3 steps to rebuild Rams depleted DL despite a weak rookie class

Kobie Turner, Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams
Kobie Turner, Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams / Michael Owens/GettyImages
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Who has left?

I suppose that the best place to start is to examine how we got here. After all, the Rams roster did not suddenly find itself depleted instantly. The team knew contracts would expire. And if the Rams front office and coaching staff knew about Donald's retirement at the end of the 2023 season, they did nothing to help the team prepare for the event.

The Rams defensive line is not just losing Aaron Donald to retirement. The team will lose three players from the defensive line that carried six players on the active 53-man roster in 2023. That's half the team's players. Who has or will be leaving? Let's take a look:

Loss III: The loss of defensive tackle Larrell Murchison to an expired contract needs not to happen. This young man is 6-foot-2, weighs 297 pounds, and knows the team, his teammates, the coaches, and best of all, knows the defense. He played 252 defensive snaps for the Rams in 2023, 25 percent of the team's total defensive snaps. With that amount of work, he generated 16 tackles, one tackle for a loss, and did not miss a tackle. Is he worth bringing back? I think so. He may not be a Pro Bowler, but he does add capable depth to the defensive line. Right now, that is a step in the right direction.

Loss II: Did you realize that defensive end Jonah Williams started 16 of 17 games for the team in 2023? Unfortunately, he has already signed a contract with the Minnesota Vikings. When that news broke, I explained why that was bad timing for the Rams roster in 2024. But beyond that, the Rams lose a starting defensive end. Williams played 658 defensive snaps for the Rams in 2023. He was able to put up 49 tackles, 2.0 quarterback sacks, four QB hits, three QB hurries, two QB knockdowns, seven QB pressures, and four tackles for a loss last season. While the Rams hope for better production in 2024, who will supply it?

Loss I: Let's focus on what the retirement of defensive tackle Aaron Donald means to the defense from the perspective of Rams GM Les Snead might view the impact. Donald started every game in 2023, only missing Week 18 due to the team resting him for the 2024 NFL Playoffs. He played on 867 defensive snaps, putting up 53 tackles, 8.0 QB sacks, 16 tackles for a loss, 23 QB hits, 31 QB pressures, eight QB hurries, and 14 QB knockdowns.

From a defensive snaps standpoint, the Rams must replace 1,777 defensive snaps from 2023 to 2024. From that defensive snap shortfall, the team must optimize the production this season. Now, who remains to help carry the burden?