A crazy proven way to bolster the Rams pass rush without overspending

Right now, the Rams are getting veteran production out of rookie OLB Byron Young. Does it really make sense to spend more at the position in 2024?

Carolina Panthers,  Brian Burns
Carolina Panthers, Brian Burns / Don Juan Moore/GettyImages
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Trust in the Rams young players

Can the Rams do better? If not in on-field production, perhaps in the overall return on their investment? After all, we often ignore the investment that a team must make to acquire and play a pass rusher. First, there are the costs to acquire that player. If the player is drafted, that is the opportunity cost of selecting that player (versus another player who is on the board at the time). If the player is acquired via a trade, then there is the value of assets needed to pry that player from the other team.

But even if the Rams acquire the player via free agency, there are costs. We have just discussed how a contract signed to add an outside linebacker could be used in the algorithm of calculating potential awarded compensatory picks. In short, players signed to contracts may offset the loss of players to free agency at equivalent contract value.

But even beyond that, there is the cost to play them. The Rams enjoyed an incredible rookie class of 2023, with OLB Byron Young and NT Kobie Turner combining for 17.0 quarterback sacks and 118 tackles at a salary cost of less than $2 million. The Rams cannot replicate half that level of production by signing or trading for any player that costs three times as much money.

Many fans cite a burning interest in revisiting a trade scenario in which the Rams sign Carolina Panthers FA DE Brian Burns, who is currently projected to command a salary of $22 million in 2024. But does that level of investment in Burns make any sense for a Rams team that already boasts a promising future NFL star for 1/16th of the price?

The Rams defense rushes four players. Unless the Rams intend to move Burns to a down lineman position and play defensive end alongside Aaron Donald and Kobie Turner, rushing Burns forces the team to place Byron Young in pass coverage.

Perhaps a wise option would be for the Rams to return OLB Michael Hoecht to a defensive end position, draft another outside linebacker, and send a quartet of OLB Byron Young (8.0 sacks), DT Aaron Donald (8.0 sacks), NT Kobie Turner (9.0 sacks), and DE Michael Hoecht (6.0 sacks) after the quarterback?

I remain unconvinced that the Rams pass rush is killing this team's chances of winning in 2024. The Rams competed in Super Bowl LIII with 41 QB sacks and in Super Bowl LVI with 50 QB sacks. The Rams young players will improve dramatically in 2024, you can count on that. Need more evidence?

Former Rams OLB Samsun Ebukam played four seasons in the Rams' defense, never besting 4.5 QB sacks and 48 tackles in the four seasons that he played in horns. He played two seasons for the San Francisco 49ers, averaging 37 tackles and 4.5 QB sacks for them as well. But in 2023, he exploded on the Indianapolis Colts defense for 57 tackles and 9.5 quarterback sacks.

Patience it seems is more than a virtue. Sometimes it leads to the least costly route to optimizing on-field production.