Training camp has commenced for many teams around the NFL and we have already seen surprising veteran cuts. The Green Bay Packers most recently cut former Pro Bowl level defensive lineman Mike Daniels. The Redskins cut last year’s starting inside linebacker Mason Foster. Two moves that may have been shocking to some but clearly there were reasons for each team parting ways with those said players. The Los Angeles Rams are a Super Bowl-caliber team and that’s one thing a recently-released 30-year-old talent is looking for. Both Foster and Daniels could be great fits with the Rams. I’m going to break down each player and if they make sense or not.
Why is Pro Bowl defensive lineman Mike Daniels even available?
Let’s first start with Daniels as he is the most recent cap casualty. That is what he is after all right? A cap casualty? Well, the further review shows after playings three straight seasons without missing a game. Daniels fell victim to a total of eight missed games over the last two years. Now, this isn’t something that makes or breaks the idea of bringing in Daniels for me. However, the recency of those missed games and the dreaded age 30 label likely led to his release. Combining his cap number and how the Packers saved $8.3 million and it’s fair to understand a little bit why the move was made.
The Packers do also need to get ready for the next step in their organization and that is extending players like Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez. I don’t think before last season many expected Green Bay linebacker Blake Martinez to even become a priority signing but after a very impressive 2018 season. Martinez not only gave the Packers an option in the middle, but he was also so impressive the team decided to move on from Jake Ryan. As far as Kenny Clark goes, this is one of the best young defensive linemen in all of football and so he has to be priority one at this point.
Daniels was let go by the Packers for a few reasons. He’s 30 years of age, they needed to focus their cap dollars on extending 23-year-old defensive lineman Kenny Clark and/or 25-year-old linebacker Blake Martinez. Did the injuries have anything to do with it? Perhaps, but there is no way to really know that unless the decision-makers that be explained that to us. In the end, Daniels is still a talented 30-year-old defensive lineman that can still play at a high level and is going to want to point the arrow for his next destination in the direction of a title contender.
Should the Los Angeles Rams bother signing Mike Daniels?
The Los Angeles Rams have just under $6 million in cap space as estimated by Spotrac. One would think that would be enough to bring in Daniels on a cheap one-year deal to potentially win a Super Bowl ring. The Rams tried something along these lines last year with the acquisition of Ndamukong Suh. However, Suh’s contract was a lot more expensive and he was a legitimate part of the plan since before training camp. With a potential addition of Daniels, the Rams would be changing their gameplan a tad and making Daniels the likely starter next to Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald.
Right off the bat, you can see why the Rams may avoid this situation. Even though this move would make the Rams a better football team on paper, it might not be the most necessary. When you look at the depth the Rams defensive line has in draft capital fronted moves like John Franklin-Myers and Greg Gaines in the fourth round. Their undrafted free agent finds in players like Morgan Fox have also bolstered that area. It’s hard to imagine the Rams may want to add another guy to the room. It’s even harder to imagine after watching the video of general manager Les Snead raving about getting Gaines in the fourth round of this year’s draft.
Before writing this idea off, this is the same team that has added players like Kendall Langford, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Fred Robbins to their defensive line before. The Rams are not scared of adding a veteran presence to any of their positions as highly-exhibited throughout the Sean McVay era. I think the Rams would be less worried about stunting a rookie’s growth in Gaines but more worried about pushing talented Morgan Fox completely out of the picture or stunting their diamond in the rough John Franklin-Myers’ growth.
At the end of the day, the Rams should definitely kick the tires on adding more cheap talent. However, the keyword there is cheap. The Rams need Daniels to be a cheap option. Otherwise, their opportunity to extend anyone this season if need be will go way out of the window.
Why is starting-caliber inside linebacker Mason Foster available?
Mason Foster signed a two-year deal with the Redskins in 2018 that would pay him $3.4 million over those two years. That’s not a back-breaking contract by any means. What Foster provided for the Redskins while signed to that cheap deal was a total bargain. He’s actually a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer that signed on with the Chicago Bears in 2015 and did not make the 53-man roster. Foster went onto sign a one-year prove-it deal with the Redskins in 2015, they ended up signing him to a two-year $2.5 million deal in 2016. Foster then signed that same two-year deal as mentioned last January but after one season the contract was terminated.
So, what was the deal with Foster’s end in Washington? First off, it’s worth mentioning that Foster was tied for 21st out of all Washington Redskins defensive players per Pro Football Focus. Now, PFF shouldn’t be the end all be all but if you watched last year, Foster did have moments of brilliance but far too much inconsistent play as well. Foster doesn’t really add much in the pass-rushing department, he’s a liability in coverage and one again, he struggles with consistency.
Last season alone, Foster had games in which he recorded grades of 85.2, 81.6 and 81.1. The biggest problem is that those are just three games that were graded as “good” per PFF. After those, the rest of the season Foster ends up averaging 58.4 which includes a season-low grade of 35.5. A 58.4 grade doesn’t mean Foster is terrible or even that he doesn’t deserve a shot, but it slows down the idea of having to grab the guy. Furthermore, the Redskins decided to move on from Foster likely due to having two young stud Alabama linebackers in Reuben Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton for the long term.
With all of the talented and athletic tight ends and running backs, can you truly afford to have Mason Foster cover any of them? He’s not a bad athlete but he simply is a liability in that department and that’s enough of a reason to consider a switch. At this point, is Foster still a starting-caliber player? I would give him the nod of approval with a label “depending on the situation” and I think many would agree. It’s not entirely hard to see why the Redskins cut Foster.
As mentioned before, the Los Angeles Rams have just under $6 million in cap space. In order to justify bringing in Mason Foster, he would have to take a one-to-two million dollar deal for this year. The Rams and Foster have a connection to a degree. Both former Defensive coordinator Joe Barry and Offensive coordinator Sean McVay were in Washington with Foster back in the day. Foster basically played for Barry on the defensive side of the ball, so there is a familiarity there. Barry is now the linebackers coach and assistant head coach for the Rams. The question would remain: Does Joe Barry like Mason Foster? If he does, well, there’s a chance.
Foster would also be coming in as the veteran presence. He would have to understand a starting role might not be in the cards for him here. If you are a veteran like Foster trying to join a contender, you might have to take a backseat. The Rams drafted Dakota Allen, signed UDFAs Natrez Patrick and Troy Reeder in addition to re-signing veteran Bryce Hager. Those are names that do not include the two projected starting linebackers Cory Littleton and Micah Kiser. Could Foster crack that starting lineup? Yes, but it wouldn’t be a given.
How much better would Foster make the Rams? That’s another interesting question because it all depends on the team asking it. Is Foster a difference-maker? Probably not. Is Foster a good depth piece for a Super Bowl team? Probably yes. Last year, the Rams started veteran free agent signing Ramik Wilson before Mark Barron came back from his injury. If the Rams were to deem Kiser as not ready for the starting job, perhaps, Foster would win the job.
Here’s the thing that needs to be mentioned as well. The Rams had a much better option also from the Redskins in the form of Zach Brown available to them. Brown was available before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles to replace free-agent departure, Jordan Hicks. The fact that the Rams did pass up that opportunity might foreshadow their decision to pursue or not pursue Foster.
The Rams could definitely find a need for Foster as a special teamer and more depth to the linebacker role. If the Rams do decide to bring in Foster, it shouldn’t be for anything more than $2 million a year.
Mike Daniels or Mason Foster? Final Verdict.
I hate going back on my word but Mike Daniels after further review is the only one that makes sense. However, with Mason Foster, the Los Angeles Rams can kick tires on him. He’s just not going to be a difference-maker like Daniels. Foster is a player with limitations and a lot of experience in the league. Daniels is a player with elite-level experience and a lot of experience in the league. However, Foster is a guy the Rams might already have on the roster. Daniels is a guy that isn’t on one-half of the league’s rosters.
When looking at Foster, you see someone that can be a veteran presence and bolster depth. However, for potential a similar price in Daniels you are getting a day-one starter. Daniels has taken a step back from being elite. However, he’s still a very good player that would be like replacing Ndamukong Suh. Foster is a solid-to-average player that would be like maybe replacing Ramik Wilson.
At the end of this discussion, it’s hard to make the argument that the Rams should sign Mason Foster. I wouldn’t argue the Rams should sign him, but they could kick the tires on him. Whereas with Daniels, who is a luxury to a degree, has a legitimate argument to start on this team. I would rather the Rams roll with what they have. Giving the under-the-radar guys like Patrick and Reeder a shot makes more sense. Instead of giving another shot to a player that is on his way down. If the Rams did decide to sign Foster, Hager’s time with the team might be up.
Mike Daniels just scheduled his first free-agent visit with the Cleveland Browns, a Super Bowl contender. The Rams were just in the Super Bowl, if they want a visit with Daniels, they could probably get one. The Rams acquisition of Suh was a luxury move from the start. However, he was a key cog in the defense that got them to the Super Bowl. Daniels might be a tick better than Suh when healthy right now. The Rams did lose Suh but could definitely replace him without a hitch by adding Daniels.
Verdict: The Rams should sign Mike Daniels and bolster their defensive line. However, the Rams don’t need to sign Mason Foster unless they plan on replacing their veteran Bryce Hager with him.