After trading for Von Miller mid-season last year, the Los Angeles Rams got a taste of what it’s like to have a truly elite pass rush. Between Miller, Aaron Donald, and Leonard Floyd, LA disrupted opposing signal callers during their playoff run - even making Tom Brady look bad through three quarters of the divisional round game.
But once Miller hit the free agency market, his price tag grew to a figure the Rams couldn’t get comfortable with. He instead signed with the Buffalo Bills.
Give LA credit: they didn’t panic after they lost Miller and they didn’t make an erratic move in an attempt to replace him.
The Rams are going to give Justin Hollins, Terrell Lewis, and Chris Garrett an opportunity to take the next step in their careers and become a formidable pass rushing threat off the edge opposite Floyd. If that doesn’t happen, well, the Rams will just do what they’ve always done - acquire a proven veteran in a bad situation and plug them into a winning roster.
In fact, there’s a (good) chance when Los Angeles takes the field for their exhibition game against the Houston Texans this weekend they could be facing off against a future player - third-year edge defender Jonathan Greenard.
Greenard, maybe the Texans best player https://t.co/10HbAmFGAL— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) August 17, 2022
How good is Greenard?
After being drafted in the third round out of Florida in 2020, Greenard spent most of his rookie season on the sidelines - but he emerged as a gifted pass rusher in year 2.
Due to multiple injuries and a bout with COVID-19, the second-year defensive end only played in effectively 11 games. He suffered a foot injury in Week 18 which limited him to only 7 snaps and required offseason surgery. Despite missing the better part of 6 games, Greenard still recorded 8 sacks.
This was such a CLEAN sack by Jon Greenard. Swipe and rip, makes it look easy, but it aint! pic.twitter.com/OTDcNjrkN6— Jordan Pun (@Texans_Thoughts) August 15, 2021
8 sacks is a fine measure by traditional statistics, but Greenard’s on-field performance was stellar from an analytical perspective as well.
One of the most stable ways to evaluate pass rush productively is to look at a player’s given performance on PFF’s “true pass sets”, which carves out screen plays, play action, design rollouts, and plays where the quarterback takes an abnormal amount of time to throw the ball. The purpose of this exercise is to isolate plays where both the defensive and offensive players are on equal footing - and this is the most reliable way to predict future pass rushing outcomes.
On “true pass sets” Greenard earned a pass rush win rate of 25% and earned a PFF pass rushing grade of 90.1 - which is an objectively elite measure and ranked 12th among all defenders after applying a 20% snap minimum.
There’s not many players better at rushing the passer than Greenard, and with him entering only his third season there’s room to grow.
Jon Greenard (Houston EDGE 52, been playing pretty well!) earned all my respect for the effort on this play pic.twitter.com/G3coWxj0M0— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) October 26, 2021
Why he might be available:
The Texans aren’t looking to compete this year, though Davis Mills might be good enough in his second season to keep Houston out of the running for the first overall pick in the draft.
After the Deshaun Watson trade, Houston has a wealth of draft capital - though moving up for a quarterback of the future isn’t cheap and they need will need all the picks they can get.
Greenard’s contract is up after the 2023 season, and the team will likely have to hand him a hefty pay day before the rest of the roster is ready for contention. Does it make sense to keep the defensive end around for the continued re-build, or is it in their best interest to continue to accumulate premium draft selections?
That’s the Jon Greenard I know and love! pic.twitter.com/b1gZU4fo27— Jordan Pun (@Texans_Thoughts) September 24, 2021
What would it cost?
The Rams don’t have a first round draft pick in 2023 because of their Super Bowl-winning trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford, but they could still have three picks within the first three rounds. LA would earn a compensatory selection should a minority assistant coach take a head coaching role elsewhere - such as Raheem Morris or Thomas Brown. At this point, it seems more likely than not that Morris will be a head coach for another team next season - though things change quickly in the NFL.
Would a second round pick in 2023 and a first rounder in 2024 before enough to pry Greenard away from the Texans? Could it cost even less to acquire the pass rush specialist?
Jonathan Greenard could take the Rams’ pass rush from “good” to “elite”, and the team should do what it takes to acquire him while their competitive window is still open.