EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams search for depth at defensive tackle has begun.
The Rams welcomed former Detroit defensive tackle Nick Fairley to Rams Park for a visit on Thursday afternoon. Fairley, who visited with the Cincinnati Bengals as free agency opened, would be another logical fit for the Rams defense should his price be right.
After releasing defensive tackle Kendall Langford before free agency to save money against the salary cap, the Rams were left with a defensive tackle group consisting solely of starters Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald. So it's pretty clear the team has a need for depth, though ends William Hayes and Eugene Sims both have experience moving inside.
It's also worth noting that Fairley played his college football at Auburn, which isn't a reason to sign any player but certainly doesn't hurt when it comes to the Rams.
Fairley represents an interesting case study. Taken one pick before Robert Quinn in the 2011 NFL draft, Fairley was considered one of the most disruptive interior players in that draft. His career since has been something of a roller-coaster.
In the time since, injuries and weight issues have prevented Fairley from fully reaching his vast potential. He posted 13.5 sacks in his four seasons with the Lions but also missed 18 games. In 2014, Fairley missed half the season with a pair of sprained knee ligaments and finished with 14 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
Fairley had his best seasons in 2012 and 2013 when he posted a combined 69 tackles and 11.5 sacks in 28 games. But the continued issues led to the Lions declining his fifth-year option, making him a free agent this offseason.
Presumably, if Fairley were ever to live up to his potential, he'd be able to do it in St. Louis where line coach Mike Waufle is one of the league's best. It's unclear what Fairley's market price might be, but a one-year "prove it" type of deal might make a lot of sense. And even if he didn't start in St. Louis, there'd still be plenty of reps for him along the way.
Langford, who spent most of the 2014 season as a backup, still played about 47 percent of the snaps. Assuming Fairley was doing what was asked, it stands to reason he'd be able to do the same or perhaps more in a rotation with Brockers and Donald.
Meanwhile, the Rams are also spending time Thursday with linebacker Akeem Ayers. As we discussed Wednesday, the Rams have had interest in Ayers and a visit was likely forthcoming. That visit is now taking place.
And yes, the Rams need help on the offensive line but visits with other players don't preclude them from finding help there. What might prevent that, though, is the fact some potential options are taking visits elsewhere. Center Stefen Wisniewski is in Seattle for a visit after stopping in Tampa Bay on Wednesday, and guard Justin Blalock is visiting the Lions.
The Rams have expressed interest in both and could still line up visits assuming one or both make it out of their current visits.