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Ndamukong Suh Gives the Rams a Terrifying Defense

Los Angeles is stacking strength with strength as the team stocks up for a postseason run

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Deal

Ndamukong Suh has signed a one-year deal with the Rams worth $14 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

RIP, Russell Wilson

Only two active defensive tackles have been named first-team All-Pro three times. Now they play together. With Suh and Aaron Donald, the Rams are stacking strength on strength at one position in a way the NFL hasn’t seen since Denver paired DeMarcus Ware with Von Miller in 2014. Suh is at the tail end of his prime at 31 years old, while Donald is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and turns 27 in May. Donald’s last three years with the Rams mark one of the most dominant stretches for a defensive lineman since peak J.J. Watt.

Now teams will have the unenviable choice of focusing on blocking Donald, who led the league with 91 total quarterback pressures (sacks, hits, and hurries combined) in 2017, and risk a one-on-one matchup with Suh, who was first-team All-Pro in 2010, 2013, and 2014, or blocking Suh only to let Donald loose. That’s to say nothing of Michael Brockers, one of the better 3-4 defensive ends in the league who will somehow get even less attention this season from opposing defensive coordinators than he did last year. The most likely usage of Suh involves Donald lined up as a three-technique (outside of the guard) and Michael Brockers as a five-tech (lined up outside of the tackle)—the same positions they played last year—with Suh lined up at nose tackle over the center, according to ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez. The truth is they could line up on Mars and still combine for 25 sacks.

The downside is that Suh has a history of questionable plays in his NFL career: a kick to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s head in 2015, a late hit on Chad Henne in 2014, the infamous stomping incident against the Packers in 2011, a forearm to the back of Jay Cutler’s head in 2010, a kick to Alfred Morris’s head in 2015, shoving Ryan Mallett in 2017, stepping on Aaron Rodgers’s ankle in 2014, and a kick to Matt Schaub’s crown jewels in 2012. Individually, all of those instances might be excusable, but together, they’re not.

Let’s just say Rams fans may have conflicted feelings about the deal.

*Rams Push All of Their Chips to the Middle of the Table* *Table Collapses*

Rams general manager Les Snead spent most of the last month constructing (on paper) the best secondary in football. The team added cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters in trades, franchise-tagged Lamarcus Joyner, and signed cornerback Sam Shields and Nickell Robey-Coleman. (Yes, Nickell plays the nickel.) That fearsome secondary would already be intimidating behind the Rams’ 2017 defensive line, which had the fourth-most sacks last season (48). Robey-Coleman already offered a name for the group last week.

Now the Rams have added Suh, creating the most chaotic, disruptive interior in football, and have built their secondary with ball hawks ready to swoop in on every lame duck throw from opposing quarterbacks.

The Rams still have a big hole at inside linebacker after trading Alec Ogletree,

but defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has more than enough talent to get this unit into Super Bowl–caliber shape. For all of the talk about Sean McVay as an offensive guru, the best unit on his own team this year may be the defense. To quote Phillips:

Aaron Donald Is Going to Get Paaaaaiiiiiiiddddddd

The Rams ran the possibility of adding Suh by Donald before the signing, according to Gonzalez. Suh was reportedly offered more money by the Jets, who rescinded their offer on Sunday, and was also courted by the Titans and Saints before deciding to sign with the Rams. The one-year deal signals Suh is willing to play for a competitive team in a dream situation while also betting on himself to earn more money in the future. It also mirrors the one-year deals signed by Sheldon Richardson, Haloti Ngata, Dominique Easley, and Muhammad Wilkerson, signaling a decline in the defensive tackle market.

Donald will fix that. Due to earn just $1.8 million in 2017, Aaron Donald held out of training camp hoping to get a new contract and returned so late he didn’t play in Week 1. It didn’t matter. He was a wrecking ball for 14 games. The Rams still have Donald on a $6.9 million fifth-year option from his rookie contract this season, which is both a raise and not even close to the value he provides the team. Los Angeles will likely make him the highest-paid defender in football history at some point this year. If the Rams had paid exorbitantly for Suh, the team would have been in a tight situation negotiating with Donald, but the one-year deal at just $14 million sets the market for defensive tackles in the Rams’ favor. Now the Rams are in position to make Donald happy without overexerting their cap down the line.

Lock Angeles is now legit, and it’s going to be a joy for all of us. (Well, unless you root for another team in the NFC West.)