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FFL: Offseason | NFL: Offseason

Rams thin on playoff experience, hungry for Super Bowl run

Thu Jan 17 8:39pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer

Players: Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, Jared Goff

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh addresses the media during an NFL football press conference Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The Rams face the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship on Sunday. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)


THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Ndamukong Suh earned multiple All-Pro honors, Pro Bowl selections and tens of millions of dollars during his first eight NFL seasons.

The imposing defensive lineman had never won a playoff game, let alone a Super Bowl. When he was free to choose his next team after the Dolphins released him last March, Suh decided he would try to fill that gap in his resume.

After speaking at length with the New Orleans Saints and other suitors, he decided to join the Los Angeles Rams . They hadn't won a playoff game since the 2004 season, but they appeared to be on the verge of something big after going 11-5 last season.

''I felt this team had some of the right pieces, and I would be a good addition to it,'' Suh said. ''A lot of conversations that we had with the coaching staff and the front office on my visit were (about) playing well in the season and being prepared for the postseason.''

Nearly 10 months later, the payoff has arrived for Suh's leap of faith to Los Angeles.

After the Rams went 13-3 for the best regular-season record of Suh's career, he had likely his best game for his new team last weekend when Los Angeles beat the Dallas Cowboys 30-22 in the divisional round. The Rams head into the NFC championship game at the Superdome on Sunday with a shot at the 32-year-old Suh's first trip to his sport's biggest stage.

''It would mean a lot,'' Suh said. ''I've been in this league for nine years. (This is) my first NFC championship (game), and that would be my first Super Bowl. I get chills thinking about it, so I'm excited. I'm looking forward to it.''

Suh's thoughts are echoed across the Rams' locker room, which is filled with accomplished NFL players who have never accomplished much in the postseason.

Many key players remain from the team that went 4-12 in 2016 during the franchise's 13th straight non-winning season, from Jared Goff and Todd Gurley to Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers.

Several of the veterans that Los Angeles has added in the past two years also lacked playoff credentials - including 37-year-old Andrew Whitworth, the dominant left tackle who finally got his first postseason win last weekend.

''Honestly, we feel like we've been through it,'' Whitworth said. ''There's really not much adversity we haven't seen all year long. I think we kind of feel like we were born for this moment and this opportunity.''

Indeed, the Rams likely don't have the collective playoff experience of their fellow conference finalists, but they have a firm bond forged during a season of upheaval.

They had to stick together in November when the suburban area around their training complex was rocked by the double impact of a mass shooting at a bar and two wildfires that forced several players and coaches to leave their homes as a precaution. The Rams also had to adjust to a schedule change when their game against the Chiefs in Mexico City was moved back to Los Angeles on six days' notice.

None of it has shaken the team led by coach Sean McVay, who became the youngest coach in NFL history to win a playoff game last weekend.

McVay acknowledges no concern about his inexperience on the sport's highest levels when compared to the likes of New Orleans' Sean Payton, who has a Super Bowl ring.

That's because McVay has assistant coaches with experience in conference championships and Super Bowls - particularly defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who has done and seen everything the NFL can offer.

While a conference title game in the deafening Superdome is a new experience for most Rams, Brandin Cooks is an exception on several fronts. The veteran receiver won't even be surprised by the Superdome din.

Cooks played three years with the Saints - albeit without making the playoffs - before moving to the Patriots last season. He played in the first quarter of the Super Bowl before incurring a concussion that kept him out of the rest of New England's loss to Philadelphia.

Cooks was traded to the Rams, but he agreed to a five-year contract extension before he had even suited up in a horned helmet. He says he hasn't regretted his decision, although he didn't dare to imagine he would have a chance to play in two straight Super Bowls for different teams.

''When I got here, I knew we had something special,'' Cooks said. ''But (I knew I shouldn't) get ahead of myself. Take it one game at a time, just build throughout the weeks, and if we have the opportunity, then we're blessed. Don't think about it too much, is what I should say.''

NOTES: WR Robert Woods also got his first career playoff win last week. The six-year veteran admits that last years' experience in the Rams' postseason loss to Atlanta helped them. ''Just learning from that experience, our win last week was about situational football. Just executing, and protecting the ball.'' ... For the second straight day, the Rams had no players on their injury report. Although they've lost key receiver Cooper Kupp for the season, the Rams have been otherwise remarkably healthy this season. ... The torrential rains that have hit Los Angeles over the past three days abated by midday Thursday, allowing the Rams to practice on their normal outdoor fields. The team erected an enormous temporary tent on the parking lot next to their training complex if they needed it, but so far it hasn't been necessary to go indoors.

Player Notes
Benjamin Watson Feb 22 8:20pm ET

New Orleans Saints tight end Josh Hill is expected to be the team's starting tight end in 2019, according to The New Orleans Times-Picayune's Josh Katzenstein. Veteran Benjamin Watson has retired, so Hill will have more opportunity next season. He caught just 16 passes (24 targets) for 185 yards and a touchdown in a full season in 2018, though, and he has 11 touchdowns in six years in New Orleans. Dan Arnold could factor in as well, so Hill is unlikely to suddenly become fantasy relevant.

From RotoBaller

Cody Parkey Feb 22 8:20pm ET

The Chicago Bears released kicker Cody Parkey before the start of the new league year on Friday, according to sources. The Pro Bowler is still due $3.5 million on his 2019 contract, and he's unlikely to be out of work for long. The 27-year-old made just 23 of 30 field-goal tries (76.7 percent) and 42 of his 45 extra points in 2018 in his one and only season in Chicago. He was ultimately done in by a huge miss in the wild-card game against the Eagles that cost the team a chance to move on in the playoffs.

