s longest-tenured players, is an unrestricted free agent. The team prepared for this moment by drafting tackle Joe Noteboom in the third round, center Brian Allen in the fourth round and guard Jamil Demby in the sixth round last April, but that much turnover up front could mean for some turbulence this fall.  

3. Is the secondary set for a reshuffle?

The Rams have former all-pro cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters under contract for the 2019 season at a combined $17.1 million, according to overthecap.com. But both could be potential cap casualties, if needed. Talib was excellent when he was healthy, not allowing a single touchdown in coverage during the regular season, but he was only able to play eight games. Peters, acquired from Kansas City to be a playmaker on the back end, largely struggled in 2018, especially when Talib was sidelined. Playing on a franchise tag, free safety Lamarcus Joyner saw his performance dip, especially in the postseason. So there is a scenario in which strong safety John Johnson and slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman are the lone returners. Reserves Blake Countess, Troy Hill and Kevin Peterson, all restricted free agents, could be cheap candidates to compete for starting roles.

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