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2016 Rams Roster Preview: Can LB Akeem Ayers Solidify His Future in LA?

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The Rams starting strongside linebacker is in a contract year and has some competition in 2016. Can he do enough to stick around long term?

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Rams OLB Akeem Ayers intrigues me.

He just turned 27 this month and is only now entering the prime of his career. The Rams signed him to a reasonable team-friendly contract in 2015, and he has the potential to be a solid player for another three to five years...but for one reason or another, he hasn't been able to put it all together.

He played in all 16 games for the Rams in 2015 making 10 starts, but he only had 47 tackles, a half sack, and a fumble recovery for a TD. I understand that a third LB isn't as prevalent in today's NFL as in previous eras, but I'd expect more than that from Ayers.

Ayers can be productive. In 2012, he had 104 tackles and six sacks. Can he finally get everything rolling and get back to that level of performance?

Roster Battle

There isn't much to see here as far as a formal roster battle is concerned. Ayers will be the starting strongside linebacker, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be looking over his shoulder. The Rams have a couple of young thumpers behind Ayers that could put a little more uncertainty into Ayers' long-term future with the Rams.

Josh Forrest (roster preview) and Brandon Chubb (roster preview) were brought into the fold after Daren Bates and James Laurinaitis departed. Cameron Lynch (roster preview) was a surprise addition last season and will likely be around as well.

I'm not saying that any of these three are likely to unseat Ayers in 2016, but with a solid camp they could certainly inject some uncertainty into his role with the team beyond this season.

Expectations

On the field, Ayers has to do better than he did in 2015. He doesn't have to carry the load, Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron will handle that. But if he can't improve on his performance this season, he will likely find himself playing elsewhere after this season.

I think 70 tackles and a 5-7 sack total would be enough to secure a contract extension for Ayers.

Chances of Making Final Roster (9/10)

Why not 10/10 for a starting LB you ask? The reason is threefold.

1) Ayers underwhelmed as the third LB in 2015.
2) The Rams spent a 6th round pick on Forrest. If he impresses in camp that may make Ayers expendable.
3) Business. Contract extensions for key players are quickly approaching. If the team feels that Ayers' $2.15M base salary in 2016 can keep part of it's core together, they might cut him.

That being said, I think the likelihood of that happening is slim. QBKlass has Forrest at 8.5/10 and Ayers certainly has a better chance to make the roster - but he's not an absolute lock either.