Rams Score Signing Free Agents
March 21, 2019
Free agency is becoming an integral asset for the Los Angeles Rams the past two seasons. Last year the team restructured its defense with a bonanza of off-season acquisitions. 2019 is showing signs of similar upgrades addressing defensive roster needs. On Monday, March 19, the Rams agreed to terms with 10-year veteran linebacker Clay Matthews on a two-year deal.
Matthews, six-time NFL Pro Bowler and native of Southern California who played football at Agoura High, spent the last 10 seasons with the Green Bay Packers. The former USC Trojan was the 2010 Pro Football Writers of America's Defensive Player of the Year. Having recorded a career-low 3.5 sacks last season, the Rams are banking that Matthews, who turns 33 in May, has more left in the tank.
The Rams also signed former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles to a one-year contract. Bortles will replace backup free-agent quarterback Sean Mannion, who spent the last four seasons with the Rams, including 2015 while they were still in St. Louis. Mannion played 10 games for the Rams, completed 62.3% of his passes for 258 total yards. He has yet to throw an NFL touchdown and had one pass intercepted in 2016.
Bortles, brought in to be starting quarterback Jared Goff's backup, was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The 26-year old made the greatest impact at Jacksonville with his legs. He's has the third most rushing yards of all NFL quarterbacks since 2014. Yet his mobility hasn't prevented him from being sacked 195 times since then, the third worst total in the league.
The greatest impact so far in the Rams 2019 free agency was the signing of much sought-after free safety Eric Weddle. He agreed to a two-year $10.5 million deal after Rams general manager Les Snead got Weddle to meet with the team before embarking on a tour to talk with other interested teams. Weddle and Rams head coach Sean McVay hit it off well, sealing the deal while leaving the other teams without a shot.
Weddle was brought in to replace free agent Lamarcus Joyner, who signed a 4-year $42 million deal with the Oakland Raiders. With Weddle, the Rams get a 12-year NFL veteran, 6-time All-Pro who brings talent and leadership on and off the field. He spent the last three seasons in the Baltimore Ravens defensive backfield after playing nine years with the San Diego chargers.
Last week the Rams agreed to a one-year deal with free agent outside linebacker Dante Fowler. Fowler, acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars last October, played eight games for the Rams and started six. He played well for the Rams late in the season and registered 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hits and four tackles for loss during the playoffs.
The latest signings continue the team's efforts to win now, risks and all. Matthews played all 18 games for the Packers last season but nagging injuries from the previous two seasons took their toll. He missed four games in 2016 due to ankle, shoulder and hamstring injuries. In 2017 he missed two games due to injuries. In 2018 Matthews was among the league's lowest in edge rushing stats and equally suffered in the tackling department.
The Rams have lost three unrestricted free agents to date from last season's roster. Besides Joyner signing with the Raiders, 9-year Ram veteran Rodger Saffold signed a 4-year $44 million contract with the Tennessee Titans, with $22.5 million guaranteed. Linebacker Mark Barron just signed a two-year $12 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Rams also didn't exercise their 2019 option on 10-year veteran center John Sullivan.