The Rams’ long-term plan is to find out if Jared Goff is good

The Los Angeles Rams aren’t likely to be a Super Bowl contender in 2017, but the team could be a legitimate threat quickly if Jared Goff plays like a No. 1 overall draft pick.

That’s why the Rams have made an effort to provide him with as many tools as possible. That continued Friday when the Rams traded away cornerback E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick to acquire wide receiver Sammy Watkins and a sixth-round pick.

Watkins joins a roster that also includes another former Bills receiver, Robert Woods, who was signed in free agency. The Rams also drafted tight end Gerald Everett with its first selection and the team selected receivers Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds with two of its next three picks.

Los Angeles also added 35-year-old Andrew Whitworth up front to help protect Goff. The focus for the Rams this offseason has been to maximize the potential that made the team pick Goff in the first place.

Goff didn’t show much of that potential as a rookie, though.

Jared Goff struggled as a rookie without much help

In Goff’s seven starts during the 2016 season, the Rams were 0-7. He finished the year with five touchdowns and seven interceptions, but the team knew that the development of Goff would take some time.

His transition from an Air Raid offense in college meant that the Rams hoped Goff would be able to sit his entire rookie season behind Case Keenum. When Keenum floundered in the starting role, the pressure eventually built on the Rams to the point that the team had little choice but to give Goff a chance.

READ ---  Axis Bank: After Hours: Axis Bank bleeds; Reliance scales a new high

He showed some of his potential at times, but those highlights were few and far between.

Damaging Goff’s development was a lack of help. In just seven games he was sacked 26 times and had to rely on Kenny Britt, Brian Quick and Tavon Austin to throw to. A poor season from Todd Gurley didn’t help much either.

Now it’s crucial that Goff rebounds from those rookie struggles, because it’s the Rams’ best shot at being good any time soon.

If Goff makes significant progress, a potentially upstart offense will be paired with defense that finished top 10 in yards allowed in 2016 and has pieces in place like Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn.

But if Goff continues to struggle, the Rams are stuck with sunk costs at quarterback and could see many of their recent acquisitions go to waste.

Sammy Watkins could leave after the 2017 season

There were other pieces in the deal, but at its core, the Rams traded away a second-round pick for Watkins. If he plays up to his ability, stays healthy, and remains with the team after 2017, that’s a steal.

But all three are big question marks.

Watkins has struggled to stay on the field and missed half of the 2016 season after undergoing foot surgery. When he returned to action he caught just 28 passes in eight games for 430 yards and two touchdowns.

At his best, Watkins is a game changer. He’s a deep threat with crisp route running and is capable of absurd one-handed receptions.

But Watkins is set to become a free agent after the 2017 season and that leaves a lot of question marks. Would the Rams pay to keep him if he gets injured again? Would Watkins re-sign with the team if he has a good season and he’s months away from free agency? What if he has a good season, but Goff doesn’t play very well?

None of this matters if Jared Goff is bad

Having a good quarterback can fix a lot of problems. The Rams don’t have much cap space to work with, but have many of the pieces to be a strong team if Goff comes around.

If he doesn’t, the team has to start over.

So the top priority for the Rams is providing Goff with as much help as they can, as soon as possible. Watkins, Woods and Whitworth are all part of that plan.