Rams expected to let T.J. McDonald leave via free agency

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Rams have already replaced their left tackle and primary receiver, and soon they'll replace their strong safety, too.

With cornerback Trumaine Johnson franchised for a second straight year and wide receiver Kenny Britt signing with the Browns, strong safety T.J. McDonald stands as the team's best, most important unrestricted free agent. But the Rams aren't expected to bring McDonald back.

They'll probably fill his position in-house and through the draft.

Maurice Alexander, who spent last year replacing free safety Rodney McLeod after he left for the Eagles, will probably move to strong safety in 2017. Ideally, the Rams would acquire a free safety through the draft, which is considered particularly deep in defensive backs.

McDonald has been the Rams' starting strong safety over the past four years, racking up five sacks, four interceptions and 215 solo tackles while starting 53 of 64 games. McDonald started all 16 games last year and was graded 58th among 89 qualified safeties by Pro Football Focus. The former third-round pick is an unrestricted free agent now, ranked 27th by ESPN. And he will likely price himself out of the Rams' plans.

The Rams signed left tackle Andrew Whitworth to a three-year, $36 million deal and gave wide receiver Robert Woods a five-year contract worth up to $39 million, eating up almost all of their salary cap space.