The Rams Wire
One month into free agency and the new league year, the Los Angeles Rams still have a need at cornerback – or more generally, in the secondary. They’ll certainly add help in the draft, but the Rams also have an opportunity to fill the void left by Darious Williams ahead of time.
There are two really good defensive backs still available in free agency: Tyrann Mathieu and Stephon Gilmore.
It’s unclear if the Rams have any interest in either player, but given the team’s willingness to add top-tier talent in free agency (see: Bobby Wagner, Allen Robinson), neither Mathieu nor Gilmore should be ruled out as targets for Los Angeles.
In fact, Dan Graziano of ESPN said on SportsCenter this weekend that he’s been told “to watch the Los Angeles Rams” when it comes to Mathieu’s suitors, and “there’s some mutual interest there.” If the Rams feel they can afford Mathieu, they should have the funds to add Gilmore, too.
While both players would help the secondary in a big way, they play very different positions. Mathieu will be listed as a safety by most outlets but he’s much more than that. He’s a true hybrid defender capable of playing safety, cornerback, slot corner or even linebacker. According to Pro Football Focus, this was his breakdown of snaps by position last season
Outside CB: 23
Free safety: 308
He’s a truly positionless defender, which is just what the Rams could use right now.
Gilmore doesn’t have nearly the same position flexibility, but he’s one of the better cornerbacks in football. Of his 320 snaps last season, he played 255 of them outside, lining up in the slot just 38 times. He only allowed 15 catches on 22 targets with two picks and two touchdowns allowed, showing he’s still more than capable of locking down receivers one-on-one.
Assuming the Rams could afford one of the two, players, which one would help them more: Mathieu or Gilmore?
Mathieu would pair nicely with Jordan Fuller at safety, taking pressure off of Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott to be starters. Rapp and Scott could still carve out roles for themselves, but Mathieu would be an upgrade over both of them and he would give the Rams options in nickel and dime packages, potentially getting Fuller, Mathieu and Scott all on the field together in third-down situations.
Mathieu is a natural slot defender and does some of his best work around the line of scrimmage, similar to the way Jalen Ramsey does when he’s playing in the slot. With Mathieu taking over most of the slot duties, it would allow Ramsey to cover the opposing team’s best receiver, particularly on third down and in the red zone.
On the other hand, cornerback is a bigger weakness than safety, so Gilmore would be a big boost. A tandem of Gilmore and Ramsey would make life incredibly difficult for quarterbacks facing the Rams secondary, preventing them from targeting anyone who’s not covered by Ramsey.
Gilmore would not only replace Darious Williams, but he would be an upgrade and make the Rams secondary even better than it was last year. With Gilmore in tow, the starters would be Ramsey and Gilmore at cornerback, David Long Jr. in the slot, Fuller and likely Rapp at safety, with Scott being the dime defender.
That’s not a bad defensive backfield. Not bad at all.
There have been no indications of the Rams being interested in Gilmore, and the rumors about Mathieu haven’t exactly been strong, either. But if Los Angeles wants to address one of its biggest needs before the draft, there are two great options in free agency.