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Free Agent Scouting Report: Justin Smith, DE

Finding the right player on the free agent market will be a key part of shoring up weaknesses and making the Rams competitive in 2007. We know which players are on the market; we've seen their overall stats. However, I still wanted to get a feel for the potential impact they could have on the Rams and a more in depth look at their style of play. Not having 8 TiVOs means I'm not really in the position to "go to the tape," but I can ask those who see these guys play all the time.

Today, I wanted to take a look at Cincinnati DE Justin Smith. For more insight into the unrestricted free agent, I asked Kirkendall, the man behind SBN's Bengals blog, Cincy Jungle. Fortunately, he had time between covering the various infractions of Bengals players to give us a scouting report.

Smith was drafted 4th overall in 2001, the former Mizzou player came to Cincy with high hopes thrust upon him. Expected to be a pass rusher extraordinaire, Smith never really lived up to the hype he received coming out of the gate in 2001. As for his strengths and weaknesses, I'll let Kirkendall explain.

Smith, at best, is a run defender. When he's on his game, he contained the edge well. He's a bull rushing tough guy. He won't beat linemen with swim moves, spins and rips. But he'll give you all he has each play and you'll see him 15 yards down field making tackles; he won't give up. He's got that brute strength that can take down running backs just by hanging onto the jersey -- incredible arm strength.

He's been a consistent disappointment in pass rushing situations. In fact, he's nothing close to being a good pass rusher. He's the type of guy you would have in on first and second down to contain the run.

Kirkendall compares Smith to Grant Wistrom noting that what Wistrom was to the pass rush, Smith is to the ground game.

Hmm. We know Haslett's a pass rusher first, so it makes you wonder if Smith fits the description for the kind of free agent DE the Rams are looking for to beef up their defense. He had 7.5 sacks last season, which isn't bad, but the Bengals were looking for him to be more of a double digit sack kind of DE. However, Smith might just be an excellent fit as a DE complementary to Leonard Little, the Rams true sack man.

In terms of a price tag, Smith it's not unreasonable for teams to court him at rate similar to what the Bengals gave their other DE, Robert Geathers, which was a 6 year, $32.5 million deal.

Though it's not related to his on-field performance, Smith, like so many other of his Cincy teammates, was arrested himself. Smith's run in with the law came in October 2004; he was arrested for DUI. He might be a nice complement for Leonard Little indeed.