The Rams have one of the most talented defensive fronts in the NFL. After a rough start under new Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams last year, the unit overcame their struggles and finished the season strong. I'm not going to sit here and argue that the Rams need to spend their limited cap room to improve the strongest unit on the team. Instead, I'll primarily focus on rotational players.
The Rams have a pair of stalwarts starting at DE in Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Behind them the team employs William Hayes and Eugene Sims as highly regarded rotational players and promising youngster Ethan Westbrooks. Aside from signing someone to absorb some of the veterans' snaps in training camp, I don't think that the Rams will look to Free Agency for DE help.
The Rams have a pair of studs starting at DT as well. Aaron Donald earned many accolades as a rookie, chief among them being the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Next to Donald is Michael Brockers. While he may not show up in the box score or make some of the flashy plays that his fellow DL are capable of, he is still a stalwart.
Depth here, however, is a major concern. Kendall Langford was cut and Alex Carrington isn't likely to be re-signed. With a rotational player needed, it's possible that the Fisher and Snead are looking for a serviceable body on the cheap. Pat Williams, B.J. Raji, and Corey Peters could all be options.if the price is right.
James Laurinitis will be your 2015 starter at the MIKE backer. With special teams standout Daren Bated behind him, there is some room for improvement. There are some decent options in Free Agency, but with JL55's cap number set to rise by $2M in each of the final two seasons of his contract, it seems unlikely that the Rams add more money to the position. Particularly when you consider that 'Animal Jr' has never missed a game in his NFL career.
This is the only position in the front 7 that arguably requires a starter. Alec Ogletree has the WILL backer spot locked down, but the Rams are lacking a SAM backer. Jo-Lonn Dunbar filled the slot last season, but he has regressed and is a Free Agent himself. Behind them is a bevy of unproven youngsters.
There's the belief among many that Mark Barron will be the de facto third linebacker in 3 safety sets. While the Rams had some success late in the season with this package, Williams loves to be creative with his defensive sets. The more flexibility that the front office can get him, the better our defense will be.
I like the idea of re-signing Dunbar on a team friendly contract and then bringing in someone else to compete with him. Personally, I LOVE the OLBs in this year's draft, but there's talent out there in Free Agency as well. With the aforementioned financial constraints in mind, Sean Weatherspoon is an intriguing option. He went to college at Mizzou and provides a lot of upside if he can recover his form.
Lower profile options include Geno Hayes, Jacquain Williams, and Mark Herzlich. The downside to going this route is that they are 2-down linebackers, meaning that they struggle in coverage. But with the Rams potentially using 3 safety looks and having an abundance of young, talented DBs that limitation could be accomodated.
Upgrading the strength of a team through Free Agency usually isn't how NFL GMs roll. But with the front office's desire to be great at one thing instead of good at two things, I never count anything out. There will be value signings to be had, it just depends if the Rams want to sink more of the salary cap into their front 7.