Rams free-agent preview: Defensive tackle

March, 4, 2014
Mar 4
10:00
AM ET
The free-agent market is scheduled to begin March 11 and teams may begin negotiations with those poised to hit the market beginning March 8. We'll countdown to that with a position-by-position look at what the Rams have in place, who is set to hit the market, what they might need and who might fit the bill.

In place: Much like defensive end, the Rams also have their quartet of defensive tackles under club control heading into 2014. The team signed Jermelle Cudjo to a contract extension last year, allowing them to retain the rights to Cudjo and fellow backup Matt Conrath along with starters Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford for another year.

Brockers improved in 2013 but not to the point that many had hoped or envisioned. He still was a key part of a defensive line which was among the league's most productive and keyed a defense that finished ninth in the league in run defense even after some atrocious performances. Langford is probably one of the team's most underrated players and looked more at home inside in his second year in the team's 4-3 defensive scheme. That duo should continue to grow together in 2014.

Pending free agents: None

What’s needed: While Brockers and Langford are solid as the starters, the Rams haven't seen the type of improvement from Cudjo and Conrath that they might have hoped. Defensive ends William Hayes and Eugene Sims have proved more effective moving inside on third down than either of the team's backup tackles.

Finding another rotational piece to add to the mix inside and push Cudjo and Conrath isn't at the top of the team's list of needs but it still should make the list somewhere down the line.

Possible fits: There actually figures to be an interesting mix of talented veterans that could hit the market this offseason but it seems unlikely the Rams would want to dip into that market. Instead, players who fit the bill as young up and comers who could be coached up into productive pieces might make more sense. Think of someone like Hayes when he first came to St. Louis, only this time with a defensive tackle.

Some names who could make sense in that regard include Chicago's Nate Collins, Atlanta's Peria Jerry and Oakland's Vance Walker. All three have ties to the Rams in some form or another.

Verdict: I expect the Rams to add a defensive tackle one way or another this offseason though I suspect the draft is the more likely avenue. A lower cost young free agent like Collins or Jerry could make sense but given defensive line coach Mike Waufle's ability to develop talent, the Rams could easily add a priority rookie free agent and allow Waufle to work his magic.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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