Rams sign former Lions guard and now have new starting center

The Rams made their first big move in free agency — and it was directly related to their success in the 2023 NFL draft.

On Monday, the Rams agreed to terms with guard Jonah Jackson, who played four seasons for the Detroit Lions, people with knowledge of the situation said. The people requested anonymity because the deal cannot become official until the NFL’s new league year begins Wednesday.

Jackson’s acquisition comes a week after the Rams re-signed Kevin Dotson, a guard the Rams traded for on the eve of last season. Dotson received a three-year contract that includes $32 million in guarantees, according to overthecap.com.

The deal with Jackson almost certainly means that Steve Avila, the Rams’ second-round pick last year, will move to center after starting every game last season at left guard.

Avila, 24, has experience at center. He started six games as a sophomore and 11 as a junior at Texas Christian before earning All-America honors as a guard in his final college season.

Coleman Shelton started at center for the Rams last season but he voided the final year of his contract and is an unrestricted free agent.

The Rams went into Monday’s free agent negotiating period with about $29 million in salary-cap space, according to overthecap.com. That ranked 17th among NFL teams.

Jackson, 27, was selected by the Lions in the third round of the 2020 draft and made the Pro Bowl in 2021. He sat out five games last season because of wrist and knee injuries, and suffered a knee injury in an NFC divisional-round victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that sidelined him for the NFC championship game defeat to the San Francisco 49ers.

Veteran Rob Havenstein is entrenched at right tackle. Left tackle Alaric Jackson is a pending restricted free agent. Joe Noteboom, who has started at tackle and guard, almost certainly will have to agree to a contract restructure to remain with the Rams. He is due to carry a $20-million salary-cap number, according to overthecap.com.

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