William Hayes was a Ram before he was a Ram.
From 2004-07, Hayes starred for the Winston-Salem Rams. A strong final season and draft season performances led to Hayes being drafted in the fourth round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans and then-Head Coach Jeff Fisher. Four years later with Fisher in his first year as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams, the two reunited bringing Hayes in on a one-year "prove it" deal.
He proved it.
His seven sacks in 2012 were the most he had accumulated in a single season in his career. Now looking at the final year of the three-year reward deal he picked up after that banner season in 2012, Hayes is heading into the final chapter of his career. How will he launch it in 2015?
Tough to see anyone upsetting the duo of Hayes and Eugene Sims backing up the starting defensive ends in Robert Quinn and Chris Long.
The battle is behind those four for Ethan Westbrooks' spot on the 2014 53-man roster.
The Rams' defensive line should carry the highest expectations of any unit on the team. To that end, Hayes' contributions carry part of that load. Last year, Hayes filled in for Chris Long for roughly half of the season and did so adequately. There's no reason to expect anything less from Hayes this year.
Chances of Making Final Roster (10/10)
Hayes has easily been one of the best reserve defensive ends in the league in the last few years. The Rams should be able to extract at least one more premium year out of him. The question is where Hayes goes from there...and it all depends on his 2015.
If he gives them that plus season that I think he still has in him, he might be in for a late-career payday as a starter elsewhere. Struggling in 2015 might push him to seek the market as a reclamation option for a needy team. So how does Hayes find himself with the Rams beyond 2015? Tough to see it IMO, which makes this season all the more important for Hayes.
It might just be his resume statement to the rest of the league.