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Could Kwon Alexander fit the needs at linebacker for the Rams?

LA could bolster their linebacker corps, add speed on a buy-low value with Kwon Alexander

San Francisco 49ers Media Availability Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Kwon Alexander’s NFL career hasn’t gone as he had hoped when he entered the league as a fourth rounder out of LSU in 2015. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been successful in many ways.

Alexander was a Week 1 starter as a rookie on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, high praise coming from head coach Lovie Smith, who previously had Brian Urlacher as his middle linebacker for all nine seasons with the Chicago Bears. Alexander recorded 93 tackles, three sacks, nine batted passes, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions in his first 12 games, but was then suspended for violating the league’s policy on PEDs.

He has not received any league discipline since.

Alexander returned by Week 1 of the 2016 season and started all 16 games, recording an NFL-high 108 solo tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, three sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, and nine batted passes. He was still only 22 and PFF called him the most improved second-year linebacker that season. This despite the fact that 15 linebackers were drafted ahead of him and second-year linebacker Vic Beasley led the NFL in sacks in 2016.

In year three, Alexander was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time, recording 97 tackles, three interceptions, and four batted passes in only 12 games, having missed Weeks 3-6 with a hamstring injury. It may not have actually been his best career season but Alexander had certainly established himself as an above-average starter with upside left in the tank.

Then, as happens in the NFL, he got derailed.

Alexander had 45 tackles in his first six games of 2018, but then tore his ACL. He entered the free agent market in 2019 and San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch was elated to hand him a four-year, $54 million contract in spite of his knee injury, another risk that didn’t pay off for the former safety-turned-riskety. He started the first eight games, recording 34 tackles with one interception, then went on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle. He returned for the playoffs, but his impact was minimal.

Last season, Alexander started five games for the 49ers prior to being traded to the New Orleans Saints for a fifth round pick. He didn’t even make it to the midway point of his deal with San Francisco and he hasn’t even been that productive since 2017. An even more cynical observer would say that Alexander hasn’t been a high-quality starter since 2016.

But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to like about Alexander, who was released by the Saints this week in a cost-cutting move.

Alexander doesn’t turn 27 until August. If he has any speed left in his legs, then he might be able to tap into whatever made him the second-fastest linebacker at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine: 4.55 40-yard dash at 227 lbs. His other measurables were more “above-average” than “really good” but more importantly, Alexander once proved himself at the highest level and there’s a chance he could do so again.

And it should come at a surprisingly low cost.

Alexander tore his Achilles in late December, but a return for training camp would not be out of the question. Given the landscape of the NFL and the salary cap right now, it seems like a cheap one-year deal to build his resume back up again for 202 is exactly what Alexander needs and will receive. The Rams, meanwhile, have Samson Ebukam and Leonard Floyd hitting free agency, with only Micah Kiser and Troy Reeder seemingly in the lead to start on the inside. Alexander should be a buy-low consideration who could push to start over Reeder, or at the very least give LA additional options who aren’t complete unknowns.

Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has never coached Alexander, but he got a close look at him during his four years with the Bucs, given that Morris was coaching for the Falcons.

Nobody can say yet what sort of market Alexander will have, but given that New Orleans couldn’t trade him prior to his release, he might be cost-available to the cap-strapped Rams.


Kwon Alexander?

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