This will anger fans, but look for the Rams prioritize trades over FA signings

Anticipation among many fans is building over the Rams forary in the 2024 NFL Free Agency market. But the Rams track record for bidding high and fast for free agents does not support the belief that the team will be net buyers this off-season.

Los Angeles Rams GM Les Snead
Los Angeles Rams GM Les Snead / Ric Tapia/GettyImages

The LA Rams may or may not be loaded with available spending cash to throw at coveted players in the 2024 NFL Free Agency market. But long before the Rams ever get to that point of spending money on existing players or new faces, the team has a lot of ground to cover to ready the organization for a hoped-for shopping spree. Still, even with cash in hand and numerous roster needs, something about the Rams spending lots of money on new faces in the free agency market feels . . . Well, off-kilter somehow.

But before we get to that point, I urge you to read one of our previous articles that covers the topic: "Rams 2024 Offseason Primer: 5 Steps before the NFL Free Agency Market" (just click on the highlighted words to check it out). The reason to do so is to give you all the necessary background information that we will refer to in this article. That includes salary cap space, current players seeking extensions, and the projected costs of re-signing the rather large number of players to return for 2024.

When looking back over the team's willingness to spend money in an annual free agency market, the last year of significant activity that I could find occured in 2022 when the LA Rams opened the vault to sign:

  1. WR Allen Robinson - 3 years for $46,500,000
  2. ILB Bobby Wagner - 5 years for $50,000,000

Of course, 2022 was a unique year because the team had intended to re-sign veteran OLB Von Millier. Since he chose to sign with the Buffalo Bills, the team had an excess of funds to spend. Unfortunately, the front office's ability to innovate on the fly committed the team to long term contracts with two players who would only last a year on the roster.

The team was active in 2020 as well, signing these free agents:

  1. DT A'Shawn Robinson - 2 years for $17,000,000
  2. OLB Leonard Floyd - 1 year for $10,000,000

There is a pattern in that the Rams seem to be willing to commit to sign free agents on even years, and this is 2024. So far, it appears as though the Rams are willing to commit dollars to free agents when the situation warrants.

But another trend developed more recently. In 2021, the Rams were willing to trade draft picks for New England Patriots versatile veteran running back Sony Michel. The team followed up later that year by trading picks to the Denver Broncos for All-Pro OLB Von Miller. In 2022, the Rams attempted to trade with the Carolina Panthers for RB Christian McCaffrey, who was ultimately traded to the San Francisco 49ers. The team also attempted to trade for Panthers OLB/DE Brian Burns.

The Rams were unsuccessful with either trade offer.

Nonplussed, the front office plodded ahead in 2023, trading with the Pittsburgh Steelers for IOL Kevin Dotson. the same Dotson whose outcome could dictate how the Rams proceed this off-season.

So why trade over signing a free agent? Depending on the value of the contract to sign a free agent too quickly, signing new players to contracts can offset a team's losses in free agency, essentially elimination any consideration for awarding compensatory draft picks to that team.

Of course, the Rams could still pursue a player or two via the free agency market. But my expectation is that the front office values awarded compensatory picks, and will make an effort this year and every year to optimize the value of those additional picks. The team has never hesitated to negotiate a deal for a talented backup on another NFL team's roster who is in the final year of their contract.

Come to think of it, are there any 2025 projected FA pass rushers or defensive backs you would target in a 2024 trade? They may end up on the Rams roster for the 2024 NFL season after all.