As we continue to approach the beginning of free agency, the question continues to loom.
What will the Los Angeles Rams do on the defensive side of the ball?
A year ago, the Rams entered the offseason as the worst offense in the league (and by far). It was clear newly appointed Head Coach Sean McVay and General Manager Les Snead sought out to fix that.
Now, the focus becomes what the Rams can do to get the defense caught up to the offense and potentially make a deep playoff run. For me, it starts with the basics. Helping to transition the personnel into Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense but more specifically stopping the run. Which positions are the most likely to be targeted to improve our run defense? Nose tackle and ILB.
As our Sean Wilkinson mentioned recently, ILB Mark Barron should be in real danger of potentially being cut as a cap casualty. If that’s the case, the Rams save $7m in cap space, and eat a $3 million penalty. It’s probably worth it because the Rams cannot afford to pay Alec Ogletree and Barron a combined $22m all while underperforming.
So what’s the solution?
For one, the Rams can go get an ILB who is a cheaper replacement, a better fit for the 3-4 defense, and will perform at the same/better level! And that’s where Chicago Bears ILB Jerrell Freeman comes into play. He’s a UDFA from 2008 who had to work his way through the CFL, establish his ability, and then finally get an NFL roster spot. Spending a total of six years - four with the Indianapolis Colts, two with the Bears - Freeman is a 31-year old who has spent the entirety of his career in a 3-4 defense. Freeman actually isn’t a free agent, but it’s suspected that the Bears will move on, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Over at Windy City Gridiron, SB Nation’s community for fans of the Bears, Lester A. Wiltfong, Jr., also speculates that Freeman has likely played his last snaps as a Bear though a retirement may be on the near horizon.
He has some flags in a torn pectoral in Week 1 last year, a concussion history and two PED suspensions one of which will force him to miss two weeks in 2018. Still, it is undeniable that Freeman is one of the better ILB’s in the league when healthy. If those transgressions are behind him, he should absolutely be in play for the Rams. Freeman is on the last year of a 3-year, $12m deal. With his shaky history, he could be had for very minimal money making the addition even better.
As the Rams continue their quest toward the ultimate goal, it’ll be in the forefront that the defense catches up to the offense’s production. This offseason will be crucial in determining whether the Rams can have continued success going forward. Fixing the defense is the first step.
And Freeman might make that first step considerably easier.