St. Louis Rams defensive end Williams Hayes will have suitors on the free agent market this year. One of those interested teams has already emerged. The Detroit Lions are said to be in hot pursuit of Hayes, according to a report on Monday afternoon from M Live.
It's a fairly obvious fit with Hayes in Detroit. Jim Schwartz was the Titans defensive coordinator in 2008, Hayes' rookie year. The Lions also have a big need at the position with Cliff Avril likely to walk.
That Hayes is in demand comes as no surprise to Rams fans who watched the rotation defensive end in the best season of his career so far. Hayes notched seven sacks with the Rams last year and another 17 pressures. St. Louis would like to have him back, but the demand for defensive linemen could make him expensive.
The Rams would like to keep Hayes, at the right price. Unfortunately, the market is probably going to give Hayes a deal exceeding his total value. Hayes' seven sacks were largely the results of picking up escaping quarterbacks chased out of the pocket by one of the Rams other pass rushers. Chris Long had 64 quarterback pressures to go with his 12 sacks. Robert Quinn, himself a beneficiary of Long's pressuring, had 34 pressures to go with his 11 sacks.
Where the Rams will miss Hayes is against the run. He was able to seal off his side of the field for many of the snaps that he was out there for. Two of his best games came against the Seahawks last year.
One potential replacement with a connection to the Rams is Oakland defensive end Matt Shaughnessy. He used to play for defensive line coach Mike Waufle. Last season, he recorded five sacks and gave the Raiders a solid effort against the run. He had an eight sacks season in 2010, and might be exactly the kind of player the Rams need to replace Hayes in the lineup.