The Los Angeles Rams are in the process of losing their second starter from the 2022 defense in a span of less than 24 hours, but this time learning the fate of one of their breakout trench defenders of the past two seasons.
Via league insider Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network on the afternoon of Saturday, March 18, defensive tackle Greg Gaines is agreeing to terms with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Terms of his contract is yet to be released right away. Spotrac projected he would make $7.7 million annually on his next deal. But his departure comes after the Rams lost safety Nick Scott to a three-year, $12 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Gaines Emerged as Breakout Performer on Rams Defensive Line
While the 6-foot-1, 312-pound Gaines may not be considered a household name in the NFL, plus plays on a defensive line featuring the dominating Aaron Donald, his presence was still greatly lauded inside the “Rams House.”
Donald himself told Heavy back on September 5, 2022 that Gaines began to come into his own during the Rams’ Super Bowl run.
“You talk about a guy like Greg Gaines, obviously he came out of his shell last year. He ended up getting a starting a job and played at a high level,” Donald said. “He’s stout in the run, he can pass rush, he can run down the quarterback, he’s quick and fast.”
Gaines, 25, went from zero starts in his first two seasons coming out of the University of Washington to starting in 13 games that 2021 season — and ended up with a still career-best 55 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 28 solo stops and 13 quarterback hits. He even gained a fan in ESPN personality Mina Kimes, who noticed he looked more agile than he did when he was in a Huskies uniform.
Last season, Gaines was limited to 16 games of action with 12 starts. He delivered a new personal best of six tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He also ended 2022 with 36 tackles, 16 solo stops, six QB hits and four sacks.
He’s leaving the Rams with 122 total tackles, 59 solo stops, 11 tackles for a loss and 10.5 career sacks per Pro Football Reference.
Breakdown of What Gaines is Walking Into
Gaines is reuniting with a past teammate of his from his UW days: Behemoth nose tackle and Pro Bowler Vita Vea, also a past Super Bowl winner.
Gaines’ arrival, though, is anticipated to bolster the Bucs’ run defense. Last season Tampa allowed an average of 4.5 yards per carry and was 15th in rushing yards allowed with 2,052. Gaines is able to penetrate through gaps and snuff out the run, especially in short yardage situations:
He also proved he could control his spot in the Super Bowl win over the Bengals with Donald on the opposite side of him:
Gaines’ arrival gives the Bucs a rare two-NT combination alongside Vea. But in a division that now has the leader in rushing touchdowns from last season Jamaal Williams coming to the New Orleans Saints plus the Atlanta Falcons finishing third in total rushing offense, the need for Gaines becomes clear.
As for the Rams, Gaines now joins Scott and Jalen Ramsey as members of the 2022 defense who found new homes during the first week of the NFL free agency cycle for 2023.