Rams 2021 free agency preview: Derek Rivers to stick around for another year?

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Cameron DaSilva
·3 min read
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The Rams claimed Derek Rivers off waivers from the Patriots late in November last year, adding depth to their outside linebacker group. He only played five games and was on the field for just a handful of snaps, contributing very little in his brief time with the Rams.

Because he was claimed off waivers, the Rams inherited his remaining contract from his time with the Patriots. That deal will now expire in March when he becomes a free agent.

Will the Rams give him another shot to prove himself this offseason by extending him? Or will they leave the experiment at just five games and let him walk in free agency.

2020 stats (Patriots/Rams combined)

  • 5 tackles

  • 1.5 sacks

  • 2 tackles for loss

  • 4 QB hits

  • PFF grade: 58.2

Analysis

Rivers only played five games and 29 total snaps on defense for the Rams last season. He didn’t have a sack and only recorded one tackle for Los Angeles last season, playing sparingly in a deep rotation of edge rushers. What makes Rivers intriguing is his size and length. At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, he has the size teams look for in edge rushers. He fits the mold of what the Rams were seeking at the position, at least with Brandon Staley as the defensive coordinator. Leonard Floyd, Terrell Lewis and Justin Hollins are all 6-5, too. Rivers was claimed off waivers from the Patriots so the Rams took on the remainder of his contract, which ended in 2020 since he was a 2017 third-round pick. There’s not a ton of recent tape to analyze with Rivers, since he missed the 2019 season and only played 115 total snaps last season with the Patriots and Rams. Here’s what Sean McVay said about Rivers back in December. “I liked his skill set. I like some of the physical tools that he has, and he's got a great look in his eye,” he said. “I really like his demeanor and his disposition, great communicator. You can see he's come from a place that does things the right way and he's been coached well. Just how seamless he was able to jump in on special teams and understand the things that we're looking for. So, anytime that you have a guy that you like the skillset that when you've evaluated him coming out or you've got some tangible evidence on what he's done when he played in snaps for the Patriots – that was somebody who we felt like could add some value

Positional need: High

Rivers is lower on the priority list of free agents than Leonard Floyd and Samson Ebukam, but he’ll also come much cheaper than both. As a former third-round pick, he has potential in the NFL, but he must stay healthy and prove himself. The Rams obviously like him after claiming him off waivers, not risking the chance that he might be claimed by another team. And with both Ebukam and Floyd hitting free agency, the Rams need pass-rush help to go along with Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Hollins and Lewis. This is a major need on defense and one the team will surely address.

Prediction: Signs 1-year, $1.5 million extension with Rams

The Rams only got a small glimpse of Rivers last season after acquiring him mid-season, and they’ll probably want some more time to evaluate the soon-to-be 27-year-old pass rusher. Given his lack of production and experience in the NFL – he didn’t play in 2017 or 2019 – teams will be reluctant to give him a long-term deal. I can see the Rams giving him a one-year contract to see what he can do with an offseason of work in the Rams’ system, especially if Floyd leaves.

Other free agency previews

  1. OLB Leonard Floyd

  2. S John Johnson

  3. CB Troy Hill

  4. WR Josh Reynolds

  5. C Austin Blythe

  6. CB Darious Williams

  7. TE Gerald Everett

  8. OLB Samson Ebukam

  9. RB Malcolm Brown

  10. DE Morgan Fox

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