Andrew Whitworth was the left tackle for the Los Angeles Rams for five seasons, but somehow it felt like more.
Whitworth joined the Rams in 2017, when they were coming off a 4-12 season, playing in the aging Los Angeles Coliseum and quarterbacked by Jared Goff. By time he retired earlier this month, the Rams were Super Bowl champions, playing in the most modern of NFL stadiums at SoFi Stadium and quarterbacked by Matthew Stafford.
It’s going to take the Rams a little while to get used to a world without him.
“It’s a new era of Rams offensive line,” center Brian Allen said. “It’s going to be weird without Whit there.”
The Rams have been grooming his replacement, Joe Noteboom — a third-round draft pick in 2018 — the past four seasons. Noteboom has played various offensive line positions, started a total of 17 regular-season games and was recently re-signed by the Rams to a three-year, $40 million contract with $25 million guaranteed.
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“The best part is knowing the coaches have the confidence in you to sign you back to a contract here and put you in that spot,” Noteboom said. “But it’s also a challenge. Being the guy now comes with a little more responsibility. It’s motivating more than ever.”
Noteboom said his four seasons as Whitworth’s teammate weren’t wasted. He said he learned things such as work habits, preparing his body for a long season and diet from the veteran tackle.
“It was a perfect situation [to learn],” Noteboom said. “There was no other guy in the league I’d rather have been behind for those four years. That gives me confidence going into it.”
Noteboom played some at both tackle spots and left guard last season, his first with Stafford as his teammate.
“He’s a plug-and-play player for us,” Stafford said. “Wherever we needed him, he stepped in and played at a high level against some really quality opponents. I’m looking forward to seeing his development on the left side and seeing him do his thing for a bunch of years.”
Allen and Noteboom arrived the same season as Rams draft picks. Allen said Noteboom was “the left tackle in waiting” over the past four years even as he moved around the offensive line.
“I think that left tackle spot really is where he’ll shine the most,” Allen said. “I’m pumped for him to have this opportunity to really be the guy. … He absorbed so much wisdom and so much stuff that Whit taught him over those four years.”
Allen also re-signed with the Rams this year, on a three-year contract for $18 million, with $10 million guaranteed.
“It was definitely a little more stressful than I thought it was going to be … being my first time having gone through free agency so I really wasn’t sure what to expect or really what I was getting myself into,” he said. “But I wanted to be back in L.A. and I’m excited about how things unfolded.
“I really didn’t want to leave not knowing how much better I could be in our offense. That was definitely something that was in the back of my mind that I didn’t want to go somewhere and be in a situation where I didn’t have someone like Matt to work with … he’d be a hard person to let know you were leaving.”
Losing Whitworth isn’t the only change coming to the Rams on offense. They also traded wide receiver Robert Woods to the Tennessee Titans for a sixth-round pick in 2023. But they added another receiver, Allen Robinson II, in free agency with a three-year, $46.5 million contact and re-signed Stafford to a four-year contract extension worth $160 million.
The Rams could still re-sign wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., though he won’t be available early next season after tearing his ACL in the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.