LA Rams deal for Sony Michel is still worth the price

Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /

Okay, so now that you’ve had a bit of time to rethink the trade executed by the LA Rams for New England Patriots running back Sony Michel, how do you feel about it today?  It seems that after the original cost of either a 2022 fourth-round draft pick (compensatory) OR a 2022 fifth-round pick PLUS a 2022 sixth-round draft pick was reported, the actual details of the transaction became available. Now the price of acquiring Michel has inflated to a 2022 sixth-round pick (likely the least valuable projected compensatory pick awarded) and a 2023 fourth-round pick.

Some are now balking at the price. Thanks to Aaron Wilson, we now have a revised purchase receipt. The Rams paid a 2022 sixth-round pick plus a 2023 fourth-round pick.

So here are some reasons for disliking the trade. Well, there are always two sides to any trade, and that’s why it’s not a move that teams make frequently. The LA Rams must give up something of value for something that the organization believes has more value.

Reason I: Claiming some running back off the waiver wire from final roster cuts would have been fine.
Not really. It could have worked out, and it may not have worked out. There is no telling which running backs would have been released, or if they might have boasted the pedigree of Sony Michel. In fact, with the Jacksonville Jaguars on the hunt for RB help, there is no way of guaranteeing if the Rams wait for roster cuts if they are even awarded a player they may like.

The LA Rams need a player now.  All the Rams’ leverage to get the best deal is now. Waiting would only drive up the price for any player that the Rams wanted. The Rams grabbed a potential 1000 yard rusher for a sixth-round in 2022 and a fourth-round pick in 2023. And Sony Michel can gain that yardage on 300 offensive snaps with just 200 carries. They don’t come at that quality on the waiver wire.

Reason II: Veterans like  Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson, Kenyon Barner are free agents and could be signed by the LA Rams for no draft picks
Any recognizable veteran running back has little to no interest in signing up with the LA Rams right now. Why? The gig will lead nowhere. The Rams likely won’t guarantee snap counts, won’t commit to open competition for a starting spot, and due to the belief that Cam Akers is coming back, will only do a one-year minimal contract.

By trading for a player, the LA Rams front office commits to a contract with known and defined terms. In the analysis of data, one of the key components is to understand the financial commitment of the player. In true Moneyball fashion, the Rams have traded for the most economically bargained rusher available. That’s nothing to take so lightly.

Reason III: Why trade the value of a sixth-round and fourth-round picks, picks that the Rams could convert into future starters, for a player who was only a 50/50 chance of making the Patriots roster this year anyway?

The fact of the matter is that Sony Michel is in the last year of his rookie contract. He is a former first-round pick who can convert 300 offensive snaps into 1000 yards. That’s not the stuff you get off the waiver wire, no matter who is arguing the point. And in the Rams offense, he could bring much much more.

This wasn’t a speculative move. This is not some ‘let’s get someone to slide into special teams and see if he can help’ kind of move. This is the “we started with 6, we’re down to 3 and we still have a preseason game to play” kind of move. The Rams needed a proven commodity right now.

Sure. That 2023 fourth-round pick may be a collector’s edition pick All-Pro NFL player. How many of the first-round picks that the Rams have traded away have been that caliber? My guess is that the Patriots will likely trade that pick away when the time comes.

The right move at the right time

Meanwhile, this is not just the LA Rams picking up a spare tire to toss into the trunk of their roster. They’ve just added an NFL running back who has played three seasons in the NFL, is absolutely entering the prime of his career and even has played well when he competed in the Super Bowl. He can run with determination, can attack defenses between the tackles or at the perimeter, can run and catch the football with authority.

The Rams offense cannot function without a viable running attack. Cam Akers is out, Raymond Calais is gone, and Darrell Henderson gets injured even though bubble-wrapped by the team. That’s a trend that derails a team’s chances before the season ever begins.

I get the anxiety and nervousness about trading picks for a player. But let’s check the track record of the team whenever that happens. The LA Rams usually come out far ahead of the curve when the deal for a veteran. In 2018, running back Sony Michel was a first-round drafted rookie. He’s averaged over 750 yards and four touchdowns per season in his first three years. He has the ability to be dangerous in the passing game as well.

Rams roster rejuvenated running backs

Most of all, Sony Michel is the between the tackles type of power back that we’ve touted as being a true need for this team, this roster, this season. The fact is that when you identify a player who fits that need to a tee, you don’t dicker over the pennies, you just go out and pull the trigger:

"“What he does bring is this element of make a cut, get north and south and get north and south with some force. The physics that he brings to the table — let’s call it a flavor or genre that we felt like complemented our group. We identified Sony for many reasons. Number one, being his experience — and experience, meaning like a player who has carried the ball in big games and in those big games, where there have been big moments, big drives, big series.” – LA Rams general Manager Les Snead as per ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry"

And that is the word from the Rams front office leader.

While this is not a caliber of NFL trade on par with that of QB Matthew Stafford, or DB Jalen Ramsey, it certainly falls within the realm of trading for offensive lineman Austin Corbett. At the time, the Rams traded a fifth-round draft pick for a player who had fallen out of favor with his original team and was facing a career on an NFL bench.

Much like Corbett, the LA Rams have an alternate career path intended for RB Sony Michel. He has a rare opportunity to explode on offense in the last year of his rookie career and help to carry his new team to the NFL Playoffs in the process. No, he has never started 16 NFL games in his career. No, he has never rushed for 1000 yards in one season. But truth be told, he has never carried the football for the LA Rams either.

“But the world is full of zanies and fools
Who don’t believe in sensible rules
And won’t believe what sensible people say
And because these daft and dewey eyed dopes
Keep building up impossible hopes impossible
Things are happening every day!”  – Lyrics to “Impossible” by Rodgers and Hammerstein circa 1957