Rams set on defensive line now that Ndamukong Suh is on board, but may still look to add depth
As the Rams prepare for the NFL draft, the Los Angeles Times will examine their roster. Part 2 of eight: Defensive line.
The Rams do not need a good draft to boost their defensive line.
They accomplished the feat, at least for the short term, with one huge free-agent acquisition — signing Ndamukong Suh to a one-year, $14-million contract.
Suh, selected second overall in the 2010 draft, will line up in a front that includes reigning NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald and a third former first-round pick, Michael Brockers, who enjoyed perhaps his most successful season in 2017.
The most highly regarded prospects in the April 26-28 draft — players such as North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb, Washington’s Vita Vea and Texas-San Antonio’s Marcus Davenport — will be long gone by the time the Rams finally make the 87th pick, a third-round selection on Day 2.
But they still will be looking to possibly add depth to a line that could be dominant.
Suh should help the Rams improve dramatically against the run. Last season, they ranked 28th in rushing defense, surrendering 122.3 yards per game.
Suh, with 51½ sacks, also should help an already formidable pass rush.
The NFL’s best quarterbacks are capable of avoiding pressure and stepping up in the pocket to make plays. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan gave a clinic in last season’s playoff victory over the Rams.
But with Suh, Donald and Brockers now there ...
“It’s a real bonus,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said, “to have the kinds of guys we have in the middle.”
The Rams have plenty of productive rotational players, but they could still use depth, especially players of the larger variety.
Brockers’ injury against the Falcons last season forced Morgan Fox into a role that lasted longer than he was accustomed to, limiting his effectiveness.
Defensive linemen under contract: Ndamukong Suh ($14.5 million), Michael Brockers ($11 million), Aaron Donald ($6.9 million), Ethan Westbrooks ($2.25 million), Matt Longacre ($1.9 million), Dominique Easley ($850,000), Morgan Fox ($630,000), Tanzel Smart ($596,000), Omarius Bryant ($480,000).
Free agents: The Rams re-signed Easley, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury, and let rotational tackle Tyrunn Walker become a free agent. They might venture into the market after the draft to add depth.
Draft: Last year, when they were looking for receivers, the Rams found Cooper Kupp in the third round and Josh Reynolds in the fourth. The scouting department is on the spot again as the Rams look for value with a total of eight picks in the third, fourth and sixth rounds.
Roster decisions: General manager Les Snead has said for months that the Rams have a plan for signing Donald to a huge extension. Those kinds of moves usually come with a cost that forces the exit of others.
NEXT: Defensive backs.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @LATimesKlein
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