LA Rams need former Pro Bowl LB Jaylon Smith to fix defense

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams need linebacker help.  Well, the defense needs all kinds of help right now. But helping out that outside linebacker spot has been the recurring theme so far for the 2021 NFL season. Well, that and the fact that the team needs help at running back. So far, the team feels in pretty good hands at running back with the combination of Darrell Henderson and Sony Michell. So let’s turn our attention back to the linebacker role.

The Dallas Cowboys ran a 4-3 defense in 2020, and never really played defense very well. So they imported Dan Quinn to be the new defensive coordinator and transformed their defense to a 3-4 base defense. That means lots of linebackers, which the Cowboys found via the NFL Draft with linebacker Micah Parsons in round one, and linebacker Jabril Cox in round four of the 2021 NFL Draft. The team even signed free agent safety Keanu Neal and cross-trained him into the linebacker role (much like the Rams attempted to do with defensive back Jake Gervase).

Those moves have made former Pro Bowl linebacker Jaylon Smith both too expensive and expendable, which led to his release today.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Well, I think it’s quite safe to say that 31 NFL teams will view the potential to sign up former Pro-Bowl linebacker Jaylon Smith as a treasure.

A seemingly perfect solution for the Rams complex defensive problems

This guy is versatile and productive. He played middle linebacker for three seasons, played the outside linebacker role in a 4-3 defense last season, and played four games and started two games for the Dallas Cowboys as their outside linebacker this season. And he is only 26 years old and entering his fifth NFL season.

Can you say Justin Hollins 2.0?  Only this time, Smith began in the middle and cross-trained to the outside. Production? He has recorded 81 tackles, 121 tackles, 142 tackles, and 151 tackles. In his first four NFL seasons, he’s recorded nine quarterback sacks and two interceptions.

And did we say he’s versatile? At 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, this guy can fill any linebacker spot on the team, and do so with Pro Bowl production. The Rams have settled in on Kenny Young as their main starter and flexed in Troy Reeder for two inside linebackers when the down and distance warrants it. As for the edge? The Rams have Leonard Floyd on one side and now rotate Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Terrell Lewis on the other.

An inexpensive option

The Rams could conceivably sign Smith for an inexpensive one-year deal, as his contract is guaranteed up to $9.2 million for 2021 by the Cowboys. They even have offset language, to ensure that Smith doesn’t double-dip.

Is this the right time for the Rams free agency shoppers to go to work? I think so yes. While it’s too soon to make a difference for Week 5, he could be signed, suited up, and ready to go to work in Week 6. For Raheem Morris’s defense to work for the LA Rams, the team needs to give serious consideration and discussion to upgrade at linebacker.

Why would Jaylon Smith give any consideration to signing one with the Rams? Well, he will likely make the same amount of money with any team, thanks to the Dallas offset language. But he won’t get a boost to his fair market value anywhere else like he will get by playing for the LA Rams this season. And he will join a team with the Super Bowl in their sights, a goal that he would surely value over a less competitive team. Perhaps most of all, he will have an opportunity to showcase his versatility with the Rams better than anywhere else.

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Bonus points? Imagine this guy playing behind or alongside All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald?