His arrival stacks up ever more depth along the defensive interior already bolstered by the signing of Dominique Easley last month. Following Easley's signing, QBKlass broke down how his skill set fit the Rams' needs. Tonight, let's take a look at the depth chart along the defensive interior both in the short term and beyond.
Aaron Donald...and everybody else
So the first thing that should be pointed out is that Aaron Donald is the best player for his position on the Los Angeles Rams. Better than Just Todd Gurley. Better than Robert Quinn. And, for at least Pro Football Focus but certainly for others as well, better than any other football player on Earth.
So when talking about the Rams' situation at defensive tackle, you have to start with Donald and the fact he's headed into the third year of his four-year rookie deal. Barring the unexpected, a re-up with the Rams is coming soon, and it's going to cost them. Nothing awry with that, but you have to build that into your plans.
Whither Michael Brockers?
The Rams applied the fifth-year option on Brockers last offseason locking him up for the 2016 season. And it's been suggested the Rams are working to sign him to a long-term deal. Until that happens, you have to wonder how much the Rams will invest in the position with a superstar like Donald locked in.
I don't suggest that because I think Brockers isn't valuable or doesn't merit the expense; he does on an individual talent basis.
But it's worth considering the totality of a Donald+Brockers expense in the coming 12-24 months and if it's justified to tie up that much salary at defensive tackle.
This is obviously where Thomas and Easley fit in, where Nick Fairley fit in a year ago as a one-year free agent for the 2015 St. Louis Rams, where Kendall Langford and Alex Carrington and Trevor Laws slotted in previous years under Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher.
It's clearly a slot Fisher and the Rams' current front office led by General Manager Les Snead are comfortable staffing with veterans. As long as both are around, there's clearly no reason to see that changing.
The real question is if there is room for both Easley and Thomas on the 53-man roster going in to Week 1 of the 2016 NFL Regular Season.
I'm not sure about an answer to that question as it stands.
For whatever it's worth, Easley is on a one-year deal. No details on Thomas' contract as of tonight.
Mixed young depth
As is always the case for any NFL team in the modern era, the extended offseason roster allows you to bulk up depth at every position.
While the Rams didn't put any extra chips in the DT pot from this year's UDFA class, they've got two holdovers from undrafted classes past in Ethan Westbrooks (2014) and Louis Trinca-Pasat (2015). Westbrooks is going into a contract year while LTP is locked in through the 2017 season.
While I wouldn't be surprised at all if Westbrooks is pushed out to defensive end more this year after sliding inside a year ago, that's six candidates as it stands.
That's simply too many DTs to carry.
Last season, the Rams brought four defensive tackles and four ends into the regular season on the 53-man roster. With Fairley and DE Chris Long both gone, there's obviously two names to be turned over if the position allotment remains unchanged.
The real question is in the inter- and intra-group battles between the veterans and young depth how things shake out.
Are Easley and Thomas both lead horses ahead of Westbrooks and LTP? Would one from each group serve the Rams best? Is stashing LTP on the practice squad the easy move to be able to keep him around while you make a decision between the other three?
We know Aaron Donald is gonna soak up plenty of attention when Hard Knocks begins airing on HBO later this summer, but keep an eye on the veteran-youth dichotomy on the defensive line.
It's one of those preseason processes that ends up having an impact on the regular season when you least expect it.