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Despite adding Akhello Witherspoon, Rams still need to do more on defense

Rams still need help at edge rusher after signing CB Akhello Withspoon.

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Jacksonville Jaguars v New York Jets Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams may not have made any splash signings during the typical free agency period, but they have been busy since the beginning of organized team activities (OTAs). Tyler Johnson and Demarcus Robinson were both signed to add some depth and competition at the wide receiver position. On Thursday, the Rams signed another player before training camp. That player was former San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback, Akhello Witherspoon.

However, with the current talent on defense, the signing of Withspoon shouldn’t be the last thing that the Rams do before training camp. They still have holes on the roster, specifically at edge rusher.

Pro Football Focus recently listed one move each team should make before the beginning of training camp. PFF’s Brad Spielberger suggested that the Rams should sign edge rusher Dawuane Smoot. Here’s what he had to say,

“Smoot tore his Achilles late in the 2022 season, so this is really investing in a younger free agent for 2024 and beyond, but that has been the overarching focus of the Rams’ offseason already. Perhaps Smoot is open to a multi-year deal like we’ve seen recently for players such as Ja’Wuan James with the Baltimore Ravens during the 2021 offseason, where he gets paid around the minimum, has access to an NFL training staff year-round and can then get ready to bounce back in a major way in 2024. Smoot signed a two-year, $10 million extension with the Jacksonville Jaguars and took major strides as a pass rusher, setting new career highs in pass-rush grade, pass-rush win rate and pressure percentage last season. From 2021 to 2022, Smoot’s 15.9% pass-rush win rate ranked among the top 35 at the edge position.”

Smoot is an intriguing option and as Spielberger notes, this type of signing lines up perfectly with the Rams team build. It’s pretty clear that the Rams aren’t playing for 2023, but rather have their eyes set on the 2024 and 2025 season.

The former Jaguars edge rusher would likely need to start the season on the PUP list. However, he adds something that the Rams don’t have at the edge rusher position right now which is experience. Smoot has 30 or more pressures in each of the last three seasons and over five sacks in the last four. He’s someone that could be added to the rotation of Byron Young, Michael Hoecht, Daniel Hardy, and Keir Thomas or Ochaun Mathis.

If Smoot performs well, you bring him back next season. In the case that he doesn’t, there’s not a lot of risk involved here and the Rams could cut ties.

While bringing in a player like Smoot on the edge would make sense, at the same time, the Rams may just want to use this season to get players like Byron Young some beneficial experience. With around $70M in cap space next year, the Los Angeles will be able to invest in the edge rusher position during free agency. This would effectively make Byron Young a complementary edge rusher. Does it make sense to give a 28-year old Smoot, who may not have a future on the roster, snaps over Young or even Hardy?

It’s unlikely that Smoot would come in and become a premier edge rusher which is what the Rams need. They hope to have a good number two in Young and they have some depth with Hardy. With that in mind Smoot may not make the most sense.

What’s clear is that the Rams are looking at the options still available and trying to make minor upgrades to the roster. Robinson adds some depth at wide receiver while Witherspoon gives the secondary a much-needed veteran presence. At the very least, the Rams are keeping their options open.