The Los Angeles Rams had one of the better defenses in 2020; they fell just outside of the top 10 when the regular season ended, allowing 377 yards per game. With defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey as its anchors, Los Angeles will continue to have one of the best defenses in the NFC West and across the league. The Rams, however, still have some glaring needs on this side of the ball, including at linebacker and cornerback.
Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, cornerback Troy Hill, and safety John Johnson III are all approaching free agency and could leave in search for bigger contracts than the Rams can afford. It’ll leave Los Angeles searching for more team-friendly options and betting on largely unproven talent, or a rebounding season. The Rams are completely cap-strapped, which isn’t a new position for them, but it will make finding talent in free agency more difficult. Los Angeles won’t be able to go after some of the bigger names on the market—and have already seen the likes of J.J. Watt land in its division. If the Rams want to continue to stay competitive on defense, general manager Les Snead will have to do some intense cap gymnastics.
Here are three defensive free agents the Rams should target in the coming weeks if they can make enough room to sign them.
Ryan Kerrigan, OLB/DE, Washington Football Team
The Rams have a need for an edge rusher and will need to bargain their way to fill the void Floyd will likely leave. Floyd had an impressive rebound season after the lowest point of his career with the Chicago Bears; he finished 2020 with a career-high 10.5 sacks, 55 total tackles, and 19 quarterback hits. Floyd is projected to command $13.1 million per year, according to Spotrac. It leaves Los Angeles in search for a more cost-friendly talent.
Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan wants to return to a starting role on what will be a new contract. In 2020, Kerrigan started in just one game for Washington at defensive end after three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons (2016-18) and battling multiple injuries in 2019. Kerrigan was still productive in his decreased role last year. He finished with 5.5 sacks, five tackles for loss, and 13 quarterback pressures on 38% of the team’s snaps.
K.J. Wright, OLB, Seattle Seahawks
It’s unclear exactly what system the Rams’ new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris will run. He’s known for employing a 4-3 scheme, but that’s a system Los Angeles hasn’t utilized since former head coach Jeff Fisher’s tenure. Despite Morris’ background, it’s been expected the Rams will continue with their current 3-4 scheme.
In an effort to bolster the heart of the defense, Los Angeles can double-dip and target K.J. Wright. The Seahawks’ outside linebacker is often the unsung hero alongside Bobby Wagner. The tenured Seahawk will hit free agency with a current market value that’s projected at an average of $7.1 million, per Spotrac. He would be an extremely team-friendly addition with ample experience against the Rams, playing in their division for the entirety of his career.
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
Los Angeles will have to retool its secondary. While the Rams work to try and keep Johnson, a strong veteran leader, they’ll need to also replace the Hill. The theme here continues to be cost-friendly talent that can immediately be inserted into this defense and sustain its success. Cornerback Mackensie Alexander can check both of those boxes. His next contract is projected to be $8.4 million per year, via Spotrac. While he isn’t one of the big-name game-changers on the market, Alexander saw increased production and playing time on his one-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. He could find another opportunity to improve in Los Angeles on a prove-it deal.
Click here for three offensive free agents the Rams should also target.
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