There's an often-used saying when evaluating a player's performance, no matter the sport or league: The best ability is availability.
For Rams outside linebacker Samson Ebukam, it is one of his best traits.
Originally arriving in Los Angeles as a fourth-round draft pick in 2017, the 6-foot-3, 245-pound edge rusher played in every regular season game in his first four seasons in the horns. Starting in 14 of 16 games last season, Ebukam matched his career-high with 4.5 sacks – set the year before – and also produced 28 total tackles and one forced fumble.
However, with his rookie contract expiring after the 2020 season, he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 17.
So, where do the Rams and Ebukam go from here?
One option is for the Rams to re-sign Ebukam. By bringing him back, Los Angeles would retain a player who finished the 2020 season with the most starting experience (35 of 64 games) behind Leonard Floyd. The majority of those starts came in 2018 and 2020 (14 games each). Ebukam has also played in two different systems between Wade Phillips' and more recently Brandon Staley's – experience that could be valuable to new Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris as he installs his vision.
If the Rams and Ebukam go in different directions, the Rams could look internally for his replacements by elevating fourth-year pro Ogbonnia Okoronkwo or second-year pro Terrell Lewis into a bigger role. After missing his rookie 2018 season due to injury, Okoronkwo tallied 18 total tackles, 2.5 sacks and two pass breakups in 20 games over the last two seasons. Lewis was limited to eight games last year, but when healthy record five tackles and two sacks.
As is the case with other pending free agents, Los Angeles could also look to free agency or the draft to potentialy find a replacement for Ebukam.
Take a look back at top shots of Rams linebackers from the 2020 season.