Recruiting overtures from the Rams began last week, just after the Miami Dolphins released five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.
Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson made the initial pitch.
Then newly acquired Rams cornerback Aqib Talib, winner of a Super Bowl title with the Denver Broncos, weighed in.
On Monday, the day before Suh’s visit with the Rams in Thousand Oaks, Pro Bowl punter Johnny Hekker offered his thoughts.
The tweets might have warmed the heart of the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Suh, but the real sales job commenced Tuesday. Suh was scheduled to meet with Rams coaches and have dinner with head coach Sean McVay and other front-office personnel.
The Rams are the latest stop on Suh’s free-agent tour. It has included visits with the Tennessee Titans and the New Orleans Saints. Suh, who grew up in Portland, Ore., also has reportedly expressed interest in the Seattle Seahawks and is scheduled to visit the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday, according to ESPN.com.
But it is the Rams, and the potential pairing of Suh with reigning NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald on the same line, that has NFL observers buzzing.
Donald, 6-1 and 280 pounds, is regarded as perhaps the league’s most disruptive defensive player. He has amassed 39 sacks in four NFL seasons. Suh has 51½ career sacks in eight seasons, though only 15½ during his three with the Dolphins. Last season he had 4½ sacks, the lowest total for a season in which he played all 16 games.
Suh also has cultivated a reputation for sometimes overly aggressive play. During his five seasons with the Detroit Lions, he was fined nine times for nearly $300,000 for penalties and incidents during games. In 2013 he was fined $100,000 for an illegal low block on then-Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan, who’s now with the Rams.
Suh was sidelined for two games in 2011 while serving a suspension for stomping the arm of a Green Bay Packers lineman, the only starts he has missed in 128 regular-season games.
Donald, 26, and Suh, 31, could line up next to Michael Brockers in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme and wreak havoc in opposing backfields.
Donald already is familiar with Suh — particularly Suh’s last contract: a six-year, $114-million deal the Dolphins gave him in 2015, that included $60 million in guarantees.
Donald earned $1.8 million last season. He did not participate in organized team activities, minicamps or training camp because he wanted a new deal, and he sat out the opener. He still finished with a team-high 11 sacks in 14 games.
Donald, scheduled to earn about $6.9 million this season, is seeking a contract that would make him the highest-paid defensive player and among the richest in the NFL.
Rams general manager Les Snead said last week that a “timeline” for continued discussions with Donald’s representatives was in place, but he declined to be more specific.
The Rams have about $30 million in salary-cap space. They are not expected to be the top bidder for Suh. But the opportunity to play for McVay and Phillips and alongside Donald, for a playoff team that appears to be ascending, might entice him to join the Rams’ remade defense on a short-term deal.
Signing Suh would be the latest in a series of moves to strengthen a defense that last season ranked 28th against the run, 13th against the pass, 19th overall and 12th in fewest points allowed.
Snead rebuilt the secondary by trading for Talib and cornerback Marcus Peters, signing veteran cornerback Sam Shields, and re-signing slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. But the Rams need depth for their pass rush and at linebacker.
After trading veteran linebackers Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree, the Rams are counting on second-year pro Samson Ebukam to fill Quinn’s edge-rushing role and provide better run defense. Third-year pro Cory Littleton could step in for Ogletree.
Suh was expected to encounter at least one familiar face during his visit with the Rams.
Ted Rath, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, was an assistant strength coach for the Lions from 2009 to 2015 and held the same position with the Dolphins in 2016 before he was hired by the Rams last season.
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