Rams COO & Vice President Kevin Demoff has said that the team is not rebuilding and they have plenty of cap space to make some signings this off-season. Here is a list I have compiled of players the Rams should target on defense.
Dion Jordan (26 years old) – Miami Dolphins UFA
The troubled former no.3 overall pick out of Oregon. Dion Jordan would be a low risk with potentially high reward if the Rams gave him a contract. He reminds me of Dominique Easley and the way the Patriots gave up on him. Jordan isn’t just a luxury like Easley though, he would be utilized and if he ever re-claimed his talent that made him the third overall pick, he could be perfect insurance to replace William Hayes after his contract is up or even Robert Quinn if he can’t stay healthy. He’s had three sacks in his entire career and some suspensions so the Rams would be in prime position to offer him a close to minimum deal.
Matt Longacre (25 years old) – Los Angeles Rams ERFA
I really like Matt Longacre, I wrote about him before and I feel like he has a good chance to really develop in this nasty defensive line. However, it is a little scary to me that he found himself inactive to start the season and then to end the season, would’ve liked to see more out of him, but to me it’s a no-brainer to bring him back. He’s an ERFA (Exclusive Rights Free Agent) which basically means if the Rams wait too long Longacre goes from a restricted free agent to one on the open market. He should be relatively cheap and should be a Ram in 2017 unless he blows it in negotiations.
Ethan Westbrooks (26 years old) – Los Angeles Rams RFA
This man is only getting better each year. He’s versatile and proves his by his ability to play all over the line as an edge rusher or even an interior rusher. Westbrooks has the ability and if the Rams continue developing him, he could be next to take over for Quinn or Hayes. Westbrooks won’t be hard to retain considering he’s a straight up restricted free agent.
Dominique Easley (24 years old) – Los Angeles Rams RFA
Easley is going to get paid much more than the minimum this offseason. Easley signed a prove-it one year minimum salary deal and really proved himself. As the third DT in the rotation he had three and a half sacks and two forced fumbles, helping him finish 26th for defensive interior players on Pro Football Focus. Easley deserves a better contract, but if he started getting unreasonable the Rams will let him leave like Fairley.
Kerry Hyder (25 years old) – Detroit Lions ERFA
This is one of the most underrated up and coming and dynamic interior defensive lineman in all of football. Kerry Hyder is only 25 years old, the Lions I would expect are going to pay the man, but if they don’t and let him fall into free agency the Rams need to give him a look. The former undrafted DT from Texas Tech finished the season with eight sacks and 36 tackles which is great for a DT in a 4-3 scheme. Hyder doesn’t make a ton of sense if the Rams pay a lot to Easley, but if Easley gets too expensive the Rams could always look at Hyder or even try to get them both on team friendly deals.
Shaquil Barrett (24 years old) – Denver Broncos ERFA
Perhaps one of my absolute favorite defensive players in football, Shaq Barrett is fun to watch. His pursuit and the ability to rush the passer are very important in today’s NFL. Barrett is another ERFA which means the Broncos will have a deadline to re-sign him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If that happens, don’t be surprised if he leaves. There is a good chance whoever ends up with Wade Phillips will have Barrett follow him there as well. Phillips found a great role for Barrett and it’s very likely this would be a done deal if he were to come to the Rams.
Will Compton (27 years old) – Washington Redskins RFA
Not the greatest player on the field by any means, but over this year I have really started to respect Will Compton. He reminds me of James Laurinaitis which is kind of why I like him and also why I believe if the Rams wanted to, they could sign him as a backup. Compton would be a great backup and if Ogletree were to get hurt he would be able to step in and start without a hitch for the most part. Pretty affordable, Compton makes sense in Los Angeles.
Barkevious Mingo (26 years old) – New England Patriots UFA
Another ex-Patriot going to the Rams? Not likely because I think the Patriots had a plan to re-sign Mingo after they traded for him, but if he somehow leaves and say a DC like Mike Pettine joins the Rams or even Matt Patricia becomes the HC, there is a legit reason to believe Mingo could follow.
