Rams pass rush target in 2022 is Panthers headache in 2023

Brian Burns Carolina Panthers
Brian Burns Carolina Panthers / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

For the LA Rams amidst the 2022 NFL season, the front office fought until the very end. While the team struggled with injuries everywhere, the Rams sought only two known players to add as reinforcements for the Rams roster, and both played for the Carolina Panthers. The first player was sometimes injured running back Christian McCaffrey. The 'other guy,' in trade talks between the Rams and the Panthers was DE/OLB Brian Burns.

It was the failed attempt by the LA Rams to pry Burns from the Panthers roster that has become such a pivotal moment in the Rams roster strategy. After swinging and missing to acquire either Panthers' player, the Rams front office had to do a bit of introspective soul searching, resulting in the team realizing that the end of the road had arrived.

As a result, the Rams have burned down their former pass rushers, deciding that any and all players who sat in the outside linebacker room to start the 2022 NFL season were expendable. But the LA Rams roster changes did not stop there. The LA Rams shed almost all veterans from the roster with the exception of QB Matthew Stafford, WR Cooper Kupp, and DT Aaron Donald. This year, the Rams have drafted 14 rookies from the 2023 NFL Draft, and all 14 rookies have earned their spot on the Rams 53-man roster.

Meanwhile, the Panthers situation has grown complex as well

After nixing a huge trade package from the LA Rams, the Carolina Panthers were clearly committed to keeping DE/OLB Brian Burns around for the foreseeable future. Now, Burns is calling them out, and forcing the Panthers to put their money where their mouth is.

After all, any player who is viewed as worth more than multiple first-round draft picks is going to run on the high end of the NFL salary scale. And by opting to retain Burns, the Panthers front office surrendered important leverage for any future contract negotiations with Brian Burns and his agent.

To nobody's surprise, that leverage is being applied now by Brian Burns.

While the LA Rams have a great track record with elite NFL players in the context of negotiating a fair market value (FMV) contract extension, the Rams may have dodged a huge bullet on this occasion. The Rams are carrying nearly $73 million in dead cap space in 2023, which is nearly a full third of their 2023 NFL salary cap allocation.

Rams change strategy

The Rams simply do not appear to have the fiscal wiggle-room to have successfully addressed Burns' compensation goals. Nor do the Rams have the type of projection that makes sense to invest heavily in one player, without assurances that the team is on track to compete for a berth in the 2024 NFL Playoffs.

LA Rams GM Les Snead continues to assure Rams fans that the team will be in play for game changers in the future after the team has reestablished a foundation that can compete in postseason. As the Carolina Panthers prepare to face the 2023 NFL season without Brian Burns, the LA Rams have changed their entire strategy.

In the end, many Rams fans are nervous, and it makes sense. After all, this is uncharted territory for Rams fans. Rams HC Sean McVay had his first sub-.500 season, and now few if anyone knows what to expect from the team. Will the Rams rebound as has been their pattern? Or have the Rams broken with tradition and started a brand new trajectory?

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That is the question lingering in everyone's mind right now. But the wait is almost over. Week 1 is almost here.