The Rams had Kendall Langford as a starting caliber player playing in rotation with Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers at defensive tackle last season. They cut him this off-season because he was owed 6 million and that didn’t seem worth it for a player who only played 494 snaps last season. The Rams have found their replacement for Langford here by giving Fairley a 1-year, 5 million dollar deal. The Rams get a cheaper, better, younger replacement and I think it’s a great deal.
Nick Fairley has been a frustrating player during his 4 year career. He went 13th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, but it’s still not clear how good of a player he is. It’s clear how good he can be, but he’s been so inconsistent. Fairley only played 236 snaps as a rookie, largely because of injuries, but he still played well and, in 2012, he was even better, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 5th ranked defensive tackle on just 511 snaps. Fairley looked primed for a breakout year in 2013, but weight problems caused him to only grade out slightly above average on 693 snaps. As a result, the Lions didn’t pick up his option for 2015, making 2014 his contract year, and briefly benched him for CJ Mosley last off-season.
That seemed to wake him up as he played very well to start the season, but he missed 8 games with injuries. He still graded out 18th among defensive tackles on just 297 snaps. He’s shown top defensive tackle talent and he’s only going into his age 27 season, but he’s inconsistent, he’s had discipline problems dating back to his collegiate days, and he’s missed 18 games with injuries in 4 years in the league. However, this one-year prove it deal has the best chance to get his elite upside out of him. He’ll work in heavy rotation with Brockers and Donald at defensive tackle and can be a dominant player on 500-600 snaps this season. Between that trio, Robert Quinn, a hopefully healthy Chris Long, William Hayes, and free agent signing Akeem Ayers, who can rush the passer from the edge in sub packages, the Rams have an absolutely loaded defensive line, which will continue to mask their issues in the back 7.