EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The free-agent market is scheduled to open March 9 and teams may begin negotiations with those poised to hit the market beginning Monday. We'll count down to that with a position-by-position look at what the Los Angeles Rams have in place, who is set to hit the market, what they might need and who might fit the bill.
Position: Offensive line
Pending free agents: Tim Barnes
What's needed: The Rams devoted the bulk of their resources last offseason to rebuilding and stocking their offensive line. The end result was an NFL draft in which they selected four linemen -- Havenstein, Brown, Wichmann and Donnal -- and then used another selection in the supplemental draft to grab Battle. Add that group to Robinson, who was the No. 2 overall pick in 2014, and you have the makings of a unit the Rams hope will learn and grow together in the league. It also means that the Rams don't have a lot of pressing needs on the offensive line this offseason. They are still committed to Robinson at left tackle in hopes he'll take a step forward in 2016, and they intend to keep Saffold around because his cap number isn't too cumbersome and he can provide insurance behind Robinson at left tackle -- if, of course, Saffold can finally stay healthy. Reynolds proved a valuable piece and has another year left on his deal while Havenstein was solid as a rookie. Brown is coming off injury but should plug back in at one guard spot, while Wichmann and Donnal got valuable playing time as rookies. The only question mark here is at center. Rams general manager Les Snead said last week the team would like to bring Barnes back and keep some level of continuity. An upgrade in the middle wouldn't be a bad idea, but it doesn't seem like a spot the Rams are looking to spend big money to make that happen. Rhaney is entering his third season and could push for that job again, or the Rams could even look at someone like Wichmann to make the transition to the pivot if Barnes doesn't return.
Possible fits: Even if the Rams did decide to go out and throw some money around on an offensive lineman, there aren't a whole lot of worthy options. Cleveland's Alex Mack is available, but he will be expensive and at age 30 with an injury history, he doesn't exactly fit the model of what the Rams have done in free agency the past two years. He'd be an upgrade, but it's hard to see them being willing to pay the freight to make it happen, especially at the expense of one or two of their key defensive free agents. Also at center, Jacksonville's Stefen Wisniewski is on the market again, and the Rams had at least mild interest in him a year ago. Otherwise, there simply aren't many appealing options that would make more sense for the Rams than Barnes -- which is why he's probably the best bet from a cost and fit perspective, with the possibility that the Rams could add more competition there through the draft.