Rams waive Maurice Alexander as Mike Thomas returns from ban

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Maurice Alexander, who began the season as the Los Angeles Rams' starter at strong safety, was waived by the team on Monday, one day after he was a healthy inactive for an eventual 16-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

The move created an opening on the 53-man roster for wide receiver Mike Thomas, who was suspended the first four games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Thomas, the Rams' seventh receiver on the active roster, spent last week on the exempt list.

Alexander, in the final year of his rookie contract, struggled in the first four games and began this week graded 73rd among 83 qualified NFL safeties by Pro Football Focus. The 26-year-old wished the Rams well in an Instagram post, writing: "Appreciate the love RAMS family! Been a great couple years! All love and respect. Continue to be great fellas!! On the road to glory."

"We wish nothing but the best for Mo; I really enjoyed being around Mo," Rams coach Sean McVay said in his Monday news conference. "But I think it's a credit to the depth we've established at that safety position. There were some things where we expected a better level of play from him, and he knew that. Those things were communicated."

Rookie John Johnson started in Alexander's place on Sunday -- although he lined up mainly as the free safety -- and registered an interception that he returned for 69 yards. Johnson also made the game-ending tackle against Ezekiel Elliott in the Rams' Week 4 victory against the Dallas Cowboys.

The team believes Johnson has earned an opportunity to start, and the Rams like other safeties such as Cody Davis, Blake Countess and Marqui Christian more so in other roles, including special teams.

Lamarcus Joyner is expected to return for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Rams would start either Johnson or Davis alongside him. All of the Rams' safeties practice at free safety and strong safety.

"I think you'll see a variety of packages that we put together, game-plan specific, to get our guys on the field," McVay said. "But I think when you look at what John did yesterday, definitely a lot of encouraging things, and you see why he's projected to be a very good player for us."