How will Rams fill Aaron Donald's shoes? These prospects are afoot

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Kobie Turner and defensive tackle Aaron Donald celebrates.

With Aaron Donald now retired, call it 2024 A.D. for the Rams.

General manager Les Snead, coach Sean McVay and new defensive coordinator Chris Shula must find an effective way to fill the team’s biggest roster hole since McVay was hired in 2017.

The Rams are expected to address the void through the second and third waves of free agency and through the draft.

The Rams have the No. 19 pick and 11 total picks in the April 25-27 draft, which will be held in Detroit.

There will be no replacing Donald, an eight-time All-Pro who amassed 111 sacks, however. Donald was the focal point for every opposing offensive coordinator, a game-wrecker in the truest sense.

A look at players the Rams have left on the roster and others they could pursue:

Still with Rams

Rams defensive tackle Kobie Turner celebrates one of his nine sacks last season.
Rams defensive tackle Kobie Turner celebrates one of his nine sacks last season. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Nose tackle Kobie Turner and edge rusher Byron Young, both third-round picks, enjoyed outstanding rookie seasons in 2023.

Turner recorded a team-best nine sacks and was a finalist for NFL defensive rookie of the year. Young had eight sacks.

Both will be bargains this season, Turner earning $995,000 and Young $1 million.

The Rams put a right-of-first-refusal tender on restricted free agent Michael Hoecht, so the veteran would earn about $3 million if he returns.

Read more: Aaron Donald used his strength, mind and humor to power a bigger-than-football persona

Former defensive coordinator Raheem Morris moved Hoecht from the line to outside linebacker in the second half of the 2022 season and Hoecht showed flashes, recording 4½ sacks. He had six sacks last season, so it remains to be seen if Shula returns Hoecht inside.

Nose tackle Bobby Brown III, a fourth-round pick in 2021, enters the final year of his rookie contract.

Veteran Keir Thomas and second-year pros Nick Hampton and Ochaun Mathis are edge rushers. Second-year pro Desjuan Johnson plays end.

On the market

Baltimore Ravens edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney (24) lines up against the Houston Texans.

The Rams missed out or passed on signing players such as Christian Wilkins, Danielle Hunter, Arik Armstead, Leonard Williams, Bryce Huff and Jonathan Greenard.

End Jadeveon Clowney and tackle Teair Tart are among free-agent linemen still available. However, the Rams could wait until veterans are cut at the end of training camp before adding a lineman.

End Jonah Williams, who started 16 games and had two sacks for the Rams last season, is an unrestricted free agent.

In the draft

Texas defensive lineman Byron Murphy impressed at the NFL football scouting combine.

The Rams will try to repeat or improve on their success in the 2023 draft.

The question is whether Snead will choose a player in the first round for the first time since 2016.

Byron Murphy of Texas, Jer’Zahn Newton of Illinois, Braden Fiske of Florida State, Ruke Orhorhoro of Clemson and Kris Jenkins of Michigan are the top five interior-line prospects, according to

The top edge defenders, according to the website, are Dallas Turner of Alabama, Jared Verse of Florida State, Laiatu Latu of UCLA, Chris Braswell of Alabama and Chop Robinson of Penn State.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.