2021 LA Rams Position Outlook: Linebackers
Leonard Floyd had a breakout season as an outside linebacker, while Micah Kiser and Troy Reeder emerged as regular contributors to the Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker last season. Floyd will be an unrestricted free agent and the Rams may struggle to bring him back to free agency due to cap constraints. Kiser and Reeder remain on the roster and give Los Angeles players who can take on more of a leadership role in the middle of defense in 2021.
Locks: Micah Kiser, Troy Reeder, Kenny Young, Terrell Lewis, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Justin Hollins.
On the bubble: Travin Howard, Justin Lawler, Christian Rozeboom, Derrick Moncrief
Free agents: Leonard Floyd, Samson Ebukam, Derek Rivers
Good: Floyd had his best season as a professional, finishing with 10.5 sacks in 16 games. The University of Georgia product was also good against the run as a tall, lanky defenseman establishing the advantage, totaling 55 combined tackles, including 11 loss tackles. Kiser played solid in his first season as a starter with the inside linebacker, finishing with 77 combined tackles, three interceptions, 10 breakouts and a forced fumble. His replacement Troy Reeder had 81 combined tackles and three sacks as a part-time starter. Kenny Young finished with 52 combined tackles, one sack and one interception returned 79 yards for a score. The Rams kept their opponents at 5.8 points per game in the second half during the regular season and forced 51, 3 and outs (No. 2 in the NFL).
The bad: Kiser couldn’t stay healthy, missing seven games with groin and knee injuries. The Rams gave up a disappointing, 188 rushing yards in an NFC Division playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. At times the Rams have struggled to defend the perimeter on the outside tracks and the fast passing game at the second level defensively, especially against the San Francisco 49ers.
Money: Young ($ 2.1 million) and Lewis ($ 1,054,226) are the only linebackers slated to earn more than $ 1 million currently on Los Angeles’ roster if they make definitive cuts for the start of the 2021 season. . Okoronkwo ($ 988,634), Lawler ($ 938,437), Hollins ($ 850.00), Howard ($ 850,000), Rozeboom ($ 850,000), Kiser ($ 850,000), Reeder ($ 850.00) and Moncrief ($ 660.00) are all expected to make less than a million for the coming season. With other defensive positions (Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey) taking up a good chunk of the salary cap, the Rams have good value and depth in this position before heading into off-season training.
Draft priority: The linebacker squad was a punch bag for the Rams’ twitter due to a perceived lack of speed and missed tackle issues, but as a squad they produced. The Rams have a young and experienced depth that knows and understands the defensive system. Rams GM Les Sneads will be looking to add more speed to this group through draft or free agency, no doubt. And they have a guy who can get back into Howard’s fold if he comes back healthy from a torn meniscus that forced him to miss last season. Getting Floyd back in free agency will probably be difficult. In addition to Ebukam entering the free agency market, the Rams need to add emergency pass assistance. With reps, coaching, and better health, Lewis has a chance to become a productive passer. Hollins turned out to be a solid contributor last season. They also have a new coach overseeing the entire linebacker squad in Mike Shula, promoted by the outside linebacker coach (I wrote about Shula last year here). So, I’m interested to see the changes made by Shula.