LA Rams face a free agency market as volatile as they are

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

When you look up the definition of volatile: you will find that it is defined as ‘characterized by, or subject to, rapid or unexpected change.’  Can the LA Rams flourish and forge a path forward in this year’s free-agent market that’s as volatile and unpredictable as the team itself is?

Gaze into the thicket of a maelstrom of the 2021 FA mirror, Snow White, and the reflection you see is yourself.

For the Rams are every bit as mercurial and fickle of an organization as the waters they are soon to navigate. There is no predicting their next move. Perhaps that’s part of their gambit, their modus operandi – to don the mask of Mr. Mysterioso?

After all, what other team trades a quarterback that’s just taken your team to a Super Bowl for a signal-caller who has never even won a playoff game after 10 years in the league? And then, kicks down first and third-round draft choices just to make the deal happen? Who does that?

Could any prognosticator have possibly predicted that trade maneuver? That deal broke a new NFL trade ground, re-set the bar.

LA Rams are a volatile team

What other team would sign a running back Todd Gurley to so much guaranteed money, knowing full well that Gurley had problems with the health of his knees? And then, two years later, outright release Gurley and swallow that guaranteed jagged little pill in one season?

Well, it’s the same team that has made some nifty and solid FA moves before.

The same team that successfully plucked an edge outside linebacker like Leonard Floyd from the FA pool and can look back and smile like Cheshire Cat at how awesome the deal turned out. All the guy does is play so well, providing everything you could possibly want in an edge rusher for the Rams last year that now he’s going to play for somebody else!

And when he leaves, the team will get a compensatory pick, perhaps as high as the third round. That’s what the team got back last year when OLB Dante Fowler Jr. left the Rams – a third-round comp pick in this year’s draft. A third-round pick stands a good chance of providing a starter for your team.

So a team that can master the intricacies of managing its comp picks via free agency losses (with an eye toward its future) can be behind-the-scenes lethal. The Baltimore Ravens are a team that comes to mind that has made comp picks an integral part of their overall squad-building strategy, particularly when Ozzie Newsome was their GM.

…Fueled by compensatory picks

One eye focused on plugging holes, filling roster gaps, and all the while, pivoting your roster with an eye on the future via comp picks.

When a team is short on cap space, the one-year FA contract can be a complementary strategy in a front office’s quiver of options. And the Rams are attracted to the lure of signing veteran FAs to one-year deals precisely because they are cash-strapped. Also, they don’t have to contend with guaranteed money as there’s no dead cap hit when the player leaves.

Then, you get comp picks the following year.

It’s done intelligently and methodically, it can be a really adroit maneuver to pivot a team’s roster. Buy low, let their own interest in a huge deal propel them on the football field, only to sign elsewhere, and let other teams worry about overpaying.

And as many NFL veterans face the salary-cap squeeze this year, there is added incentive on their parts to sign one-year deals while the cap is lower, and then circle back in 2022 for a longer deal when there is more money for all NFL teams to spend on FAs.

The Rams also face a quandary in that there are a lot of really good veteran players hitting free agency all at once right now, with many more to follow in the weeks ahead. But you don’t necessarily want to jump the gun, shoot your wad too early just in case a better player becomes available. Why rent the first apartment that comes on the market, when the place of your dreams opens up next week?

And how do you assess “fair market value” for any free agent player when the salary cap has been reduced by so much this upcoming season? The LA Rams free agency strategy is breaking new ground in 2021.

Trending. Look for LA Rams OT Tremayne Anchrum in 2021. light

When you look up the definition of volatile: you will find that it is defined as ‘characterized by, or subject to, rapid or unexpected change.’ And the image illustrating the term is that of LA Rams GM Les Snead in front of three phones, with one at his ear and the other two phones ringing off the hook.