The Rams offensive line faces its biggest challenge. Can GM Les Snead work his magic?

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Rams
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Rams / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

The LA Rams love to bring in new players on one-year deals. You can comfortably expand that to players who are taking on new and perhaps starting roles with the team. It really made sense to do so for the team in 2023, because many of the contracts that the team extended were based on the idea of proving it last season meant getting paid this season.

Well now some players want to be paid. At least, that is the option and right of starting offensive center Coleman Shelton, who has surprised nobody by voiding the second year of his two-year contract. In fact, it was so expected, that many sites had already included Shelton among the list of free agents who needed to be extended this season.

As of now, it appears that any hopes of extending Shelton, and first time free agent Kevin Dotson, will need to await the early activity of the 2024 NFL Free Agency market to assess and establish their fair market value.

That is a Les Snead trademark. He seldom imposes hard negotiation tactics, instead preferring to allow salary differences to sort themselves out by waiting for a player and agent to get a feel for what the market will bear. That way, players are not left wondering if they left millions on the table by re-signing with the Rams in haste.

But the money needs to come from somehwhere to pay players. And if a player is overpaid in their current role, then they are preventing the team from paying other players what is rightfully due to them. That means that the team must renegotiate Joe Noteboom's contract, which will either free up cash for the team, or simply results in Noteboom's release:

Of the six major contributors from the LA Rams offensive line (five starters and swing tackle Joe Noteboom, the team currently has confirmed contracts in place for just two: LG Steve Avila and RT Rob Havenstein. Even left tackle Alaric Jackson's contract expires, but he can be kept on the Rams roster with a Qualifying Tender Offer. So what might those look like?

The team must come to new agreements with 2/3rds of the 2023 offensive line this offseason. I suspect that extending players will be a far greater priority to the team than signing new talent. And that is simply wise, because the team has significant success from the group at both run and pass blocking.

Still, it's how the NFL runs. The team was able to reform a new cast of starters for the 2023 NFL season, and the same cast of coaches is just as prepared to do so this year. The Rams may be outbid on one or more players that they hope to extend, but they will not be outcoached. It's that quality of coaching that will construct and prepare a new 2024 version of the offensive line to succeed this year.

We knew weeks ago that IOL Kevin Dotson would need to make a decision between going for bank or bling this offseason. It could be that several players will join in in that crucial fork in the road this offseason. But that is their choice. In the end, Snead's methods ultimately test the heart of players far more fundamentally: Do you want to play for the LA Rams, or not? In the end, it's not just a question of money. Money is just the tip of a much greater matter altogether.