Heading into free agency it seemed the number one priority for the Los Angeles Rams was re-signing veteran pass rusher Von Miller, who they had acquired via trade with the Denver Broncos in the middle of the 2021 regular season.
Unfortunately for the Rams, by making Miller their first free agent priority they lost out on the opportunity to re-sign Obo Okoronkwo and, if they so desired, competed in the bidding wars for players like Chandler Jones, Za’Darius Smith, and Haasan Reddick.
What options does LA have to replace Miller? Are there any via internal candidates ready for a promotion, or will the team elect to acquire someone else either through free agency or a trade?
Hollins is entering his fourth year in the NFL and his third season with LA. The Rams acquired Hollins via a waiver claim after the 2020 preseason, and it was a low-risk investment that has already paid dividends.
At 6-5, 248 lbs. Hollins is a bigger body that is stout against the run. Does he have enough skills as a pass rusher to fully complement Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd?
Los Angeles drafted Lewis in the third round of the 2020 draft, but a lingering knee issue that dates back to college has kept his NFL career so far at more of a jogging pace than a sprint. Lewis is unable to fully participate in practice most weeks, and he for the most part he was a gameday inactive after the team acquired Miller in 2021.
With that said, Lewis has the potential to grow into a formidable edge defender - though it’s extremely risky for the Rams to bet on his availability at this point in his career.
LA selected Garrett in the seventh round of the 2021 draft. Outside of an impressive preseason performance where he showed promise against lesser competition, he mostly had a redshirt rookie campaign. Garrett was an incredible Division II athlete at Concordia St. Paul, but he still hasn’t had the opportunity to play against starting NFL talent for an extended amount of time.
Could that change in the near future?
Seventh-round pick @garrettchris52 notched a TFL and a sack-forced fumble...— NFL (@NFL) August 22, 2021
On the SAME drive.
Watch @aarondonald97 and the @RamsNFL bench hype him up.
: #LVvsLAR on @NFLNetwork (or check local listings)
: https://t.co/aybjCmju9Y pic.twitter.com/WJd5GI3gIP
Available free agents
Edge defender is typically a position that gets picked over fairly quickly at the opening of the unrestricted free agent period, and 2022 is no different.
Jadeveon Clowney (Browns)
Clowney has been available on a frequent basis over the last few offseasons and the Rams have not seemed to interested in his services. It’s possible that after one of his better recent performances last year in Cleveland and with the Rams finding themselves with few options that LA turns to the veteran for help.
PFF has projected contracts for their top players of the 2022 free agent class, and they are expecting Clowney to sign a one-year $15M deal. Based on the money Miller earned with Buffalo, the Rams could probably make that work.
Jerry Hughes (Bills)
Hughes is slightly older than Miller, but LA has shown interest in his services as recently as 2018 - when the team traded for pass rusher Dante Fowler.
The veteran would be a solid fit for Los Angeles, though he’s probably a rotational player at this point in his career. With a handful of young edge defenders already on the roster, that might just be what the Rams are looking for.
Rams are going for it: In recent months, they inquired about Khalil Mack, Jadeveon Clowney and Jerry Hughes before completing Dante Fowler Jr. trade.https://t.co/HMsQ814lmk— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 4, 2018
Dante Fowler (Released - Falcons)
While Fowler is a former Ram, and he helped LA reach the Super Bowl in 2018, it’s not clear that the team is coveting his services this time around. Fowler has not played well since he signed a significant contract with the Atlanta Falcons - though we’ve seen players like Floyd also struggle elsewhere and then have success on the defensive line with Donald.
Fowler recorded 11.5 sacks in his only full season with the Rams back in 2019.
As the former number three overall selection in the 2015 draft, Fowler is still a high-end athlete. Teams typically are looking elite athletes to play on the edge of their defense, so that is a positive working in his favor.
Since he was released by Atlanta, Fowler would not count against the Rams in terms of the compensatory selection formula.
Arden Key (49ers)
Key is a former third round draft selection by the Raiders. He was released by the team ahead of the 2021 regular season and was scooped up by the San Francisco 49ers. In a full season with San Francisco Key recorded 6.5 sacks, so it’s clear is able to rush the passer as part of a rotation.
With that said, Key has been known as a liability in the running game. Could the Rams be willing to stomach the downside, knowing that Hollins is on the roster and could help in this area? In other words, could we see a future rotating at outside linebacker featuring Hollins on early downs and Key in known passing situations?
At almost 26 years old, Key is an intriguing fit for Los Angeles.
Is it worth cancelling out another compensatory selection the Rams would earn by one of their free agents signing elsewhere? Keep in mind LA can only earn a maximum of four compensatory picks from free agents, and they’re likely to earn selections from the Darious Williams, Austin Corbett, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Von Miller. Can LA land key with a deal similar to what Okoronkwo earned from the Texans, which would not impact the aforementioned comp picks?
Potential trade targets
Danielle Hunter (Vikings)
The Minnesota Vikings are in a salary cap crunch - and they are reportedly looking to unload pass rusher Danielle Hunter. While he’s had injuries in recent seasons, could the Rams be interested?
Hunter is still relatively young at age 27, and he could be a long-term answer for the Rams on the edge of their defense. LA believes they have one of the best training staffs in football - is Hunter worth the gamble?