Ramblin on: 10 LA Rams news offseason observations

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

The LA Rams had to find nearly $50 million in NFL salary-cap space before the start of the new season. That triggered a series of restructured contracts, and by doing so the team managed to squeeze under the $182.5 million ceiling.  That set the stage for minimal expectations this offseason. The Rams organization was never going to ‘wow’ in the 2021 NFL Free Agency market, especially not after wowing the 2021 NFL headlines with one more blockbuster trade:

Which trade? This time the Rams packaged QB Jared Goff and a trio of picks for Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. But in the process, the team triggered another huge poison pill of dead cap space that crippled the Rams’ chances to sign large contracts or numbers of free agents.

Do the Rams try to trigger dead cap space? They’ve been pretty successful at it if that was the goal. If not, well then they are pretty bad at this stuff. Per Spotrac.com, the LA Rams swallowed $39.3 million in dead cap space in 2021.  That is coming off the $38.5 million in dead cap space in 2020.  Hey, I get it. The Rams love to take chances. But at nearly $80 million in dead cap space over two seasons?  It would make sense to make it a corporate goal to do better at that in the future.

1. The LA Rams did not have a lot of money to spend in 2021. In fact, the team was well over the salary cap ($40 million) and was the last team to officially make moves to squeeze under the cap. In fact, neither Spotrac nor OverTheCap.com reflects that the Rams are under the salary cap yet.

2. Did anyone else find it interesting just how many players were tapped to restructure their contracts?  By the last count, it was five: Andrew Whitworth, Jalen Ramsey, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and of course Aaron Donald. I also found it interesting that Michael Brockers was traded.  We noticed that the Rams were spending more on the defensive line than any other team. Suddenly the Rams were compelled to trade Michael Brockers, a veteran player of unquestioned integrity? Pretty convenient.

3. While so many are keen to point out who the LA Rams lost, did you notice who was re-signed? DB Darious Williams just made economic sense. But the teams brought back OLB Leonard Floyd on a four-year deal. Folks, this defense still has Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Darious Williams, Jordan Fuller, Sebastian Joseph Day, They may not be ‘tops’ in the NFL, but they will still be a top-ten defense.

4. Is this the year for young players to make noise? The Rams have practically ended their off-season shopping spree. You know, signing WR DeSean Jackson. Now the Rams must hope that younger players step up on the defensive line, linebacker, edge rusher, secondary, offensive line, wide receiver, and tight end. In fact, the only position where the Rams won’t be looking for a youth movement is the quarterback position, where the team has gotten significantly older with Matthew Stafford.

5. While the Rams will be counting on youth to round out the roster, the team has solid veteran leadership in place at both offense and defense. Andrew Whitworth, Robert Woods, and Matthew Stafford on offense, while Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey will lead on defense.

6. I’m eager to see what the Rams special teams will do under their new coordinator Joe DeCamillis. I think placekicker Matt Gay is indeed the real deal. I’m concerned that punter Johnny Hekker has seen his best playing days, but perhaps DeCamillis can help rejuvenate the All-Pro punter. Can the Rams upgrade returns and coverage units this year? Please?

7. The fact that the LA Rams loaded up during the 2020 draft class depth at safety, defensive line, and wide receiver could pay dividends this year. With almost no time to learn the playbook a year ago, the Rams redshirted nearly a dozen players. They practiced, they were coached up, they worked out. Now, the question is, will they be ready to play? It would be nice if they were.

8. If you think that the Rams will send out the same ole offense in 2021, I think you will be drastically surprised. The Rams have a new quarterback, a new feature running back, a new tight end group, and a new secret weapon in WR DeSean Jackson. The team will be pass-heavy again but don’t be surprised if the team features RB Cam Akers in both the running and passing game.

9. Speaking of offense, I will be at the edge of my seat to see how the Rams handle the infamous zero coverage blitz in 2021. Right now, my first thought is to go empty backfield and score a quick TD with a go route from DeSean Jackson. That ought to make defenses think twice about throwing the kitchen sink at the Rams quarterback.

Related Story. LA Rams QB Stafford’s Colin Cowherd interview: quiet confidence. light

10. And one more thought about the LA Rams signing of DeSean Jackson. The Rams wanted to get more explosive on offense. Well, they just signed nitroglycerin. DJax has averaged 17.4 yards per catch over his entire career. Under McVay at Washington, that number jumps to 19.0 yards per catch. Jackson leads the NFL in yards per catch. He also leads all NFL players in 40-plus-yard receptions (63) since 2008, further solidifying his status as one of the most productive receivers in the league. The LA Rams wanted a weapon. They may have overshot the mark. But one great factoid: Because the Philadelphia Eagles released DJax, he will not offset any awarded compensatory picks. A nice bonus.