LA Rams must revise draft plans after the latest Rams rumor

Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

The LA Rams have historically been a team that has found ways to get after opposing quarterbacks. The team never seemed to miss an opportunity to add help to the defense at the edge position. But midway through 2022, the team shed many of their outside linebackers (except veteran OLB Leonard Floyd), cross-trained DT Michael Hoecht to play outside linebacker, and limped through the second half of that season.

In 2023, the team released OLB Leonard Floyd, and counted on a very young group of pass rushers to sink or swim in 2023. That left the team with almost no depth for a vital role on the defense. So is it any wonder that the team's pass rush only recorded 41 quarterback sacks in 2023? That tied the team as the 23rd-ranked pass rush in the NFL last season.

Even in the face of the downturn in sacks, I was unconvinced. The Rams still have All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald. The team drafted to gifted rookies in NT Kobie Turner and OLB Byron Young, who combined for 17.0 quarterback sacks in 2023. Conservative estimates for the pair top 21 sacks in 2024.

Even cross-trained OLB Michael Hoecht was able to record 6.0 quarterback sacks in 2023. And as his first full season as a 3-4 outside linebacker, Hoecht could be presumed to generate even more sacks in 2024.

If he was returning to the LA Rams defense in 2024, that is.

Hoecht to join Shelton in NFL Free Agency

Michael Hoecht is a Restricted Free Agent, which means that the team holds an option of protecting their Right of First Refusal simply by extending a Qualifying Tender Offer before the new NFL season begins on March 13, 2024 at 1:00 pm PT.

Teams generally communicate with players and their representatives when they plan to extend a Qualifying Tender Offer to retain a player for another season. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the scenario for RFA OLB Michael Hoecht, as reported below:

So what does this mean?

Well, it does not mean that the Rams are no longer in pursuit of Hoecht. Tender offers for a restricted free agent are prescribed by NFL regulations at a specific cost and for only one year duration. If the front office desires to pay a bit less, or negotiate a longer contract, the team will not commit to a tender offer. Right now, much like the path taken by starting center Coleman Shelton, Michael Hoecht has an opportunity to test his fair market value, which the LA Rams can either agree to pay or allow him to sign with another team.

While it's not a good sign if you wanted the team to extend Hoecht, this latest Rams rumor does not eliminate the possibility.

What does this latest Rams rumor mean for the team's draft plans?

While this information does not eliminate the possibility of Hoecht's return, it most certainly does make his extension appear to be less likely. That should give the team's front office cause to pause and ponder how to optimize the offseason if Hoecht is not returning.

The 2024 NFL Draft is loaded with talented edge rushers, and the Rams are certainly well aware of the potential of UCLA rookie OLB prospect Laiatu Latu. He may be among the Top 10 players selected in the draft this year. But with the talent of quarterbacks, offensive tackles, top-tier wide receivers, and one tight end, there is reason to hope that Latu may fall to the Rams at 19. That would certainly please many fans.

Still, if the team is concerned about the quality and depth of the OLB group, the front office can go all in and swing for the fences by pursuing this top-of-the-line free agent. If the team is shopping for a new pass rusher, why not go for the best?

If funds are the concern, then the team can go easy on the purse strings and sign 2 affordable vets to bridge the gap until younger players can earn significant playing time