As the NFL offseason is fastly approaching, the LA Rams are now in roster building mode. It started with trading quarterback Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions and acquiring veteran QB Matthew Stafford. With the primary offensive position addressed, now the Rams can focus on another position group that needs tweaking, the linebackers.
The Rams had one of the best defensive units in the league in 2020. However, their linebacking core was one of their weak spots. Lead by OLB Leonard Floyd and Samson Ebukam and anchored at ILB by Micah Kiser, the Rams lacked depth at the position. Still, the team did find some promise in the making in Kenny Young and Troy Reeder.
The team will be in the market for linebacker help with both Floyd and Ebukam being a free agent, but spending will be limited due to being low on cap space (currently estimated at $25 Million OVER the cap) so who will the team target with limited funds? Let’s dive into the free-agent market:
Nick Virgil– A former third-round pick (87th overall) from the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, ILB Nick Virgil has one of the most underrated linebackers in the NFL. Mainly used on special teams for the Bengals as a rookie, he slowly eased into the defensive rotation slowly through the early part of his career. In 2019, he was put into full-time action where he automatically excelled, recording 108 tackles.
Curiously, that was not enough production to be resigned, and he took on a one-year prove-it deal with the Los Angeles Chargers. There, he recorded 29 tackles and two sacks. Virgil won’t demand top dollar in the market and is a low-risk high-reward type of signing who provides both depth and production at a position of need for the Rams. He can even contribute on special teams.
2. Alex Anzalone– a former third-round pick (76th overall) from the 2017 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints, OLB Alex Anzalone has been a solid rotational contributor to the Saints defensive unit for the past few years. In his four years, he stepped onto over half of the 38 games played as the starter. The most intriguing characteristic is his versatility. He has been used both on the outside and the inside of the Saints defense.
Unfortunately, he has dealt with injuries throughout his career. However when healthy he produces. Not only does he provide consistent play, but he also provides solid pass defense. And his versatility is undeniable. He too can also contribute to the Rams’ special teams as well. Anzalone would be a great addition to the Rams linebacker room.
3. Brandon Copeland– A former undrafted free agent from the University of Pennsylvania, OLB Brandon Copeland signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013. He made the NFL practice squad circuit for two years. Finally, in 2015, Copeland signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions where he was primarily a special teams contributor for the next two seasons.
In 2017, he suffered a torn pectoral muscle. His best season was the following year when he signed with the Jets and recorded 35 tackles and five sacks. Copeland signed with the Patriots in 2020, however suffered a second torn pectoral muscle that ended his season after five games. Brandon Copeland’s versatility is what separates him from most. Yes, his stats are limited, however, his play is consistent. The Rams can line him up anywhere on defense and he will get the job done.
4. Kamalei Correa- A former second-round pick (42nd overall) from the 2016 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens, Correa did not get much playing time in his rookie season. The next two seasons combined, he recorded 34 tackles and 3.5 sacks for the Ravens defense
In 2019, Correa was traded to the Tennessee Titans where he had his best season as a pro, recording 37 tackles and five quarterback sacks and played all 16 games. He also let his presence be felt in the post-season. He recorded 14 tackles and two sacks in the Titans’ surprising postseason run.
Last season he was a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars and recorded only nine tackles in seven games. Yes, his stats weren’t the best, but he has great upside.. He can line up as an edge rusher and be used as a downhill backer. Correa would be a very valuable chess piece for the Rams defense.
5. Jarrad Davis- A former first-round pick (21st overall) from the 2017 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, Jarrad Davis has been a staple in the middle of the Lions defense. Davis has been the starting middle linebacker for his first three seasons since he was drafted. He was injured at the end of the 2019 season and was placed on injured reserve due to injury to his knee and ankle.
One under-the-radar name to watch in NFL free agency?
Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis.
I’m told Davis has a solid market with some NFL teams believing he was misused at times by Matt Patricia’s staff in Detroit. Could be a nice option for clubs seeking a young, talented player.
— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) February 10, 2021
In four seasons, he had tallied 304 tackles, 10.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and one interception. Davis is a true downhill linebacker who is known for being the signal-caller on defense. The Rams should definitely take a flier on this guy, because of his ability to take over the middle of the defense, his football IQ, and his youth (just 26 years old).
The LA Rams definitely have options this offseason at the linebacker position and these five free agents are players who will not break the bank. In fact, they have enough upside that can really be beneficial to the team. Each linebacker checks the box in terms of bringing a starting-caliber player to the Rams, but each has enough unique characteristics to give the Rams some leeway in terms of finding the right fit.
The LA Rams need affordable quality players who can rise to new heights in the presence of Aaron Donald. Here are five such players who can do exactly that, and who can help the defense get even better than it was in 2020.