Rams should raid NFC West rival for bargain Kevin Dotson alternative

The LA Rams can avoid paying over the odds to retain guard Kevin Dotson by raiding an NFC West rival for a bargain alternative.

New Orleans Saints v Los Angeles Rams
New Orleans Saints v Los Angeles Rams / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Keeping Interior offensive lineman Kevin Dotson should be near the top of the list of free agency priorities for the LA Rams this offseason, but re-signing the skilled guard won't be cheap. The Rams have ample space under the salary cap, but general manager Les Snead might be better served looking within the NFC West for a bargain alternative.

Free agent IOL Damien Lewis (last played for the Seattle Seahawks) is a worthy potential Dotson replacement for a fraction of the price. Lewis has had issues with motivation and durability since being selected 69th overall in the 2020 NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks, but his raw power makes a difference in the running game.

Clearing bodies out of rushing lanes defined Dotson's impressive season with the Rams. He became integral to rushing schemes based more on power-based gap and counter concepts than the zone-stretch runs head coach Sean McVay used to favor.

McVay largely ditched outside zone runs for 'Duo' plays in 2023. Those plays required double teams on the inside. Dotson and rookie guard Steve Avila created doubles over and over.

Lewis would do the same, based on how the 6-foot-2, 327-pounder put defenders on skates last season. A good example of the impact Lewis makes in the running game occurred when he hurled defensive tackle Jordan Elliott to the deck against the Cleveland Browns in Week 8, a block highlighted by Bleacher Report's Brandon Thorn.

Mauling people in one-on-one matchups motivates Lewis. He's the kind of blocker coaches can build a versatile rushing offense around.

That versatility showed up on this pin-and-pull play when Lewis pulled to flatten defensive end Efe Obada against the Washington Commanders in Week 10, per NFLCentral.

Pulling guards are the hallmarks of power-based rushing attacks. Avila and Dotson brought that force to the Rams' offense, but the latter might have played himself out of Snead's price range.

Dotson is projected by Spotrac.com to earn $16.4 million annually over four years. That's assuming the Rams can agree a new long-term deal.

If not, the franchise tag is an option. Tagging an O-lineman will cost $20,985,000, according to OverTheCap. That will take a significant chunk out of the $43,626,179 Snead has to work with this offseason.

Part of Snead's work will include re-signing other starters on the offensive line. That means focusing on center Coleman Shelton and right tackle Alaric Jackson. Keeping both will be easier if the Rams let Dotson test the market and turn to Lewis, who is projected to earn $7.4 million annually.

The difference in price would also let Snead address other pressing needs. Such as safety, cornerback and edge-rusher.

Opting for Lewis over Dotson would be a risk since the Seahawks' starter has been inconsistent in pass protection. When he's been good, Lewis has shutout prolific pass-rushers, the way he did against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 13, per numbers from PFF SEA Seahawks.

The inconsistencies in Lewis' performances are only a minor concern. So is the 26-year-old never having completed a full season, but he's missed just six games in three years.

Better coaching and improved conditioning would help Lewis stay on the field and thrive for the Rams. He'd also have no problem shifting from left guard to the right side, the same switch Dotson successfully made with the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier in his career.

There were question marks about Dotson before Snead made a trade a year ago. The deal worked out well because the Rams played to Dotson's strengths, the same thing they can do for Lewis if No. 69 commands too many hefty offers Snead doesn't want to match.