Can The Los Angeles Rams Find A Rare Free Agent Steal At Edge Rusher?

Credit: Jim Rassol / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Los Angeles Rams need to generate more quarterback pressure in 2024. This is saying something for a team that has Aaron Donald and Kobie Turner. Those two accounted for 137 pressures per PFF. But the bad news is the Rams two starting outside linebackers accounted for less than a quarter of the team’s total pressures.

The 2024 draft class isn’t thought of as having a bonafide plug-and-play pressure machine and the top-end free agents, Brian Burns and Josh Allen, are going to fetch a pretty penny on the open market.

Furthermore, the Los Angeles Rams pass rush is predicated on and centered on Aaron Donald. There is a reason that they haven’t invested heavily at the edge.

In fact, there is another reason they don’t invest at the edge. The position has become bloated, making it an inefficiency. The Ram’s front office prides itself on eliminating bad inefficiencies and exploiting the good ones. (e.g. accumulating late-round draft picks and finding quality starters with those picks)

The last edge rushers the Rams sought were not top-end guys. Leonard Floyd was seen as a draft bust and Von Miller was seen as past his prime wanting off his team.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Miami Dolphins
Los Angeles Rams: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Perfect Edge For The Los Angeles Rams

Considering all that, who could the Los Angeles Rams target? A look at the criteria; a 3-down pass rusher that is athletic enough to drop into coverage and one that won’t drive up his cost via a bidding war.

The candidate: Andrew Van Ginkle. Coming out of Wisconsin in 2019, the 6’3″ 241-pounder was seen as unrefined and undersized as a pass rusher but is as athletic and explosive as they come. His 20-yard shuttle, 3-cone drill, broad jump, and vertical are all above the 80th percentile according to Mockdraftable, who compares Van Ginkel to San Francisco 49ers linebacker, Fred Warner as an athlete.

Despite being a 5th rounder, he earned a starting position in just his second season with the Miami Dolphins.

Has he been an elite edge rusher? Not exactly. His 17 career sacks don’t scratch the surface of the elite. But before coming to the Rams Leonard Floyd only had 18.5 sacks. Floyd’s best season before joining the Rams was seven. Van Ginkel had six last season.

Another key is what Van Ginkel offers in pass protection. Michael Hoecht dropped into coverage more than any other OLB in the league and, to put it gently, he got torched. Byron Young had the third most snaps in coverage. Van Ginkel was second, but unlike Hoecht, Van Ginkel is great in coverage. He gave up just 62 yards on 16 targets, a vast improvement over Hoecht’s 313 yards allowed.

Van Ginkel will also be cheap to add. He is coming off a 1-year $1.5 million deal with Miami. The Rams could easily get him for something like the Arden Key contract he received from the Tennessee Titans, 3-years $21 million. Perhaps even less if he flies under the radar.

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Los Angeles Rams: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Rams don’t need to break the bank to have an elite defense

With Donald and the continued development of Kobie Turner and Byron Young, the Rams don’t need a Brian Burns bankbook buster to become a dominant pass-rush threat in the NFL again. A move like signing Van Ginkel would elevate the position enough to get them where they need to be. It would also allow them to add at other high-value positions like cornerback and resign offensive guard Kevin Dotson.

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