When Dante Fowler departed after a career season, the Rams opted to find his replacement via free agency, signing former Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd to a one-year contract last spring.
Playing on that prove-it deal, Floyd produced a career-best 10.5 sacks in 2020, but is now set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 17 at 1 p.m. PT, per a Nov. 18 report on the tentative 2021 league calendar by NFL Network's Tom Peliserro.
Rams head coach Sean McVay has publicly supported Floyd returning, saying "the answer is absolutely yes" when asked during a Jan. 1 video conference if Los Angeles would like to bring Floyd back.
"The versatility, the relentless passion and really persistence that he played with, ability to affect the quarterback, ability to stop the run, I think he was one of the more complete edge players in this league," McVay said during his end-of-season video conference on Jan. 17.
One of the best examples of a complete performance by Floyd came against the Seahawks in Week 10, when he finished with a career-high three sacks, plus a team-high five QB hits, two tackles for loss and one fumble recovery en route to NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for that week.
Yet, despite that strong production, the Rams have a precedent for moving on from edge rushers whose performances have earned them the opportunity to sign more lucrative contracts. Fowler signed a three-year, $48-million deal (per reports) with the Falcons last offseason after his career year with the Rams, then the Rams added Floyd on that one-year deal as his replacement.
Another potential factor in whether or not Floyd returns is new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. When Morris' predecessor Brandon Staley arrived last year, Floyd made sense as someone to bring in because he was familiar with Staley's scheme, having worked together with the Bears in 2017 and 2018. While Rams general manager Les Snead has said they want to keep the Staley system while adding Morris' style to it, Morris' prototypical edge rusher may be different from Staley's.
If the Rams decide not to re-sign Floyd, they still have outside linebackers Ogbo Okoronkwo and Terrell Lewis under contract and could potentially turn to one of them for a bigger role. They could also look to the NFL Draft for a possible replacement – they drafted Lewis with the 84th overall pick last year even after signing Floyd.
Like other pending defensive free agents, Floyd will present the Rams with another tough decision to make.