Do some LA Rams players stop trying after they “got paid”?
By Bret Stuter
The LA Rams do not hesitate to hand out lucrative contracts. But has it accomplished anything? Have Rams players been coasting after they get paid?
One of the most difficult roles of an NFL team’s general manager is compensating productive players without dulling their competitive edge. If there is one skill set we would like to see more evidence of in LA Rams general manager Les Snead, it would be writing contracts to keep players productive. Let’s take a peek at what we mean.
Per Over the Cap.com, the LA Rams currently have five players earning more than $10 million per year:
QB Jared Goff – $36,042,682
DT Aaron Donald – $25,000,000
RB Todd Gurley – $17,250,000
WR Brandin Cooks-$16,800,800
CB Jalen Ramsey -$13,703,000
Of this group, cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s contract arrives courtesy of the Jackson Jaguars, who traded Ramsey to the LA Rams in 2019. Meanwhile, All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s work ethic will continue to push him to among the NFL’s elite talent.
Goff signed a 4-year extension with the Rams on September 9, 2019. Gurley signed a contract extension with the Rams on July 25, 2018. Cooks signed a contract extension with the Rams on July 18, 2018.
Lock and load
The effects of locking in these players? Goff’s TD production dropped 31 percent in 2019, while his interceptions rose by 33 percent. Gurley’s run production rose a bit in 2018 but dropped dramatically in 2019. His passing production dropped steadily in both 2018 and 2019. Cooks production peaked with the New England Patriots in 2017. From that apex, his production has dropped in 2018 and 2019. But his production fell dramatically in 2019.
Was part of the issue the battered line in 2019? Yes, of course. Still, how can the Rams possibly improve that offensive line with so little money to pay them? The Rams imbalance doesn’t fix in 2020 nor in 2021. In fact, thanks to so much guaranteed money, the Rams have truly painted themselves into a corner, tying themselves financially to these three players whose effect is entirely dependent upon good offensive line play, but whose contracts starve the team’s chances of attracting good linemen.
In a world of unlimited finances, each of these players signed a contract and deserves to “get paid”. But when the money going into their pockets must come out of the pockets of the players protecting and blocking for them, it’s time for these same players to show some maturity and lessen their salary cap footprint with the team.
Rams need Robin Hood
From the moment players sign contracts making them one of the NFL’s top-paid players, they owe it to their teammates to perform among the top players for their position. While any player can have a down season, multiple players who simultaneously sign lucrative deals who then fail to show up statistically will cripple the Rams.
And so far, the front office has handed out those top-paying contracts with little regard to the downside of doing so. For all the great insight in terms of finding great talent up and down the NFL Draft, Les Snead seems to give the store away in his enthusiasm to retain talent.
Perhaps it’s not our place to go all Robin Hood on Les Snead’s work, perhaps we should stop weighing in on the team’s need to take from the rich and give to the poor. But the LA Rams need salary cap space to sign their 17 outgoing free agents or sign suitable replacements. All-in or not, the team faces tough decisions. True team leadership from the quarterback position or any skill position for that matter, means more than “I got mine!”.