By this time next week we should know whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers will be retaining defensive ends Brett Keisel and Cam Thomas for the 2015 season. If both wind up being released, the team will more than likely have to find another veteran in free agency that fits the system and can play a rotational role. This past week, one potential 3-4 defensive end candidate became available courtesy of the St. Louis Rams as they released Kendall Langford.
Langford, who was originally drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, had been playing defensive tackle in the Rams 4-3 defense since he signed with him in 2012. Now that Aaron Donald has taken over the starting job in St. Louis alongside Michael Brockers, Langford and his $6 million salary that he was scheduled to earn in 2015 became expendable.
On top of Langford being too expensive for the Rams to keep as a backup, he also never fit their system as his best fit is as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 system. That’s the position he mostly played early on in his career while with the Dolphins.
Before the start of the 2013 season, Langford’s second with the Rams, he talked about the difference of playing defensive tackle in a 4-3 versus defensive end in a 3-4.
“This 4-3 is more getting upfield, getting across the line of scrimmage instead of two-gapping,” Langford had said, according to Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. “In a 3-4, you are holding guys up and letting the linebackers get the tackles. It takes a grown man to play there in a 3-4.”
According to the Rams official website, Langford now measures in at 6’6″, 313 pounds and while he might be just a tad on the heavy side, I’m willing to bet he can easily shed a little weight to get himself down to just over 300 pounds.
Now, I still haven’t gone back to closely examine Langford’s tape when he last played defensive end in the Dolphins 3-4 defense, but if memory serves me, it wasn’t horrible. At some point over the course of the next week, I hope to look at his work more closely.
Generally, the Steelers like to sign free agents coming off of their first contract and not their second like Langford is. However, the Hampton product is still only 29 years-old and he’s yet to miss a game due to injury during his first eight years in the league.
If they’re even interested in him, the Steelers aren’t likely going to be able to sign Langford to a one-year contract for the league minimum. However, if they do release Keisel and Thomas, they will free up $3.5 million in salary cap space, of which some or all could go towards signing Langford.
If the Steelers want to take the bargain bin approach this offseason to find another backup defensive end, Alex Carrington should be back on the market again in a little over a week as the Rams arent expected to re-sign him. The Steelers brought Carrington in for a visit last offseason, so perhaps they’ll be interested in him again. Carrington, like Langford, is a better 3-4 defensive end than he is a defensive tackle and he showed that when he was with the Buffalo Bills several years ago. Carrington will turn 28 in June and is listed at 6’5″, 301 pounds. He could possibly be signed for the league minimum this offseason.