A 2019 fourth-round pick, Gaines was a sub in the rotation for his first two seasons before becoming a starter for his third and fourth. His 8.5 sacks across those two seasons were second-most for a Rams defensive lineman behind Donald's 17.5 and third overall for Los Angeles' defensive front, with outside linebacker Leonard Floyd's 18.5 leading the way.
However, the 2022 season marked the final year of Gaines' rookie contract, which means he's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 15.
So what's next for Gaines and the Rams?
The Rams could obviously re-sign Gaines, and in doing so, they would be bringing back someone who not only affected the passer (16 pressures in 2022, per TruMedia) but also an important piece to their run defense.
If Gaines and the Rams choose to go in different directions, the Rams could turn to Larrell Murchison for an expanded role. While the sample size was small – Murchison was claimed by L.A. Dec. 12 – Murchison showed promise with his two-sack performance against the Broncos, and also had four defensive stops (tackle causing unsuccessful play for the offense) in three games, according to TruMedia.
And although defensive tackle Marquise Copeland is a restricted free agent, retaining him could also help replace some of that lost production. Copeland produced 14 defensive stops and seven pressures in 15 games, plus one sack.