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2015 Rams Roster Preview: OLB Akeem Ayers Adds To Defensive Strength

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Akeem Ayers may be the component to help the Rams' linebackers take the next step in 2015.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

In terms of changes, the St. Louis Rams made very little changes during the 2015 free agency period. In fact, the Rams only signed six players during free agency. Three of them were on the roster the previous season.

Of the three new additions, signing fifth-year linebacker Akeem Ayers to a two-year deal was one of the more intriguing ones.

Roster Battle

Head Coach Jeff Fisher is quoted saying Ayers will compete with incumbent Jo-Lonn Dunbar for the starting outside linebacker job opposite of Alec Ogletree. Out of the two players, you can put money on Ayers to win the starting job.

First off, money talks. Akeem Ayers' two-year contract is worth $6 million. The deal can be worth up to $10 million through incentives. Jo-Lonn's two-year, $2.05 million deal pales in comparison.

Secondly, Ayers is a pass rushing threat. In his best season, 2012, Ayers racked up 104 total tackles and six sacks. 2013 saw a bit of a regression in Ayers' play, but the second half of the 2014 season flashed what Ayers can really do. He added in four sacks on limited play time with the New England Patriots. If the Rams can tap into Ayers' ability, they have gotten themselves an above average strong-side linebacker. Oh, he can drop back and cover the tight end as well.

The writing was on the wall for Dunbar last season. His snap count fell drastically. Jo-Lonn was pretty much relegated to a two-down linebacker. Safety Mark Barron substituted in for Dunbar during third down sub-packages. He's a run stuffer at best at this point of his career.

Expectations

Ayers and defensive tackle Nick Fairley were the Rams top targets in free agency. It is a safe bet Akeem will be heavily involved in the defense. He adds pass rushing ability to the linebacking corps. With the defensive line he has in front of him, Akeem will have plenty of openings to get to the quarterback.

Chances of Making Final Roster (10/10)

The Rams thought highly enough of Ayers that they went out to get him at the start of the offseason. There is no doubt Akeem makes the final roster. The only question is whether he can win the starting job and flash more than potential.