Rams set at skill positions, but offensive line faces uncertainty

Expect change on the offensive line, especially on the left side where Rodger Saffold (76) is a pending free agent and Andrew Whitworth (77) mulls retirement. Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Rams featured one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL last season, as quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley propelled the organization to an average of 32.9 points per game, a second consecutive division title and a Super Bowl appearance for the first time since the 2001 season.

Over the offseason, several positions on defense -- including linebacker, defensive tackle and safety -- must be addressed. But on offense, minimal change is expected among the 11 starting spots.

Each skilled starter remains under contract, and the only position group that could experience significant change is the offensive line.

The line played a significant role in allowing Goff to pass for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions, while being sacked only 33 times. The group helped spring Gurley to 1,251 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns.

The NFL salary cap is expected to increase about 6 percent, from $177.2 million in 2018 to between $187-191 million in 2019, according to the NFL.

The Rams will have $33 million in salary-cap space in 2019, according to ESPN Stats & Information estimates.

Here's a look at questions facing each position group on offense:

Offensive line

The offensive line has been among the most consistent in the NFL the past two seasons.

In 2017, the Rams started the same five linemen -- left tackle Andrew Whitworth, left guard Rodger Saffold, center John Sullivan, right guard Jamon Brown and right tackle Rob Havenstein -- for 15 consecutive games before coach Sean McVay elected to rest starters in the regular-season finale.

Last season, Austin Blythe supplanted Brown as the starter at right guard, and the Rams became the only team in the league to start the same five linemen throughout the regular season. The same five also started three playoff games.

But change is expected.

Saffold, whom the Rams' selected in the second round of the 2010 draft, is a pending unrestricted free agent. The nine-year veteran has expressed a desire to remain with the organization, but also said he must ensure that a fair deal is struck. It is expected that Saffold will be offered a richer deal elsewhere.

With one year remaining on his three-year contract, Whitworth, 37, is mulling retirement. If Whitworth chooses retirement, the Rams could save as much as $11.5 million in cap space, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

"That's something where he's certainly earned the right to be able to make that decision," Rams coach Sean McVay said of Whitworth. "He was playing pretty good football still."

Said Goff of Saffold and Whitworth: "I would love to have them both back. They're both tremendous players. Guys that have been huge for us up front, leadership every day in meetings, everything, they've been so big for us."

And the Rams must decide whether to exercise an option on Sullivan's contract. A 10-year veteran, Sullivan's option is worth $5.5 million against the cap, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Rookie tackle Joe Noteboom and center Brian Allen received plenty of reps with the starters throughout practices last season due to the rest schedules of Whitworth and Sullivan. Noteboom also was inserted as needed at guard and tackle throughout the season. Both players are considered viable options to promote to starter.

The right side of the line is expected to remain intact after Havenstein signed a four-year extension worth $32.5 million in August. Blythe has one year remaining on his rookie deal.


The Rams are expected to exercise the fifth-year option on Goff's rookie contract, and the two sides are now eligible to engage in long-term extension negotiations for the two-time Pro Bowl selection.

Backup Sean Mannion, a third-round pick in 2015, is a pending unrestricted free agent. Mannion struggled to command the offense throughout the preseason. In three seasons, he has completed 33 of 53 passes for 258 yards, with an interception.

Running back

The playoff conundrum aside, Gurley undoubtedly remains the franchise running back after he signed a four-year extension worth $60 million, with $45 million guaranteed, in July.

But it remains uncertain who will occupy the No. 2 spot.

C.J. Anderson, whom the Rams signed on Dec. 18 after a series of injuries in the position group, is set to return to free agency and is likely to attract attention after he rushed for a combined 299 yards and two touchdowns in the final two games of the regular season, then added 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a divisional-round win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Malcolm Brown, Gurley's trusted backup the past three seasons, is on the mend after he suffered a season-ending clavicle injury in Week 13 and is a restricted free agent.

Justin Davis and John Kelly also remain under contract.

Tight end

Tyler Higbee, who caught 24 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns, is set to enter the fourth and final season of his rookie contract.

Gerald Everett was slow to integrate into the offense after he was sidelined and slowed throughout the preseason because of a shoulder injury, but the former second-round pick is expected to play a more significant role in 2019.


The receiving corps is in solid shape looking ahead to 2019, with each of their four top producers under contract.

The Rams return Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, who had 1,219 and 1,204 receiving yards last season, respectively.

Cooper Kupp continues on social media to chronicle his rehab process after undergoing season-ending knee surgery after Week 10. And Josh Reynolds proved himself as a reliable option after he took over for Kupp.