One thing that may not be getting as much mention as it should, is the fact that Rams defensive end Chris Long, had a disappointing season. The Rams just signed Long to a big contract in 2012, extending him to 2016 worth a total of $48 million.
Since signing his $48 million contract, Long’s numbers have only gone down. Last season Long recorded 11.5 sacks, 1.5 sacks lower than the year before, and this season Long failed to reach double-digit sacks, recording a mere 8.5.
You can say what you want that Long opened things up for Robert Quinn, but in fact, the opposite should have been true. Every team the Rams played tried to stop Quinn, double teaming him, chipping him, etc. Everybody nearly forgot about Chris Long, and he only managed 8.5 sacks.
Long’s experience and value to the defensive line cannot be underestimated, but the Rams could improve in 2014 at that position by trading Long and drafting South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney with the second overall pick.
The Rams would be opening up a ton of cap space, get possibly the best player in the draft, as well as get younger at the position.
Long is 28 years old, and his best days may be behind him. Long will still be a force on the line, but it looks like Robert Quinn has taken over as the premier pass rusher.
The Rams could easily receive a 2nd round pick at best for Long as well as a lower conditional round pick, or at worst a 4th round pick with a conditional pick. Finding a trade partner who could take on Long’s cap amount on the other hand could be difficult. If the Rams put Long on the trade block however, there is no question a team would jump right on it.
ESPN’s draft profile has this to say about Clowney:
Rare combination of length, initial burst, suddenness, change-of-direction skills and violent hands as a pass rusher. He shows very good natural instincts. Keeps OTs constantly guessing because of his ability to convert speed-to-power, as well as his ability to quickly change directions on an outside-in or inside-out move. Is relentless as a rusher. Has excellent torso flexibility and closing burst to get home once he turns the corner.
Quick to diagnose run and locate the ball. Has very good natural football instincts. Needs to continue to improve lower-body strength in order to anchor better, but is a natural knee-bender who shows ability to sink his hips. Stacks and sheds blockers quickly enough to get involved. Elite range for size/position. Consistently makes plays down the line, outside the tackle box and occasionally across the field in backside pursuit.
Most natural fit is RDE in a four-man front, but rare combination of tools will allow him to play multiple positions in multiple fronts.
On field for a high percentage of snaps and shows outstanding stamina. Very good motor in 2012, which was an improvement over 2011 tapes. Makes multiple plays per game as a result of relentless pursuit. Plays with confidence, toughness, aggressiveness and determination.
Long does play on the left side, but the Rams could just put Clowney on the left side, or put Quinn over there. With the way Quinn has played on the right side, inserting Clowney on the left may be the most logical decision.
Clowney only had three sacks last season, but that doesn’t take away from his 14 sack 2012 season and his outstanding skill set.
One downside on Clowney is that he seemed to have some work ethic issues last season, but Fisher seems to know how to get the best out of players as Albert Haynesworth‘s best days were in Tennessee with Fisher. Haynesworth also had work ethic issues.
Drafting Clowney and trading Chris Long would not only give the Rams a significant amount of cap space, but could also make the Rams one of the best defensive lines in the history of the game.
If the Rams don’t trade Chris Long, the Rams more than likely would pass on Clowney, however, if the Rams were to draft him and get him to gain 20-30 pounds, Clowney has the ability and athleticism to play on the inside next to Brockers. Defensive end is where Clowney prefers, but if the Rams needed to, they might be able to move him to defensive tackle.
Clowney is said to be a once in a generation type player. Players like him don’t come around very often. If the Rams get the chance to draft Clowney, there is no doubt that they should strongly consider it.