Mark Barron a LB3 after re-signing with the Rams
Mark Barron has re-signed with the L.A. Rams on a five-year, $45 million contract.
The former Tampa Bay safety, who was traded to the Rams for a fourth- and sixth-round pick in 2014 just two years after being the seventh overall draft selection, is one of the more surprising benefactors in this year’s free agency class considering the rocky start to his career.
A 16-game starter in his first season at strong safety, Barron recorded 89 total tackles, an interception and one forced fumble, good enough to rank as a borderline DB2/3. The following year Barron took a step forward for his fantasy owners, jumping up into the top half of the DB2 tier playing just 14 games, but he wasn’t living up to the lofty expectations of being an early round selection. In particular, Barron had allowed eight touchdowns and missed 20 tackles in his first two seasons, so when the Rams showed interest in him, a deal was struck.
By Week 10 of his first season in St. Louis, Barron had lost the starting gig at strong safety and instead saw time in subpackages for the rest of the season, playing just 655 snaps, and seeing the field for less than 20 snaps in six of the last seven games. The start of 2015 looked much the same, with Barron only being used in a situational role for the first three games, but a Week 4 injury to WLB Alec Ogletree that put him on injured reserve created an opportunity for Barron.
As a 6-foot-1, 213-pound run-stuffing safety he proved to be the best option for the Rams to replace Ogletree as the starting weakside linebacker, and Barron quickly became one of the top fantasy options at defensive back last year because he was playing out of position. Now in an every-down role playing the productive WILL role, he averaged 8.5 tackles per game after Week 7, ending the season with 116 total and ranking as a top-five defensive back.
The move to L.A. has not been the only clear-out for the Rams as they also cut multiple veterans from the roster, including former defensive captain and starting MLB James Laurinaitis. In a corresponding move the team has announced it intends to move Ogletree to be the starter in the middle, which left them open to use their wealth of cap room to re-sign the resurgent Barron to man the weakside instead.
The size of the contract makes it clear that the Rams intend to roll with Barron as their WLB, which means he’ll retain his fantasy value heading into the coming season, but he will no longer be classified as a defensive back. His points total in a balanced scoring system last year ranked him as a low-end LB2, and playing a full 16-game season at linebacker isn’t an unachievable goal, but it would be at the top end of the price you’ll want to be paying for him in your fantasy drafts. It’s difficult to class him as an emergent prospect with plenty of upside, so it’s more plausible he lands in the top end of the LB3 group, so he’s not a player to reach for on draft day.