After a disappointing 2022 season in which they went 5-12 and missed the playoffs, the Los Angeles Rams could have went in one of two directions this offseason.
With the team being over the salary cap, they needed to find a way to free up some money before thinking about making any other moves. There are multiple ways to free up cap space in the NFL depending on if your focus is the present or the future.
Option No. 1
The first option for the Rams, and the one I expected them to take, would have been to free up money by restructuring some big contracts. With Sean McVay and Aaron Donald announcing they would be returning in 2023, that would have allowed the Rams to keep their Super Bowl core together for one more year.
Considering how many injuries the Rams dealt with in 2022, it was logical to think that with the NFC being as wide open as it is, they could get back to competing in 2023 with better health.
The problem with this option is that restructuring contracts would have pushed even more money down the line. So after 2023, the Rams would continue to be in cap hell, leading to what would likely have to be a multi-year rebuild.
As a fan, that would have been worth it to me. This current Rams core has had so much success and brought me so much joy that I would have been fine with a multi-year rebuild to give them one last chance at another Super Bowl run, even if it fails miserably.
Option No. 2
Even though I would have been fine with option No. 1, there’s a reason I don’t get paid millions of dollars to run an NFL franchise.
Option No. 2 is the one the Rams are going with and that is to blow everything up, perhaps sacrificing success in 2023 in order to turn a multi-year rebuild into a one-year “reset” or “reboot” as the Rams are calling it.
Based on various moves and rumors the Rams have made, their roster will look a lot different in 2023. And a majority of these moves won’t save the team cap space in 2023. Instead, the Rams will take on significant dead cap hits in 2023 after parting with key veteran players in order to completely rid themselves of those contracts in 2024 and beyond.
The Rams have already parted ways with Bobby Wagner, and recent rumors indicate that they will look to trade Jalen Ramsey, Allen Robinson and Leonard Floyd. They will likely have to pay part of Robinson’s contract to trade him, and Floyd is a candidate to be cut if no teams are interested in dealing for salary.
Again, none of these moves would free up big salary cap space in 2023 so it’s not like the Rams can turn around and hand that money out to other stars when free agency starts in a couple of weeks.
The Rams path forward
The Rams going this route signifies they are OK taking a bit of a step back in 2023, letting their young players develop while asssessing where their remaining stars like Donald, Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp are at going into 2024.
If they do proceed in this direction, then a year from now the Rams will be in a much better place when it comes to the cap while also holding a ton of draft capital. If McVay, Donald and Stafford are willing to return in 2024, and that’s a big if, then the Rams could be ready to cook again with a much younger and more balanced roster.
And there probably isn’t anyone else out there saying this, but I would seriously consider trading Stafford and/or Donald this offseason as well if they don’t plan on playing in 2024 and beyond. I’m not expecting that to happen though and if it does, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
After struggling offensively in 2022 though, it seems that the Rams want to allocate more of their resources to that side of the ball to get back to being an offensive juggernaut.
It’s unfortunate to see a Super Bowl core be dismantled this quickly, but one thing that the Rams are good at is admitting their mistakes and moving on as opposed to compounding those mistakes and turning a one-year problem into three or four years.
So with that being said, I believe there is a plan in place and will trust the vision of McVay and Les Snead. The 2023 season may look a lot like the 2022 one did, but L.A. will be in a much better spot following that than they are now.