L.A. Rams position outlook 2021: Offensive line

Austin Blythe served as anchor of O-line and could return in free agency
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Last season the offensive line of the Rams had a bounce-back year in performance and production on the field. For the most part, the Rams stayed healthy up front, playing four different offensive line combinations throughout the regular season and playoffs. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth had one of his best seasons as a pro before a torn MCL in his left knee derailed his season. And center Austin Blythe emerged as the anchor of the offensive line in his second season as a starter for the Rams.

Locks: Andrew Whitworth, Austin Corbett, David Edwards, Joe Noteboom, Bobby Evans, Tremayne Anchrum Jr.
On the bubble: Rob Havenstein, Brian Allen, Jamil Demby, Chandler Brewer
Free agents: Austin Blythe, Coleman Shelton

The good: The offensive line led a Rams’ ground attack that averaged 126 rushing yards a contest (No. 10 in NFL). The Rams also finished with 19 rushing touchdowns, tied for 10th in the NFL. Los Angeles averaged five yards per carry on first down runs according to Next Gen Stats, tied for third in the league. The Rams allowed just 25 sacks last season, tied for sixth best in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Whitworth did not allow a sack and just six pressures on 340 pass block snaps last year. Joe Noteboom was respectable in replacing Whitworth at left tackle during the second half of the season, which bodes well for the future.

The bad: The Rams averaged just 4.27 yards per carry, No. 17 in the NFL. Whitworth turns 40 in December and Havenstein will be 29 years old in May, so the Rams could look to add a offensive tackle developmental prospect -- although Havenstein had a bounce-back season at right tackle. Edwards had a strong year, earning the full-time role at left guard but missed the NFC divisional playoff game against Green Bay with an ankle injury. The Rams mutually parted ways with longtime offensive line coach and run game coordinator Aaron Kromer. Rams head coach Sean McVay credited Kromer with the resurgence of this year’s offensive line. It will be interesting to see the changes new Rams offensive line coach Kevin Carberry makes.

The money: Whitworth is set to make $7 million in base salary for the 2021 season and says he plans to play. Havenstein will make $6.75 million if he’s on the roster next season. With L.A.’s cap situation, they could consider restructuring deal for both players to create more cap space. Corbett is scheduled to make $1,505,235 in 2021. Noteboom ($920,000), Allen ($920,000), Evans ($850,000), Edwards ($850,000), Anchrum ($780,000), Demby ($850,000) and Brewer ($780,000) would all earn less than a million in base salary if they make the active roster next season. Brewer opted out of the 2020 year because of his health history with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Shelton is an exclusive rights free agent and likely will be back.

Draft priority: Blythe showed growth in his second year as the team’s starter and McVay seems bullish in his possible return in free agency if the Rams can make it work financially. “Looking at what (C) John Sullivan was able to establish his first couple years, then seeing Austin start to play in the latter half of 2019 and watching where he took it and ran with it last season was really impressive,” McVay said. “He did a great job and he’s definitely somebody that we appreciate, we value.” If the Rams don’t bring Blythe back, they could consider someone like center Quinn Meinerz as a mid-round selection in the draft. The small-school prospect performed well against the big boys at the Senior Bowl, and can play both guard spots, along with center. The Rams could also look to take a developmental tackle prospect in the draft. Bottom line is the Rams have solid depth and all-around talent at offensive line but could add a few developmental players either through the draft or free agency.