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Sebastian Joseph-Day’s 3 most-likely free agent destinations

He was on the verge of “the breakout” and now SJD could help the Steelers, Chargers, or Lions fix their run defense

Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Sebastian Joseph-Day was perhaps finally on his way to “the breakout” in 2021 that so many had talked about for the last couple of years. Then on November 5th, eight weeks into the season, the Los Angeles Rams placed Joseph-Day on injured reserve with a pectoral injury and in many ways instead that allowed Greg Gaines to have “the breakout.”

That doesn’t mean that teams failed to take notice of how far SJD had come by the middle of his fourth NFL season and he may draw more interest than most of the defensive linemen who enjoyed a “the breakout” moment while playing alongside Aaron Donald.

So much so that the Rams being able to bring back Joseph-Day on a second contract seems to be well past the realm of probabilities.

In only seven games last season, Joseph-Day tallied 38 tackles, five QB hits, and a career-high three sacks. A sixth round pick in 2018 who didn’t see the field as a rookie, Joseph-Day spent the next two and a half years as a starter next to Donald as a premium run defender on first and second downs. SJD vowed to improve as a pass rusher in 2021 and that’s exactly what he had been doing prior to going on IR.

“It’s my pass rush. That was my biggest thing because I know my role my first two years starting, where it was first and second down, stopping the run,” he said on Monday. “That was a big thing for me and a big thing when I talked to Coach Henny was, I think he really wanted me to hone in on pass-rush ability. Working on moves and working an edge and seeing things quicker. So, a lot of my offseason was spent on that.”

The Rams activated Joseph-Day to the 53-man roster before the Super Bowl, but he didn’t make an appearance in the game. He still got his Super Bowl ring, deservingly so, and this month he will become a free agent for the first time. Assuming that Donald will not retire, that A’Shawn Robinson won’t get released, and that the team may prefer to extend Gaines over re-signing Joseph-Day—though this is only an assumption on my part—room in the budgetary constraints suggest that Joseph-Day may go the same way as Michael Brockers, Morgan Fox, Dante Fowler, and Ndamukong Suh over the last few offseasons:

To other teams.

Should the Rams prioritize re-signing Sebastian Joseph-Day instead? Let me know in the comments section.

If they don’t, who are the most-likely teams to sign SJD?

Signs with the L.A. Chargers

Though Joseph-Day only spent one season with Brandon Staley as LA’s defensive coordinator, he had a massive impact on the field—55 tackles, four QB hits, three batted passes, one sack, a solid postseason, and run defense galore—and his old coach hasn’t moved very far away at all.

Tyler Schoon, one of the hosts of the Guilty as Charged podcast, postulated Joseph-Day as a prime target for Staley in free agency.

The Chargers have a ton of cap space and could most likely be parting with 34-year-old defensive tackle Linval Joseph and 26-year-old Justin Jones. Former first round pick Jerry Tillery has thus far been underwhelming in the NFL but has quietly had some decent pass rush in the middle of LAC’s defensive line. The Chargers ranked 30th in run defense by DVOA.

Adding Joseph-Day alongside Tillery and Joey Bosa to reunite him with Staley connects all the dots I need to see.

Go back to Pittsburgh to help Steelers last-ranked run defense

A native of Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania, Joseph-Day was once a three-star recruit coming out of that area, ultimately deciding to play for Rutgers in 2013, then getting drafted by L.A. in 2018. That doesn’t mean he has forgotten his hometown team though.

The Steelers have way more cap space than the Rams and they also have a huge problem: abysmal run defense. Pittsburgh ranked 32nd in total rushing yards allowed and yards per carry allowed. They were 27th in DVOA against the run.

Though Cam Heyward is sort of a “quiet legend” in Pittsburgh and a first-team All-Pro last season, the 33-year-old has little help in run defense and himself is approaching an age where the team must do what they didn’t do with Ben Roethlisberger: plan for the future.

Reunite with Brad Holmes and the Detroit Lions

The last person who SJD sacked prior to his pectoral injury? Jared Goff.

Now maybe he can go to the Lions and assure that he won’t sack Goff next season. (Assuming Goff is still on the Lions then.)

General manager Brad Holmes is obviously familiar with SJD, having helped scout and draft him four years ago. He secured that the Lions would have Brockers in 2021. Defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant was the Rams’ cornerbacks coach from 2017-2020, so at least Joseph-Day would have yet another familiar face in Detroit... A team with enough cap space to assure Joseph-Day a lucrative deal both in the present and the future.

That is assuming that teams see Joseph-Day as a long-term commitment despite missing half of his “the breakout” campaign.

Holmes knows him better than most though and I see Joseph-Day as being a player who is more than his Pro-Football-Resume. He’s got work ethic for days, he’s got humility, he tried to soak up knowledge from Donald at every moment, and he was more active in the community than most could ever even think to be. Holmes knows all that and the Lions would have to at least be in the conversation, I’d think.

The Lions were also 28th in rushing yards allowed and 31st in run defense by DVOA.

Of course, I’m not ruling out the Rams entirely. Another sleeper team to add to the list could be SJD’s college city of New Jersey... the Giants had a terrible run defense last season and must always be looking to add talent around Leonard Williams. The Vikings with Kevin O’Connell or the Broncos with Ejiro Evero as defensive coordinator might also throw out SJD as a potential signing based on their personal experiences with him on the Rams.

Where do you see SJD fitting in with a team, Rams or other, next season?