Greg Gaines took a little while to become an impactful player for the Los Angeles Rams, but he really broke through in 2021 after Sebastian Joseph-Day got hurt. Gaines stepped in and became the starting nose tackle during the Rams’ Super Bowl run, playing at a very high level up front.
Unfortunately, he’ll now be a free agent after wrapping up his fourth season in Los Angeles. Gaines is a fan favorite and beloved in the locker room, so the Rams would be wise to bring him back – for his talent on the field, too, of course.
But with limited cap space, will they get a deal done when free agency begins?
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6 tackles for a loss
6 QB hits
16 total pressures
PFF grade: 59.1 overall
(Photo by Mike Christy/Getty Images)
Gaines isn’t just a run-stuffing nose tackle like so many others at his position are. He impacts the game as a pass rusher, too. He has 8.5 sacks in the last two seasons, including four last season as a full-time starter for the first time in his career.
Gaines was much more productive in 2021 when he had 13 QB hits and 46 total pressures compared to six and 16 this past season, but he also played hurt for part of the year. He said last October that his shoulder was “pretty screwed up” in the first six weeks of the season but felt better midway through the year.
That has to be taken into account when looking at his season as a whole. He had four pressures in the first six games and 12 in the last 10.
Rams depth chart
Earnest Brown IV
Bobby Brown III
*pending free agent
Positional need: Medium
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
A’Shawn Robinson is also a free agent along the defensive line, so the Rams are in danger of losing two-thirds of their starting trio. Gaines may not rack up the sacks, but he eats up blocks on the interior and helps free up Donald a bit, especially against the run.
The Rams can’t go into the season with Earnest Brown IV and Bobby Brown III starting next to Donald, especially with Leonard Floyd on his way out. Teams might begin to quadruple-team Donald in that case.
Prediction: Signs 2-year, $11 million deal with Rams
(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Gaines will probably have a pretty decent market if he reaches free agency, but I ultimately think the Rams will get a deal done with him at some point – even if he does test the waters. He’s too important a piece up front and assuming Robinson leaves, they’ll have money to allocate to Gaines.
After what one could consider a down year in 2022, the Rams might be able to get Gaines at a lower cost than they would have if he were a free agent after his breakout 2021 campaign.