Rams say mystery absentee Stetson Bennett will participate in offseason workouts

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Quarterback Stetson Bennett apparently still has a future with the Rams.

How long remains to be determined, but Bennett will participate in the team’s offseason workouts, general manager Les Snead said Monday at the NFL owners’ annual meeting.

Bennett, a 2023 fourth-round pick, was drafted to back up Matthew Stafford and possibly succeed him. However, Bennett has not been with the team since the end of last year’s preseason, when he was placed on the non-football injury/illness list because of an undisclosed issue.

Bennett, 26, has been working out in Dallas, and he was “looking good” in clips reviewed by new Rams quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, Snead said.

Last season, Ragone was the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator. He recently reconnected with Bennett and rekindled the predraft relationship he developed with the former Georgia star, Snead said.

“So right now our plan is to on-board him” for offseason workouts, Snead said of Bennett.

Do the Rams have a commitment from Bennett?

“At this point, yes,” Snead said.

Bennett’s return would give the Rams three quarterbacks.

Stafford, 36, is preparing for his 16th NFL season. According to Overthecap.com, he will carry a salary-cap number of $49.5 million in the third-to-last year of an extension the Rams gave him in 2022 after he led a victory in Super Bowl LVI.

Last week, the Rams signed veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a one-year contract. Terms of the deal have not been posted.

Garoppolo, 32, was 8-0 in regular-season games against the Rams during his six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams defeated the 49ers in the NFC championship game in the 2021-22 season.

“He’s definitely had his moments against us,” Snead said.

Garoppolo, a 10-year veteran, played for the 49ers in an offense designed by coach Kyle Shanahan. Rams coach Sean McVay worked under Shanahan in Washington.

Deep familiarity with the offense gave Garoppolo an edge over Carson Wentz, an unrestricted free agent who finished last season with the Rams.

“And also, his style of play fit our offense,” Snead said.

The Rams still could draft a quarterback, though the retirement of defensive lineman Aaron Donald puts an even bigger premium on finding edge defenders and other pass rushers.

The Rams have the No. 19 pick, and 11 total picks in the April 25-27 draft.

“We all felt like this was going to be a relatively deep class for potential starting QBs, and it seems like it’s come to fruition,” Snead said.

Donald’s departure leaves a gaping hole in a defense under the direction of first-year coordinator Chris Shula.

Since the end of last season, the Rams knew that Donald probably would retire, but they “wanted to give him his space so that he could go through his process to make sure,” Snead said.

Kobie Turner, a finalist for NFL defensive rookie of the year in 2023, is versatile enough to play Donald’s three-technique spot, Snead said, though he acknowledged that would put a lot of pressure on the second-year pro.

The Rams also are expected to address their need in the draft.

“We’ll always look up at the board and say, ‘OK, where do we have a defensive lineman rated and is that the best route to go at this particular pick,’” Snead said. “It will definitely be a priority.”

After last season’s debacle with place-kickers, Snead said the Rams could address their need — “That would be an understatement” — in the draft.

Before and during free agency, the Rams signed, re-signed and tendered 12 players, including Garoppolo, receiver Demarcus Robinson, guards Kevin Dotson and Jonah Jackson, tight end Colby Parkinson, left tackle Alaric Jackson, cornerback Darious Williams, safety Kamren Curl, outside linebacker Michael Hoecht, linebacker Christian Rozeboom, defensive lineman Larrell Murchison and running back Ronnie Rivers.

The Rams also reworked offensive lineman Joe Noteboom’s contract. He was due to earn $10 million in salary and carry a salary-cap number of $20 million. Noteboom now will earn a base salary of $5 million and carry a cap number of $11.6 million, according to Overthecap.com.

Linebacker Ernest Jones appeared to be a candidate for an extension, but Snead said the Rams plan to have the fourth-year pro play the final year of his rookie deal before possibly doing an extension.

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