Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
February 28, 2024

Los Angeles Rams pay for their "all-in" approach

By TIMOTHY MCSHEA | March 7, 2023

los-angeles-rams-at-washington-football-team-2020 -- from the Washington Football Team vs. Los Angeles Rams at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. October 11, 2020 (All-Pro Reels Photography)

On Feb. 24, the Los Angeles Rams released star linebacker Bobby Wagner, and many NFL insiders have reported that all-pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey will soon be traded. The cause of these moves is not public info — it is plausible both players were looking for another change after the Rams’ 5–12 season, a stark contrast with their Super Bowl run just one season before. Most likely, however, both of these moves are tied to the Rams’ cap space.

The Rams are currently about $14.9 million above the cap, and this comes as no surprise. Since the blockbuster trade that allowed the Rams to acquire quarterback Mathew Stafford prior to the 2021 season, the Rams' front office has had an all-or-nothing philosophy. 

At the parade following the Rams’ Super Bowl, General Manager Les Snead made a remark in reference to the amount of draft capital the Rams gave up in order to get Stafford. 

“F– them picks,” Snead said.

This mantra has become popular within the Rams’ fanbase, and for all intents and purposes, the philosophy worked. Stafford led the team to a Super Bowl victory, their first since 1999, and the team seemed destined to come back and dominate the following season. 

Even though Von Miller signed with the Buffalo Bills for a huge, $120 million, six-year deal, the Rams added Wagner soon after, another star on defense. Though the two players have different roles within the linebacker position, trading one-star linebacker for another was deemed an equal transaction. The future for the Rams seemed just as bright.

This obviously was not the case. The offense struggled severely throughout the season, likely due to Offensive Coordinator Kevin O’Connell’s departure to become head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. Another reason for this drastic collapse was injuries — Stafford, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, wide receiver Cooper Kupp and Ramsey all suffered injuries at one time or another, and all were considered the top players on both defense and offense. With a list like that, it's no wonder the Rams struggled.

In the NFL, there are bound to be injuries, and it’s nearly impossible to plan for everything. This is why the Rams’ approach back in 2021 was so risky — while most teams maintain a forward-thinking attitude toward most of their transactions, mitigating risk for future seasons, the Rams used all of their resources at once. 

This approach got them a Lombardi Trophy. However, it also got them a 5–12 season right after, as well as $14.9 million over the cap. These next few seasons will prove dull for the Rams, and it will always tie back to the moves they made back in 2021.

Wagner’s release and Ramsey’s trade will open up a huge hole in the Rams’ defense, and it's a hole that can’t be patched up any time soon. The team’s negative cap space nearly rules out free-agent signings entirely. There is the possibility of restructuring current players’ contracts for more space, but $14 million is a drastic number and puts a huge question mark on the Rams’ future. 

Players are more often willing to restructure contracts if their franchise can contend for a title in the near future. With the Rams’ playoff chances not looking bright, players will undoubtedly be looking at other teams, with the prospect of higher pay. This means more releases and trades are coming, as the Rams front office is forced to rebuild certain aspects of the team — Snead will be getting his picks back, but at a cost.

It’s easy to look back at the Super Bowl win and say the Rams made the right moves at the time, but the risk is much more apparent when one looks at teams who took the same approach this past season — the Cleveland Browns went all out in acquiring Deshaun Watson this past offseason, and the Denver Broncos gave up a lot to trade for Russell Wilson. Both teams were beyond disappointments. The Rams were lucky to get their Super Bowl and will now be forced to pay the price.

Have a tip or story idea?
Let us know!

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The News-Letter.