When the Rams signed defensive lineman Ndmukong Suh to a one-year deal last April, they likely envisioned him being the impactful run defender he was during the team’s postseason run to Super Bowl LIII.
While Suh was undoubtedly productive in his ninth pro regular season — playing in all 16 games and 88 percent of Los Angeles’ total defensive snaps — he also kicked it up to another level in the postseason. In the Rams’ three contests between January and February, Suh picked up 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, and five quarterback hits, helping the club limit its opponents to just 98 yards rushing through the Divisional and Conference Championship rounds.
In the regular season, Suh picked up 4.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, four passes defensed, and two fumble recoveries.
But because Suh was on a one-year contract, there’s now a decision to be made by both the player and the team.
Will Suh be back for the Rams next year? It’s certainly a possibility. But that depends on the interest of both parties for a reunion — and, of course, the compensation.
Should Suh not be back, the Rams have a couple of internal options to replace Suh as the starting nose tackle in the club’s base 3-4 scheme. But that would be selling Suh short in his versatility, as he also played significant snaps at defensive end in some of coordinator Wade Phillips’ sub packages.
Besides, any defensive lineman who plays nearly 90 percent of snaps is going to be inherently hard to replace with one player.
So the Rams could certainly draft a replacement at nose tackle. But there are players under contract for next season who could also play a role at nose tackle — Ethan Westbrooks and Tanzel Smart for starters, plus rising second-year players like Sebastian Joseph-Day and John Franklin-Myers, though the latter excelled in his limited snaps as a defensive end as a rookie.
Defensive lineman Michael Brockers also played nose tackle in Phillips’ 3-4 early in 2017 before shifting to defensive end. Brockers, however, did play some snaps at nose tackle in certain sub packages.