Will LA Rams investments in wide receiver Cooper Kupp pay off this time?
By Bret Stuter
The LA Rams certainly appear to have a script whenever the team appears in the Super Bowl. It’s happened twice, and on both occasions, the LA Rams have arranged to cut big checks for the services of their big-time players. The obvious difference? In 2018, the Rams cut huge checks for WR Brandin Cooks before the team appeared in Super Bowl LIII.
This time, they waited until they actually won the thing.
In 2018, Cooks signed onto a huge extension as a result of the LA Rams trading significant draft capital for the speedy receiver, and the team wishing to ensure that Cooks would on under contract for the foreseeable future.
Optimism was overflowing in 2019. But it soon dissipated amidst a season where nothing seemed to go right. Young offensive linemen struggled to block, and then injuries began. The Rams’ laudable running game behind RB Todd Gurley was subpar. QB Jared Goff never looked comfortable throwing the ball. And WR Brandin Cooks, who put up 1,213 yards, five touchdowns, and a 68.3 percent catch rate regressed to what was perhaps the worst season of his career.
All happening the year of or the year after the team gave out huge contracts with huge amounts of guarantees.
Back up the Brinks truck
This year, the Rams front office has extended WR Cooper Kupp to a lucrative extension. Will the plan to sign a wide receiver to an extension pay off this time?
Some circumstances are far different, of course. For starters, the LA Rams did not ignite the firestorm of signing wide receivers to huge contracts this year. That dubious distinction goes to the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that set the bar for all NFL teams by lining the pockets of WR Christian Kirk with far more cash than expected. That set off the wildfire among NFL teams all vying to secure their top WR to a long-term deal.
NFL wide receivers got paid.
So this time is a bit different as extending WRs to huge dollar amounts is simply the cost of doing business in the NFL.
Got it right or Deja vu all over again?
There are of course other differences as well. While Cooks had a career-high season with the LA Rams in 2018, he was already playing on his third NFL team. Much like veteran DeSean Jackson, Cooks was a small fast wide receiver with soft hands who can force defenses to cover much more of the football field vertically. But he was not equipped for the LA Rams style of offense. He was smaller than the average NFL receiver, he was not especially equipped to block, and his injury profile suggested that he was one concussion away from forced retirement and perhaps even risking his health permanently.
Cooper Kupp put up career-high numbers as well. His career highs were also good enough to threaten NFL single-season all-time receiving records. That’s not bad at all (sarcasm alert).
Now, the LA Rams face an age-old demon. 2019 was the one NFL season that head coach Sean McVay would love to forget. It was the lone year where he and the LA Rams were shut out of the NFL Playoffs. Now, the LA Rams are once again coming away from appearing in a Super Bowl. Super Bowl teams have less time to rest, repair, rehab, and recharge for the next NFL season.
2021 was the first full season for WR Cooper Kupp. And it’s clear that when he is healthy, he is dominant in the NFL.
Health seems to be a huge factor for the LA Rams. Let’s hope the team enjoys a healthy roster in 2022. It’s far more pleasant to ask “How did they do that?” when signing the contract than to ask “Why did they do that?” if there is an injury or disappointing season.