The LA Rams are a team that is prepared to forego instant success in the hope of winning a significant portion of games in the 2024 NFL season and beyond. But the Rams cannot ignore opportunities to improve their roster for greater success in the future. One such unexpected opportunity is the latest NFL rumor over the Philadelphia Eagles intentions to release veteran defensive end Derek Barnett from the team:
Barnett has been a bit of a disappointment for the Philadelphia Eagles. He has played seven seasons on the Eagles defense, and generated 150 tackles and 21.5 quarterback sacks over that period of time. He plays on an even defensive front, which means that he is a hand-in-the-dirt down lineman in the Eagles defense. While he could be a defensive lineman for the Rams, his most likely role for the Rams defensive front is as an outside linebacker.
Does this create an opportunity for the LA Rams? I think so, and here is why:
Derk Barnett can bolster the Rams pass rush
In ten games this season, the LA Rams pass rush has only generated 21 quarterback sacks. That is currently the 24th ranked pass rush in the NFL, and certainly an area that needs help going forward. Of course, 8.5 quarterback sacks are the result of rookie outside linebacker Byron Young, and rookie nose tackle Kobie Turner, and their effectiveness at rushing opposing quarterbacks will certainly improve next season.
And many have discounted the contribution of OLB Michael Hoecht, but he has generated 3.5+ quarterback sacks for the Rams defense in each of the past two seasons. But behind Young and Hoecht, the Rams OLB rotation seems to struggle to get after the quarterback.
That is an area that Derek Barnett can improve. Since 2021, his usage has fallen off a cliff, getting just 12 defensive snaps in 2022, and only 99 defensive snaps this year in 2023. So it's really unfair to line up his annual numbers if the objective is determining if he is improving or regressing in his production.
What can Barnett bring to the Rams defense?
When Barnett was actively involved in the Eagles rotation, he averaged 29.5 tackles and 4.5 quarterback sacks per season. Because he was released by the Eagles, he could be a low-cost addition if the Rams add him to their roster. If he performs well, he could attract enough interest to trigger the algorithm for an awarded NFL Compensatory draft pick in 2025.
But he could perform well enough to persuade the Rams to extend him beyond 2023.
In many ways, I view Barnett in similar terms as former LA Rams DE Morgan Fox. Fox steadily improved his pass rush until he sacked the quarterback six times for the Rams in 2020. He played two seasons for the Carolina Panthers before signing with the Los Angeles Chargers, where he has 5.5 quarterback sacks in 10 games.
At 27 years of age, Barnett has solid football play left in him. The secret to unlocking that ability is to place him into the right defensive scheme. I think that the Rams defense fits the description of the right defense to optimize his ability to rush the quarterback.
The Rams roster is aiming to contend in 2024. I believe that adding DE/OLB Derek Barnett to close out the 2023 NFL season will help the team do exactly that.