From RotoBaller

Jake Elliott Feb 22 4:40pm ET

The Philadelphia Eagles re-signed kicker Jake Elliott to an undisclosed one-year deal on Friday. Elliott made 26 of his 31 field-goal attempts (83.9 percent) and 33 of his 35 extra-point tries in 2018. He has made 83.9 percent of his kicks in his two seasons in the NFL and will remain a low-end fantasy kicker heading into his third season.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Brown Feb 22 2:00pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said that three teams have already reached out on a potential Antonio Brown trade. The identity of the teams is unknown, but Colbert is adamant that the Steelers won't just give Brown away. The two sides met last week and agreed that a trade was the best course of action moving forward. While Brown's attitude may turn some teams off, he'll have plenty of suitors after exceeding 1,000 yards and 100 catches in six straight years. He'll remain a WR1 heading into next season, but he may come with more risk depending on where he winds up.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Eifert Feb 22 12:40pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals impending free-agent tight end Tyler Eifert suffered an ugly ankle injury last September that required season-ending surgery. The 28-year-old former first-round pick in 2013 posted a video on Twitter on Thursday that showed him doing ladder drills. Because of his extensive injury history -- Eifert has played in a total of 14 games the last three seasons -- fantasy owners are unlikely to touch him in standard-sized leagues. It'll be interesting to see where he lands in free agency, but he'll have to prove he can stay on the field and be productive before he becomes an option for fantasy owners again.

From RotoBaller

Le'Veon Bell Feb 21 10:40pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers impending free-agent running back Le'Veon Bell's trainer responded to "ridiculous" speculation about Bell's shape by pointing out that he is feeling better in February than guys who played in 2018. "Hes going to be the same Le'Veon Bell only better, quicker and faster," Bell's trainer said. Bell sat out all of the 2018 season while refusing to sign his franchise tender, but some teams might still be wary of that fact that he's already run the ball 1,229 times in five seasons in the league. Bell is still young, though, and he's one of the most versatile running backs in the game. He should remain firmly in the high-end RB1 picture no matter where he signs.

From RotoBaller

Ben Roethlisberger Feb 21 2:10pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said he supports quarterback Ben Roethlisberger 100 percent as the team's unquestioned leader amid criticism from disgruntled receiver Antonio Brown. "I have no problem with him. He can call me out and thats fine. What he does I totally respect because Ive seen him too many times win games for us and come through in situations," Colbert said. Owner Art Rooney also said last month that they plan to sign Big Ben, 37, to a contract extension. Roethlisberger led the NFL in yards (5,129) and had a career-high 34 touchdowns, so he wasn't as washed up as most fantasy owners thought before the season. He'll still be in play as a QB1 next season, but losing Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown -- two of the best playmakers in football -- will surely hurt his overall ceiling.

From RotoBaller

Carlos Hyde Feb 21 1:10pm ET

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From RotoBaller

Antonio Callaway Feb 21 1:00pm ET

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From RotoBaller

LeGarrette Blount Feb 20 10:30pm ET

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From RotoBaller

Thurston Armbrister Feb 20 5:23pm ET

Arizona Cardinals LB Thurston Armbrister was waived Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Hayden Hurst Feb 20 5:20pm ET

Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst (foot), who was the 25th overall pick in last year's draft, said an X-ray showed he is now 100 percent after he had a screw removed from his foot. Hurst went down with a stress fracture in August and played in 12 games in his rookie season, catching only 13 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams will be free agents, so Hurst and 2018 third-round pick Mark Andrews could compete for playing time in 2019. Hurst is only 25 and has pass-catching upside, but he's still probably only an asset in dynasty/keeper leagues to begin next season. He could become a waiver wire pickup if he sees considerable playing time and proves he's healthy.

From RotoBaller

Le'Veon Bell Feb 20 5:00pm ET

There is word on the street that Pittsburgh Steelers impending free-agent running back Le'Veon Bell is up to around 260 pounds after holding out for all of 2018. His playing weight is listed as 225 pounds. Bell may have lost a lot of that extra baggage now, but the Jets and other teams may be concerned about what kind of shape he's in. There's also concern about how much the 27-year-old has left in the tank after his 1,635 touches in five seasons. Bell is believed to be looking for a deal that nets him $48 million in the first three years of his next deal. He is arguably the best dual-threat running back in the last decade and should still be an RB1 in his new home.

From RotoBaller

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Fantasy Spin: Running back will be even more of a need if Isaiah Crowell is not retained. Bell would make a nice fit in green and white but is an RB1 candidate wherever he lands, assuming the weight won't be a big issue.

David Mayo Feb 20 3:33pm ET

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Landon Collins Feb 20 3:23pm ET

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Dion Sims Feb 20 3:10pm ET

The Chicago Bears are expected to release tight end Dion Sims, according to a source. He was due $6 million in 2019, so he'll become a salary cap casualty. The 28-year-old played in just 22 games in his two years in Chicago and caught only 17 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown over that span. Sims is mainly a blocking tight end and won't have a huge market for his services this offseason.

From RotoBaller

Dion Sims Feb 20 2:43pm ET

Chicago Bears impending free-agent TE Dion Sims is expected to be released, according to a source. Cutting Sims saves the Bears $6 million in salary cap space.

Landon Collins Feb 20 2:23pm ET

New York Giants impending free-agent SS Landon Collins cleared out his locker and said goodbye to teammates Wednesday, Feb. 20, indicating he does not expect to return to the Giants this year.

Jaelen Strong Feb 20 2:13pm ET

Free-agent WR Jaelen Strong (Jaguars) was signed to an undisclosed deal by the Cleveland Browns Wednesday, Feb. 20.