Rams re-sign OLB VanValkenburg. Here's why that move fits the Rams future plans

Los Angeles Chargers v Los Angeles Rams, Zach VanValkenburg
Los Angeles Chargers v Los Angeles Rams, Zach VanValkenburg / Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages

The LA Rams are building a mystery.

When the LA Rams reordered the roster at outside linebacker, signing Keir Thomas to the active roster and releasing Zach VanValkenburg to make room on the 53-man Rams roster. I was a bit confused. The Rams roster is certainly not my domain, and the Rams front office can address perceived needs in any fashion that the front office sees fit. Still, the roster move was a bit puzzling.

Days later, after he cleared the NFL Waiver Wire, the Rams signed VanValkenburg to the team's practice squad.

A minor reordering? Absolutely. Bu the net effect of the paired transactions is to afford reserve OLB Keir Thomas an opportunity to play on game day, while demoting VanValkenburg to the practice squad to perform as the scouting team defense in the latter half of the 2023 NFL season.

Rams still focusing upon 2024

While the LA Rams have a number of young players who hit the floor running this season, the objective for this team continues to be sharing playing time among young players to establish a strong foundation to build upon for 2024. While neither Thomas nor VanValkenburg are rookies this year, they are both young players with limited playing time who need to get better quickly. The only way of doing so is to play now.

While the LA Rams have settled the question of the starting edge rusher in rookie outside linebacker Byron Young, not even the 21 tackles, 3.0 quarterback sacks, and one forced fumble in nine games have silenced the Rams fans who call for the Rams to cut former DL turned OLB Michael Hoecht. While Hoecht did compete as an outside linebacker in 2022, he is even less experienced than his teammates. His football career has been a mixture of running back and down defensive lineman. While his 2023 grade from Pro Football Focus is just 50.0, the Rams are still searching for the right rotation to optimize their pass rush.

It appeared that Zach VanValkenburg, with 1.0 quarterback sacks and five tackles, was leveraging his limited opportunities into a larger role on the defense. Instead, the Rams believe that it's Keir Thomas' turn to see what he can do.

By re-signing VanValkenburg, the Rams continue the relationship with a young edge rusher through the end of the 2023 NFL season, and likely beyond. The early reports from the 2024 Draft class suggest that edge rushers are not nearly as robust as in the previous two drafts. By exchanging Thomas and VanValkenburg, the Rams have the opportunity to trial two young outside linebackers while preparing both for larger roles in 2024.