Rams $3 Million DL Can be ‘Stepping Stone’ for ‘Putrid’ Unit: Analyst

Michael Hoecht Greg Gaines

Getty Michael Hoecht and Greg Gaines on December 4, 2022 in Inglewood.

While the Los Angeles Rams have been big spenders during offseason periods in the era of Les Snead and Sean McVay since 2017, there are other NFL teams that have tapped into past Ram players to bolster their own roster.

In the case of one team that has “fielded a putrid group of defensive tackles” for three consecutive seasons as worded by Cory Kinnan of USA Today on February 10, he believes this AFC North team should tap into a $3 million free agent set to hit the market come March 15.

Kinnan believes Rams defensive tackle Greg Gaines is who the Cleveland Browns need to bolster a struggling area.

Why Gaines Fits the ‘Dawg Pound’

Again, the Browns Wire analyst Kinnan observed that Cleveland has had a string of dismal results in the interior of the defense — hence why he believes the 2023 unrestricted free agent Gaines can provide some needed muscle and production. Kinnan writes:

“The Browns have fielded a putrid group of defensive tackles for three straight years, and it has haunted them. As they bring in Jim Schwartz as their new defensive coordinator, their secondary remains in good shape. They will have to hit on a budget too, even if they can do some savvy cap maneuvering with restructures. Rams defensive tackle Greg Gaines is a substantial anchor against the run and has even shown the prowess to create consistent pressure. He would be just a stepping stone to rebuilding their defensive front, but a big one at that.”

Kinnan believes Gaines — whose four-year, $3,146,612 contract expires this offseason — is a “stepping stone” for a unit that looks like it will endure an overhaul inside. Here’s how the inside of the Browns’ trenches fared in 2022:

  • Not one IDL produced more than three sacks last season (Taven Bryan led with three). Gaines has delivered more than four in the past two seasons.
  • Jordan Elliot was the only defensive tackle who started all 17 games for Cleveland. He ended up with 36 tackles, 19 solo stops but produced just two sacks and was given a Pro Football Focus grade of 33 against the run.
  • Perrion Winfrey was another given a low run defense grade by PFF with 36. He also delivered just eight solo stops after being drafted in the fourth round by Cleveland in 2022.
  • Finally, the final three rotation of Ben Stille, Roderick Perry and Tommy Togiai all combined for just four solo tackles. Togiai was another DT who was given a grade below 40 versus the run.

Gaines’ strength is dismantling running lanes — earning a 75 grade his rookie season and 71.9 in 2021 during the Super Bowl run. He did, though, endure a career-low 57.5 run defense grade but was limited to 12 games due to injuries. And even despite the low grade, he still delivered a career-high six tackles behind the line of scrimmage — more than any of the Browns’ interior defenders.

Will Gaines be in High Demand?

Potential good news for the Rams if they want to try and keep Gaines: He’s not listed in the top 10 available free agents for the 2023 class. So he may not be in high demand compared to names like Daron Payne and NFC champion defenders Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave.

But the bad news: With a Super Bowl ring and high number of snaps/production with the Rams, Gaines could attract other suitors anyway. Especially defensive line needy teams like the Browns — who have Bryan, Stille and Jadeveon Clowney all entering free agency.

One other possibility could be the Carolina Panthers, who just hired former Rams safeties coach Ejiro Evero as defensive coordinator and already has past Rams representation in Johnny Hekker and Austin Corbett.

But again, the possibility of pairing Gaines with four-time Pro Bowler Myles Garrett could be enticing for a team needing help and a “stepping stone.”

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