The LA Rams 2018 NFC Championship team remains somewhat intact. But is 2020 the team’s last hurrah, or just their next chapter?
The LA Rams 2018 NFC Championship team remains relatively intact. Yes, the Rams have parted ways with OG Rodger Saffold and C John Sullivan. The team has also parted ways with WR Brandin Cooks, RB Todd Gurley, RB C.J. Anderson, OLB Dante Fowler Jr., ILB Mark Barron, CB Marcus Peters, CB Aqib Talib, S Lamarcus Joyner, KR Jojo Natson, K Greg Zuerlein, DT Ndamukong Suh, and DE John Franklin-Myers. 14 players from the 53-man roster are gone.
That’s a lot of talent to replace. Yet somehow, the Rams have managed to draft from tomorrow, promote from within, and become a bit of an NFL talent incubator. But the Rams are doing this from mid and late-rounds of the NFL Draft. While I believe that the team has a sharp eye when evaluating future NFL talent, the odds are stacked against the team’s continued success in finding players exclusively through the draft.
Ultimately, the team will need to find a balance between paying elite players and saving enough in the vault to fill the roster with talented players. That balance won’t happen in 2020, as the team is buried under a $34 million dead cap weight.
The real challenge occurs in 2021. Perhaps a bit frighteningly real challenge to be honest. The true determining factor is how much will the NFL teams have to spend on salaries in 2021? The floor has been set at $175 million. What will the number come in at?
2021 free agents
The Rams have talent on the roster, and certainly, have talent among the young players who could end up sitting on the 2020 practice squad. But at this time, the team is looking at these contracts expiring at the end of this year.
S John Johnson III WR Josh Reynolds C Coleman Shelton
DB Troy Hill TE Gerald Everett KR Nsimba Webster
OLB Leonard Floyd IOL Austin Blythe RB John Kelly
CB Darious Williams LS Jake McQuaide TE Kendall Blanton
OLB Samson Ebukam RB Malcolm Brown IOL Jamil Demby
CB Donte Deayon TE Johnny Mundt LB Travin Howard
CB Jalen Ramsey
WR Cooper Kupp
WR Robert Woods
Opt-out extended contract to 2021
IOL Chandler Brewer
The list includes three cornerbacks (2 starters), three tight ends (1 starter), two wide receivers (1 starter), three offensive linemen (1 starter), one safety (1 starter), two outside linebackers (2 starters), one long snapper (1 starter), Two running backs (1 starter), one linebacker (1 starter).
That’s 13 players who will get significant snaps this year. That’s 13 players who will need to re-sign with the team next year.
If the Rams intend to compete for the 2021 NFL Playoffs, the team will need to find a lot of replacement players this year from the young rookie additions, or the team will need to find a lot of salary cap dollars in 2021. The dollars can be found. So can the playing time for younger players projected for larger roles next season.
If you ask either GM Les Snead or HC Sean McVay, the response will likely be the same. The Rams see the future as an opportunity to compete for and win the NFL Championship game. Whether or not the team will have sufficient horsepower on the roster remains to be seen.
There are many forces that need to converge to help a team succeed in the NFL. But to succeed consistently, the team needs an elite coaching staff and a valiant personnel department willing and capable of putting in the work to ensure the coaching staff is getting a constant supply of talented young players who fit the team’s culture and needs.
The LA Rams, for all the challenges of writing team friendly player contracts, have done a very admirable job of restocking the roster with talented players. The team is banking the trio of Aaron Donald, Jared Goff, and likely Jalen Ramsey as the foundation of the future. Surrounding them with talented players should be enough to win games in the NFL.
Some players will re-sign with the Rams next year. Many will not. As long as the team plans for that scenario everything should work out just fine. The key to continued success is to have a great coaching staff, an attuned personnel department, and a solid system to develop and optimize the talents of the team’s players. The Rams appear to be solid in all three areas. We call the glass half-full. How do you see it?