A.J. Bouye (25 years old) – Houston Texans UFA
My favorite player in the free agency pool in A.J. Bouye. Did anyone see him single handedly shut down Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper? No? Well, he showed that he isn’t some no name CB that is some one game wonder. When you turn on the tape Bouye sticks out. The Rams would be lucky to have a player like him. Bouye is 25 years old and has gotten better every year he’s been in the league. This was his breakout season, with Trumaine Johnson’s market value being 14 million and Bouye being around 8. The Rams will have some tough decision making. Ultimately as much as I love Trumaine Johnson, it makes more sense to get Bouye and another solid CB then spend all your money on a guy who underachieved.
Malcolm Butler (26 years old) – New England Patriots RFA
This literally has a one percent chance of happening, but if the Rams could somehow steal Butler from the Patriots that would be huge. If the Rams get Patricia the same thing as Mingo would apply. If the Rams take the Patriots secondary coach Boyer, now Butler would be interested. He’s a restricted free agent, but if the Rams could pair him with Bouye or Claiborne they could fix their CB woes in seconds. Butler is likely to cost a ton though.
Morris Claiborne (26 years old) – Dallas Cowboys UFA
Wouldn’t it be flat out hilarious if the Rams got the guy the Cowboys traded up with the Rams to get and still kept the guy they ended up picking after trading down with Dallas for Claiborne? Yes, it would, but here’s the thing Claiborne is finally growing up and looking like a pro. He struggled for awhile, but this season was his best season yet. Claiborne would likely be in the 6-8 million range which would be a bargain for the Rams.
Trumaine Johnson (27 years old) – Los Angeles Rams UFA
I can’t say the Rams can’t afford to even bother with Tru. I still think he just needed someone else on the other side to continue his play. He wasn’t exposed necessarily, he just proved to us he needs at least some talent next to him. If the Rams can draft or sign help across from Johnson you would see the old Johnson back and better than ever. However, spending 14 million though on a guy who likely had his worst season? I don’t know if you can possibly afford to pay him that money.
Eric Berry (28 years old) – Kansas City Chiefs UFA
What is there to say about Mr. Berry, he has battled injury and cancer. Berry is an elite Safety and will likely cost anywhere from 8-11 million annually. He’s 28 years old now, but if the Rams decided to throw money at him it sure would make for a nice duo of safeties with Berry and Alexander.
John Cyprien (26 years old) – Jacksonville Jaguars UFA
He’s only gotten better every year. Cyprien finished as the seventh ranked Safety tied with Eric Berry on PFF. Going back to the connections, if the Rams got Gus Bradley to be the Defensive Coordinator one would have to think he would attract Cyprien. Him and Mo Alexander would make for an excellent combo. Cyprien finished with a whopping 128 tackles. He is one of the most sound tackling secondary bodies in football and the Rams could use that.
Tony Jefferson (24 years old) – Arizona Cardinals UFA
I have no idea what Jefferson’s market value is, but he should realistically be one of the most highest paid this off-season. Jefferson is only 24 and does just about everything well. He finished fifth out of all Safeties per Pro Football Focus, he gives you a hard-hitting nightmare of a player with discipline, burst and the ability to intercept passes as well.
T.J. McDonald is a free agent too, but he didn’t make the list because of the pending year of jail that’s hanging over his head and the fact he wasn’t very good this season. By “wasn’t very good this season” I mean he was really bad to his standards and he finished 57th out of all Safeties on PFF, while his teammate Alexander finished top 20. With all that being said, it makes more sense to pay one to two million more annually for players who don’t have law trouble and are finishing in the top ten of their position, than to pay McDonald who could be suspended indefinitely or miss a tackle o a dime. New era’s aren’t always pretty, a new era however guarantees new faces. McDonald likely won’t be a returning one.