That idiom is a great description of how Los Angeles Rams ILB Mark Barron was squeezed into his NFL career.
Barron was originally drafted seventh overall in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As an extremely productive safety at Alabama, Barron was expected to excel in the NFL. While Barron was still productive in two-and-a-half seasons in Tampa Bay, he never quite fit the role of the modern day strong safety whose coverage ability needs to be above average, though he always fit the description of a hard-hitting box safety who could impose his will on offensive players.
That’s when the Rams saw a talented player in the wrong position and traded for him. Barron transitioned into a hybrid linebacker and things immediately clicked for the former top-10 draft selection.
In three-and-a-half years with the Rams, Barron has totaled 343 tackles, six sacks, five pass deflections, five interceptions, and three interceptions all while proving to be the more consistent linebacker to former Rams ILB Alec Ogletree, who signed a contract extension in October and was then traded five months later.
But it was Barron first who received a hefty raise when he signed a 5-year, $45-million dollar deal with $20 million guaranteed back in 2016.
There’s much of a battle for Barron. When the Rams traded Ogletree, they chose to move forward with the belief in Barron that he could continue to hold down the middle of Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense especially in run situations.
Barron offers a unique skill-set for the Rams defense as a fast linebacker who holds true ability to play all three downs but is also tough and physical enough to stick his face into a gap.
Some players to look out for at ILB are Cory Littleton (roster preview) who reportedly has the first crack to play with Barron, free agent addition Ramik Wilson (roster preview), and rookie draft selection Micah Kiser (roster preview).
The expectations for Barron should be exactly what he’s given the past few seasons. Statistically over 100 tackles, a handful of splash plays in terms of sacks/interceptions/fumbles, and consistent leadership from the linebacker position.
If Barron can return to 100% health for this upcoming season, he’s got a shot to prove he can make it work in a 3-4 defense. His comfort with Phillips will define his future with the Rams.
Chances of Making Final Roster (10/10)
The Rams could have cut Barron earlier this offseason and saved seven million dollars on the cap, but chose not to.
He’s not going anywhere now.