But roster changes aren’t cause for concern for quarterback Jared Goff, and he doesn’t think fans should be worried about the changes, either.
“Just relax,” Goff said on Wednesday. “It’s going to be just fine.”
The Rams are looking to rebound from a 9-7 season that kept them from earning a playoff berth. Along with Gurley and Cooks, the Rams also lost several key players on defense, including outside linebacker Dante Fowler and linebacker Cory Littleton to free agency, and they released outside linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman in an effort to save salary-cap space.
Goff said he has spoken several times to Gurley since his release last month, and the fifth-year quarterback expressed some surprise that his career would move forward without Gurley and Cooks, despite the three players signing contract extensions within a 14-month span.
“Those guys were such an integral part of our team and it’s tough to move without them,” Goff said. “But like I said, it’s part of the business. Stuff like this happens all the time.”
According to Goff, second-year running back Darrell Henderson and longtime backup Malcolm Brown will replace Gurley. Fourth-year receiver Josh Reynolds will take over for Cooks. Henderson last season rushed for 147 yards on 39 carries, and Reynolds caught 21 passes for 326 yards and a touchdown.
Goff expects the offense will appear different without Gurley and Cooks, but how much they will need to adapt remains to be seen.
“I would expect some of the stuff that was tailored to Brandin and Todd to be not there anymore,” Goff said. “That’s the easiest way to say it. There was a lot of runs that Todd really liked and a lot of stuff that we did to get Todd the ball in certain ways.”
Gurley’s numbers dipped last season, but over the past five years, he has accumulated the most touches in the NFL (1,483). Cooks also experienced a drop in production last season and was sidelined for two games because of reoccurring concussions, but his speed remained a critical component of the offense with is ability to stretch the field.
The Rams’ decision to move on from Gurley and Cooks leaves them in a challenging salary-cap situation. The dead money between the two players amounts to nearly $30 million in 2020.
According to ESPN Roster Management, the Rams are over the salary cap by more than $5 million. Goff said a restructuring of his four-year, $134 million extension remains among options for cap relief.
“There’s been some stuff about like being able to clear some cap space, and if so, I’m all for it — I don’t see why not,” Goff said. “It doesn’t change anything for me and it helps the team out.”
While Goff remains confident about the Rams’ ability to evolve without several key players, including the departures on defense, he seemed less certain about the team’s debut inside its new home at SoFi Stadium. The stadium remains on pace to open for the 2020 season. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s uncertain whether the NFL will play the season or if fans will be allowed in attendance.
“Not ideal, not what you want to do,” Goff said, when asked about the potential of opening a new stadium with no fans. “I do understand that there are a lot of bigger implications in place right now as far as health of the world, but I know that’s not the vision that we had moving to L.A. …
“If that is what it is, then we have to roll with it. I don’t think it’s anything we want to do.”