The fragility of the LA Rams roster (re) build

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

The LA Rams roster is more than just fitting players under the salary cap, and here’s why

The LA Rams are on a mission to build an NFL Championship team this year. But building an NFL Championship roster is more than just fitting the number of players under a salary cap. If it were that simple, NFL teams would simply hire junior accountants from CPA firms and have at it. It’s not just the math, although that is certainly part of it.

The art of building an NFL Championship roster is more than just slapping together the best players available and letting 53 individuals excel on a football field. While it is enough to dupe fans into believing it’s a correct path, it seldom works out that way.  Recall the Philadelphia Eagles “Dream Team”? What about the Cleveland Browns of 2019?  Talented individuals indeed. As a team? Not so much. It’s not just the star power, although that is certainly part of it.

It’s more than building a group of players whose skills complement one another on the football field.  Putting players whose skill sets are different, but complementary seems like it should work. But if it did, a Championship team could be built by a savvy NFL position coach. It’s not just about complementary players, although that is certainly part of it.

Common championship elements

Championship rosters have some common elements. Teams that “win it all” have four key elements: a great quarterback, a great pass rusher, a solid shut-down cornerback, and a blindside blocker. Successful rosters are deep rosters. Rather than focus on signing any free agent, those teams add players whose value to their team exceeds the cost of their contract. That means teams seek the best value, not the best player.

Discounts are tough to find because 31 other NFL teams are looking for the same thing. What constitutes the best value? Well, that is where things start to form gaps. Value is subjective and is very dependant upon who is currently on the roster.  So teams, while seeking the same thing, have completely different definitions of what that is.

What a championship roster really needs

In each scenario portrayed above, we keep missing the point.  A championship roster is built from within.  Football games are won by teams, not individuals. And teams are built upon trust, respect, one vision, self-sacrifice. Savvy NFL general managers know this and use those principals to assemble the roster.

it’s tedious work. Sometimes the right pieces are not available. Sometimes the funds run out. At other times, the roster is near “there” but an unfortunate injury derails everything. But roster-building is never a sprint.

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What is the formula for team chemistry?

And that’s why teams cutting players can be so counterproductive to that process. We are easily distracted. As soon as a player whose NFL career has been outstanding, like Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, is available, it’s tough not to want to place that production into a Rams jersey.

But adding a player means cutting another. Paying a player means not paying another. It’s all connected, all relevant, and all related. Rosters that win in the NFL have maximized the trust, respect, one vision, self-sacrifice. That “team chemistry” that is so hard to find yet so easy to define.

Trust the trust factor

I’m okay with passing on each free agent as they become available. What they did elsewhere will not be what they do for the Rams. The teams are different. The opponents differ. It’s similar to building a house of cards with the fan blowing. Slow meticulous work that can come undone with the gust of a single injury.

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But patience, depth, and endurance are the key, and always will be. You can’t shove a player in the face of All-Pro Aaron Donald and insist he likes him, trusts him, or sacrifices for him.  Winners want to play with other winners. But even more, players want to play with other players they can trust. We can’t simulate that in fantasy football or in general manager simulators. But it’s the rule of the roster build.  Since trust is such a big factor, I’m willing to trust that.