The Los Angeles Rams released linebacker Travin Howard on Wednesday evening. Howard was set to earn approximately $2.54 million this season after signing his original round tender in March, but Rams General Manager Les Snead needed a little extra financial wiggle room to complete a massive contract extension with superstar wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Howard’s contract was unfortunately sacrificed as a result.
A seventh-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft out of TCU, Howard quickly carved out a role as a depth and rotational defender among Los Angeles’ linebacker corps. Injuries thrust Howard into a late-season starting role in 2021 and he responded by totaling 28 tackles, six pass breakups, and two interceptions. Howard’s season-defining moment occurred when he intercepted San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the NFC Championship game in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
The offseason arrival of eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Bobby Wagner made Howard somewhat expendable in Los Angeles, especially when the need for contract extensions for Kupp and Aaron Donald popped up earlier this week. Howard was expected to back up Wagner and Ernest Jones this season.
Howard is an athletic and versatile linebacker that should quickly find a new home. We’ve swiftly identified three franchises that should submit a claim in hopes of landing Howard’s services.
Detroit Lions General Manager Brad Holmes worked as Los Angeles’ Director of College Scouting when the Rams drafted Howard in 2018. Holmes is extremely familiar with Howard as a player and has a clear need at linebacker that has gone unfulfilled this offseason. It’s quite easy to picture Howard donning a Lions uniform shortly.
The Lions were routinely tied to drafting a linebacker such as Devin Lloyd or Nakobe Dean with the No. 32 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Lions instead traded all the way up into the top-15 for an opportunity to draft wide receiver Jameson Williams. The Lions ended up drafting two linebackers in the sixth round (Malcolm Rodriguez and James Houston), but neither player is expected to move the needle forward.
Detroit currently features a highly questionable linebacker room that is primarily made up of Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis, Chris Board, and Derrick Barnes—not exactly a murderer’s row for any incoming competition. Howard could actually step into an immediate starting role in Detroit.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco has spent the majority of the offseason retooling his defense. It’s been a necessary project following their 2021 performances. The Chargers finished as a bottom-10 defense in total yards allowed per contest (360.1). Los Angeles’ run defense was their Achilles heel, having allowed the third-worst mark of any team across the league (138.9/game). Telesco responded by acquiring several difference-makers, including J.C. Jackson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Khalil Mack, but little has been done at linebacker.
Kyle Van Noy is a quality veteran addition, but the Chargers could use more depth and athleticism at the position. Furthermore, Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley served as Howard’s defensive coordinator in 2020. That one-year experiment quickly landed Staley the head coaching job with the Chargers. Staley has a standing relationship with Howard as a player and could utilize his services as he continues to revamp his front seven.
New Broncos Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero has spent Howard’s entire four-year career alongside him in Los Angeles. Prior to accepting the Broncos job, Evero worked as the Rams’ safeties coach (2017-20) and secondary coach and passing game coordinator (2021). Evero is extremely familiar with Howard both as a player and person.
The Broncos also didn’t draft a traditional inside linebacker (Nik Bonitto is more of an EDGE defender) in the 2022 NFL Draft. Denver’s current linebacker room leaves something to be desired. Alex Singleton struggles in coverage and Josey Jewell appeared in just two contests last season after suffering a torn pectoral injury in Week 2. The current depth behind Singleton and Jewell is non-existent. Howard would make a great addition in Denver.
Don’t be surprised if the Green Bay Packers put in a claim for Howard as well. Current Packers Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry spent the first three seasons of Howard’s professional career as his linebackers coach in L.A. while pulling double duty as the Rams’ assistant head coach.