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The Los Angeles Rams hit a home run by signing Leonard Floyd last offseason, but they only gave him a one-year deal, so he’ll be hitting the market this month. Samson Ebukam will be too, leaving the Rams somewhat thin at outside linebacker for 2021.
Luckily for the Rams, the free-agent market is rich with options – some of whom could land in the team’s price range. They’ll need to clear up some cap space before they do anything when free agency opens on March 17, but there are moves they can make to free up enough money to sign an impactful pass rusher.
Below are 10 possible targets for the Rams as they search for pass rushers, excluding their own free agents (Floyd and Ebukam).
Romeo Okwara, Lions
Okwara is an underrated pass rusher who really broke out last season in Detroit. He set career-highs with 10 sacks, 44 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 18 QB hits, also forcing three fumbles. He’s going to earn some recognition this offseason with a new contract, and the Rams should absolutely be one of the teams making him an offer. He’ll be 26 in June and is just now peaking as a pass rusher, which is the perfect time for the Rams to consider adding him. On a Lions defense that lacked talent, Okwara stood out. Just imagine what he could do on a defensive front that also features Aaron Donald.
Jadeveon Clowney, Titans
Clowney has been a massive disappointment in the last two seasons, recording just three sacks in 21 games. Durability remains a legitimate concern with the edge rusher, as does a lack of impactful plays. Pass rushers shouldn’t just be measured by their sack numbers, but Clowney’s stats have been declining in just about every category in the last three seasons. He’s no longer a top-flight pass rusher, and his next contract will reflect that. If the Rams could land him for a one-year deal and less than $9 million, it’d be a worthwhile consideration.
Justin Houston, Colts
Houston just turned 32 years old but he also turned in his fourth straight season with at least eight sacks. He’s still an impactful player in the NFL and at this point in his career, he’s not going to break the bank – which is great news for the cap-strapped Rams. For a short-term deal in the range of one or two years and an average of $7 million per season, Houston brings a lot of value. He’d be good for at least six or seven sacks in the Rams defense next to Donald and would add stability to a position group that’s severely lacking proven talent. Houston shouldn’t be overlooked due to his age.
Carl Lawson, Bengals
Lawson could get the franchise tag from the Bengals, which would rule him out for the Rams. But if he does hit the market, he’ll have a lot of suitors as a 25-year-old pass rusher with great potential. He had 5.5 sacks in 16 games last season, registering a career-high 32 QB hits and 36 tackles. On the free-agent market, Lawson could earn as much as $14 million per year, which would probably be too much for the Rams to pay. But if his price tag comes in closer to $11 million per year, the Rams should pounce. Lawson is a budding star waiting to truly breakout on a good defense.
Markus Golden, Cardinals
Golden has bounced around between the Cardinals and Giants in his career, with New York trading him back to Arizona last season. He totaled 4.5 sacks and 20 QB hits in 16 games between the two teams, showing he’s still capable of being a productive player. Golden will turn 30 before free agency begins and has had an up-and-down career up to this point, but the Rams could use help at outside linebacker regardless of a player’s age. Golden would be a somewhat affordable option for Los Angeles as it attempts to potentially replace Leonard Floyd.
Melvin Ingram, Chargers
Ingram will be 32 in April and is coming off a season in which he played just seven games and didn’t record a single sack. But that down year shouldn’t deter the Rams from giving him a chance to rebound in 2021. From 2015-2019, he had at least seven sacks and eight tackles for loss in each season, making the Pro Bowl three straight years from 2017 to 2019. While he may not be as dominant as he once was with the Chargers, he can still produce. According to PFF, he had his best pass-rushing grade last season since 2017, even though he had no sacks. A short-term deal that’s loaded with incentives would make a lot of sense for the Rams, and the opportunity to stay out in L.A. might appeal to Ingram. Not to mention, he’d get to play on the same front as Donald.
Takk McKinley, Raiders
It’s not time to give up on McKinley just yet. His 2020 was abysmal, getting cut by the Falcons after bashing the team on Twitter, and then getting released by the Bengals and 49ers due to failed physicals. He never played for the Raiders after signing with them, and only suited up for four games in Atlanta. McKinley was a first-round pick in 2017 and has good explosiveness off the line, as well as a track record of production (13 sacks in 2017 and 2018 combined). Perhaps he’d want to move back to California where he played his college ball at UCLA, making the Rams a potential landing spot – especially with Raheem Morris’ ties to McKinley from their days in Atlanta.
Tyus Bowser, Ravens
Bowser hasn’t panned out as a former second-round pick, recording just 10.5 sacks in four seasons with the Ravens. Playing time has been tough to come by for him, and he wouldn’t be guaranteed a starting spot with the Rams, either. Bowser has the length, athleticism and size you want in an outside linebacker, but he has to improve as a pure pass rusher before he truly makes an impact. Like Floyd, he’s capable of dropping into coverage, which adds value, but he needs work as a pass rusher.
Haason Reddick, Cardinals
After three seasons of bouncing between off-ball linebacker and edge rusher, Reddick found a home rushing the passer in 2020 and absolutely erupted with 12.5 sacks, 16 QB hits, six forced fumbles and 15 tackles for loss – all career-highs. He broke out in a big way after failing to live up to his first-round billing and now he’s set to cash in. The Cardinals could tag Reddick, but after signing J.J. Watt, they’re unlikely to do so. Reddick will be expensive, of course, after the season that he just had, but teams could be hesitant to back up the Brink’s truck considering he has just one great season of production.
Jordan Jenkins, Jets
Jenkins signed a one-year deal with the Jets last offseason as a free agent after an eight-sack season, but he posted just two sacks in 2020 with just three tackles for loss in 12 games. He’ll turn 27 in July and had 15 sacks combined in 2018 and 2019, so the potential is there. As one of the more affordable pass rushers out there, the Rams should give Jenkins a look. He has good size and though he may not be the most explosive pass rusher, he can contribute on the edge.