Earlier this week, Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers suffered a season-ending Achilles injury while training. With the team’s 2020 second-round pick out of the picture for 2021, Los Angeles is expected to turn to its second-leading rusher last season, Darrell Henderson, who produced 624 rushing yards and five touchdowns in 2020.
While Henderson is “clearly capable of doing everything an every-down back needs to do,” per Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus, none of the other backs on L.A.’s roster have taken an NFL snap. Jake Funk (Maryland) is a rookie seventh-round pick and Raymond Calais is a former seventh-rounder plucked from Tampa Bay’s practice squad. The Rams also have 2020 undrafted free agent Xavier Jones and undrafted rookie Otis Anderson (Central Florida), the latter of whom signed last month.
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Sean McVay: Rams in Wait-and-See Mode
As one might expect, Los Angeles wants to take a closer look at the backs on its roster before seriously considering a trade or making a veteran free agent addition. Rams head coach Sean McVay has already indicated as much.
But if McVay decides he’s best-served by adding a back with NFL experience, “Benny Snell Jr. would be the biggest trade option for the Rams,” offers Jahnke, noting that “Snell has earned the 14th-best [PFF] rushing grade on outside zone and man runs over the past three seasons at 79.0.” He’s also been mentioned as the possible odd man out in Pittsburgh now that the Steelers have a definitive RB1 in rookie first-round pick Najee Harris.
Steelers in Wait-and-See Mode Too
For the moment at least, Snell isn’t going anywhere. But if training camp and preseason games reveal that the Steelers have better backup running back options in, say, second-year man Anthony McFarland Jr. and free agent acquisition Kalen Ballage, it would not be at all surprising if Mike Tomlin & Co. tried to move him for a mid- to late-round draft pick. That would clear his $850,000 salary off the books and result in just a $175,517 dead money charge on the team’s 2021 salary cap, the same charge that would be incurred if he is released.
Anyway, it’s not like McVay has particularly attractive options on the free agent market. The top selling point for Todd Gurley is that he played for the Rams from 2015-19 “and knows the offense,” as Jahnke puts it. But Gurley has been dogged by concerns about his supposedly arthritic knee for several years now.
Meanwhile, former Steelers, Jets and Chiefs running back “Le’Veon Bell is the other big-name running back available, but he’s not as good of a scheme fit,” says Jahnke.
All things considered, an August trade between the Rams and Steelers appears a realistic possibility, especially if other backs move to the forefront in Pittsburgh and L.A.’s young RB’s fail to distinguish themselves during preseason.
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