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Marquise Copeland emerged as dependable piece to defensive line rotation | Free Agent Spotlight

Defensive tackle Marquise Copeland followed what has become a familiar trend for the Rams: A former undrafted free agent who developed into a meaningful contributor.

Now, after recording a career-high 31 total tackles and the first sack of his NFL career in 2022, Copeland is scheduled to become a restricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 15.

So, where do the Rams and Copeland go from here?

When a player is a restricted free agent, his original team can place a one-year tender on them that includes draft compensation and/or right of first refusal. That player can negotiate with any team, even when tendered. If the player signs an offer sheet from another team and his original team declines to match it, the original team is entitle to the corresponding draft compensation, unless it's just a right of first refusal tender.

The deadline for placing those tenders is prior to 1 p.m. pacific time March 15. If a team withdraws that qualifying offer, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. If a team does extend one of those qualifying offers, the player has until April 21 this year to sign an offer sheet, his original team has until April 26 to exercise right of first refusal.

Thus, Los Angeles could tender Copeland, whose 14 defensive tops – tackles causing an unsuccessful play by the offense – were fifth-most among Rams defensive lineman last season, per truMedia. And although he missed two games with a high ankle sprain, he still played in 15 overall, with nine starts.

If the Rams decide to go in a different direction and not bring back Copeland, they could turn to third-year defensive tackle Bobby Brown III as an internal option. One of several young players the Rams got a closer look at toward the end of last season, Brown received praise for the way he capitalized on his opportunities during that time. Defensive tackleJonah Williams, who saw his defensive snaps substantially increase after both Copeland and Aaron Donald got hurt late in the season, is another internal possibility.

Another potential internal option: If L.A. decides to not make switch to outside linebacker permanent for Michael Hoecht, they could turn to Hoecht as a potential replacement on the interior. While Hoecht is an exclusive rights free agent, those free agents cannot negotiate with other teams if his original team offers him a one-year contract at the league minimum based on accrued seasons. He was also an interior defensive lineman prior to making that switch.

Like with any position, the Rams could also go the external route of free agency or the draft to find Copeland's replacement.

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