NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2021 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year began March 17, which means free-agent signings could be made official after that. The first round of the 2021 NFL draft begins April 29 on ESPN.
The Rams enter free agency with limited resources due to a reduced salary cap and they’ve already made difficult decisions regarding their own pending free agents.
“We are well aware that we've had to have some calls with a subset of our unrestricted free agents and restricted free agents and let them know our intent, whether we were going to be attempting to resign them or assuming they're going to have a better market than what we would be able to pay,” general manager Les Snead said.
With pass rusher Leonard Floyd, safety John Johnson and center Austin Blythe entering free agency, watch for the Rams to seek reinforcements at those positions while also looking for a deep-threat receiver for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Leonard Floyd, linebacker
The Rams re-signed Floyd to a four-year, $64 million deal after he had 10.5 sacks in 2020.
What it means: Before the end of the 2020 season, coach Sean McVay made it clear that Floyd was a defensive standout who the Rams wanted to retain in free agency. Playing on a one-year, prove-it deal last season, Floyd put together a career-best effort with 10.5 sacks. He also had a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. His return to the Rams not only ensures a veteran presence on the edge, but helps enable production on the interior for three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.
What's the risk: Floyd performed inconsistently in four seasons with the Chicago Bears before the Rams signed him in free agency last season. Floyd's move to L.A. reunited him with Brandon Staley, who served as his position coach for two seasons in Chicago. However, after producing the NFL's top-ranked defense in 2020, Staley -- who brought out the best in Floyd -- has moved on and there could be some concern about Floyd's future production without him. However, the Rams are expected to keep Staley's scheme intact with some minor tweaks, which should allow Floyd to continue to thrive.
DeSean Jackson, wide receiver
Jackson agreed to terms on a one-year deal.
What it means: The Rams have been in search of a deep-threat receiver since being unable to sufficiently stretch the field in 2020 following Brandin Cooks' trade to the Houston Texans. The 34-year-old Jackson has recorded the most 60-plus yard touchdowns (24) in NFL history and ranks sixth all-time in yards per reception (17.4). Jackson is expected to be a speedy weapon for quarterback Matthew Stafford and is familiar with coach Sean McVay, who served as his offensive coordinator for three seasons with the Washington Football Team.
What's the risk: Jackson is 34 years old, likely in the final stretch of his NFL career, and spent the past two seasons in Philadelphia slowed by injuries. In 2019, he scored two touchdowns longer than 50 yards in the season opener, but played in only three games because of a core muscle injury. Last season, Jackson missed 11 games because of an ankle injury. He must prove in 2021 that he can remain healthy and available.
Johnny Mundt, tight end
What it means:Mundt's return provides stability and depth at tight end. Tyler Higbee returns as starter and it's anticipated that Brycen Hopkins, a fourth-round pick in 2020, will see an increased role with Gerald Everett's departure in free agency. But Mundt's knowledge of the playbook and blocking ability will enable him to contribute. Mundt played in 16 games last season and caught four passes for 53 yards.
What's the risk:This is a no-risk move for the Rams given it's a one-year deal and Mundt's proven ability to provide depth.