LA Rams face wide open NFC West in 2023

2023 NFL Pro Bowl Games
2023 NFL Pro Bowl Games / Ethan Miller/GettyImages
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The LA Rams may not have had a very good season in 2022, but that could all change with the arrival of the 2023 NFL season. Each team in the NFL faces the same challenges after the Super Bowl is played: Reinventing the team. After all, some players retire. Some coaches take promotions to coach elsewhere. Some new coaches are added to the coaching staff. Finally, about 3 dozen or so new players are added to the roster, each seeking to perform well enough to catch the eye of the coaching staff to ensure that they will remain and have a chance to perform throughout the season.

The LA Rams, perhaps more than most team this time of year, have two very distinct advantages that many NFL teams do not have the luxury of enjoying. For starters, the Rams will essentially have the same brain trust running the offense and defense. While that may or may not excite anyone right now, the advantages are there if you look. In essence, the Rams have already skipped past the 'learn a new system,' and 'meet the new coordinators,' part of OTAs and training camp, and can dive right into correcting the may problems that surfaced throughout the 2022 NFL season.

The other advantage for the LA Rams is the fact that, for the most part, the Rams core players are returning healthier than ever. That's QB Matthew Stafford, WR Cooper Kupp, DL Aaron Donald, and you can throw TE Tyler Higbee, RB Cam Akers, ILB Bobby Wagner, and DB Jalen Ramsey into that mix as well. That's huge when you compare this team to other NFL teams that have no firm handle on who will be their quarterback, their top receiver, their best defensive players, or even if they can afford to bring any of their key contributors back for another season.

You don't need to roam too far across the NFL to witness what I mean. While the NFL West Division arguable had a down year in 2022, the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks both played well enough to earn a playoff berth. But will they be able to do so in 2023? That's where I have my doubts. Let's take a quick survey to the other teams in the NFC West and size up their chances in 2022?

Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals completely fell apart in 2022, as feared after re-signing quarterback Kyler Murray to a monster contract. That was a move that had danger written all over it, as the team committed significant financial resources to a quarterback who many questioned over his maturity and leadership abilities.

One year later, the team fired their head coach and hired Philadelphia Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon as their new head coach. While that may mean good things for the Cardinals eventually, it does little to address the glaring problem, namely hiring an offensive minded coach who can both develop as well as reel in the sometimes out of control Murray. The Cardinals struggled in 2022, not just from injuries, but from the idea that if they kept giving Murray everything he wanted, their offense would turn around.

It didn't.

Now the Arizona Cardinals must start over. That's a curious perspective, because when the team hired former head coach Kliff Kingsbury, he was touted as the ideal head coach for Kyler Murray. Now, a new offensive coordinator will take up the arduous task of trying to optimize Murray's skill sets into an NFL caliber offense. I don't think that is an easy task, nor do I believe that it happens instantly. While Murray has proven to be productive, he needs to have specific care applied to the offense he runs.

Right now, the Arizona Cardinals are projected to have 48 players under contract for the 2023 NFL season, with 30 players contract expirations. That's a pretty tall order for a team with just $13 miillion in available salary cap space for next season. And with their early draft picks, the Cardinals already have $14 million tied up in their rookie draft class of 2023 before any of them take a single snap, In short, salary cap dollars are not in unlimited supply for the Cardinals in 2023.