Sometimes, even the flash of a firefly is enough to catch your attention on a dark moonless night, and that is the risk I face right now trying to applaud the LA Rams free agency extension of DL/OLB Michael Hoecht. Financially, this was a complete gimme, a move that was so logical that had the LA Rams front office not made a qualifying tender offer, it would have signified that the time has arrived to hit the panic button.
Thankfully, the LA Rams followed suit and made the appropriate Qualifying Tender Offer. That has the effect of securing DL/OLB Michael Hoecht for one more year, through the 2023 NFL Season. But more importantly, the extension ensures that the Rams roster will bring back the team's more productive and remaining outside linebacker for a full season.
I have been intrigued with the long and lanky defensive lineman since the Rams signed him to the roster after the 2020 NFL Draft. There was a great deal to like about him. He was a former running back in his earlier football days, and still ran a 40-yard dash that rivaled some of the faster running backs on the Rams roster.
He remained on the Rams practice squad throughout the 2020 NFL season, and flirted with some appearances on the Rams 2021 defense. But as athletic and as intriguing as the Rams former Brown University prospect was, his efforts did not pan out with a spike in production.
Michael Hoecht finds his role as LA Rams pass rusher
The turning point for Michael Hoecht's 2022 NFL season occurred on Week 12, as the LA Rams faced the offensive juggernaut the Kansas City Chiefs. In that game, Hoecht played 64 defensive snaps, and managed to put up six tackles, three times his total tackles at that point in the season. He returned to the outside linebacker role the following week, and proceeded to put up two quarterback sacks and a forced fumble against the Seattle Seahawks.
He would play out the rest of the season as the second starter at the outside linebacker position. In fact, his production was so promising that the Rams released veteran OLBs Justin Hollin and Terrell Lewis. Like it or not, the role was his for the keeping.
The LA Rams roster made Hoecht's return for the 2023 NFL season even more crucial when the Rams released veteran starting OLB Leonard Floyd and seven other players on Reserve/Future contracts. While some have discounted Hoecht's sudden appearance as a Rams outside linebacker, his surprising production with next-to-nothing preparation makes his 2023 NFL season project almost limitless upside.
Yet, the LA Rams are not showing much energy or activity in the early going of the 2023 NFL Free Agency Market., extending Hoecht was a 'must-do,' move on my offseason checklist. If a guy can get 4.5 quarterback sacks in just six starts by cross-training to outside linebacker in the middle of the 2022 NFL season, imagine what the guy might do with 17 starts and a full training camp to learn how to play at the outside linebacker position more completely?
Hey, Hoecht may simply be a one-hit-wonder. But the Rams roster is completely out of options right now, and Michael Hoecht showed way too much promise to let him walk, particularly when a minimal NFL salary guarantees that he will remain on the team through the 2023 NFL season. Is he THE answer for the Rams' need at outside linebacker? Perhaps not. But he is part of the solution. And for that I say thank goodness the LA Rams are bringing back OLB Michael Hoecht