Getty Rams edge rusher Byron Young grabs Josiah Deguara for tackle on November 5, 2023. Young is expected to receive edge rush help after the Rams make a roster decision on November 14, 2023.
The Los Angeles Rams finally addressed their edge rush room 15 days after the trade deadline.
Instead of making a trade or jumping into the waiver wire, the Rams opted to move someone up. They join preseason star Keir Thomas, who will join the active roster on Tuesday, November 14th.
LA Rams transactions:
• Signed with Active Roster LB Keir Thomas
• Waiver, not recalled LB Zach VanValkenburg
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) November 14, 2023
Keir Thomas was recognized in August for his high-effort plays
Even though Thomas was signed to the practice squad, his name will be remembered by Ram fans who watched the games in August.
Thomas slammed four quarterback hits and nabbed 2.5 sacks during the Rams’ three preseason contests. He came to the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of Florida State because teams ignored him during the draft.
But despite the disappointment of not hearing his name called, Thomas was praised by one draft expert for his effort and energy.
“A powerful, powerfully built defender with good strength and the leverage needed to create a stack. Finds the ball quickly and pursues it with passion, shows good lateral mobility and extends the play to the sideline,” read an excerpt from NFL Draft Buzz.
While Thomas entered the draft representing FSU, he did not begin his career there. The 6-foot-2 defender played for South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference for five seasons. Thomas recorded 8.5 sacks and 31.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in his career with the Gamecocks. He also totaled 184 tackles, including 98 solo stops. And he posted those numbers in a total of 44 games.
In Tallahassee, Thomas posted his best numbers to date: 23 solo tackles, 12 stops for a loss and 6.5 sacks in 12 games for the Seminoles.
Thomas didn’t just go undrafted to the Rams. He added new competition at edge rusher. The Rams moved on from leading rusher Leonard Floyd while also waiving Terrell Lewis and Justin Hollins. The latter two led to squad losses in the 2022 season.
The second-year defender adds depth to a space that can accommodate additional rushers. A total of 8.5 sacks have been handled in this edge rush room so far. Rookie Byron Young leads the way with five sacks.
Rams waive defender who got his first sack
The Rams made another roster decision that affected defense – waiving a defensive lineman.
To make room for Thomas, the team waived Zach VanValkenburg on Tuesday.
VanValkenburg was one of seven Rams to record a sack. He managed to tackle Jalen Hurts during the Rams’ 23-14 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on October 8 in Inglewood. The 6-foot-4 rusher played in 17 defensive snaps that afternoon. He went without a sack in the next four games.
His snaps dropped off after the Eagles game. According to Pro Football Focus, Thomas received no more than 16 plays in the next four games. This includes the 10 he got against the Green Bay Packers.
Like Thomas, VanValkenburg entered the league undrafted. He came to the “Rams House” via Iowa. He played three seasons in Iowa City. The 263-pounder totaled 94 stops, including 46 solo stops. He stormed through the trenches, posting 15 stops behind the line of scrimmage and 5.5 sacks in 2021. Those numbers put his name on NFL draft boards.
Now he is the first defender to leave the club this season.
Lorenzo Reyna covers the Los Angeles Rams and Alabama Crimson Tide for Heavy.com. His NFL, college and high school football coverage has been featured on the Pro Football Network, Santa Maria Times, Daily Pilot, 24/7 Sports and Scout Media. More about Lorenzo Reyna