The LA Rams surely have a plan to get back in contention in the NFC West, reach the playoffs and win Super Bowl LVIII.
Fans always want to believe that their teams have a master strategy of how to beat the other teams in their division, yet the NFL is set up so that the competition is balanced in so many ways. Have a bad record? Pick higher in the draft. Win the Super Bowl? Your regular season schedule is tougher. Plus the salary cap makes it so one team just can’t outspend all the others for the best players.
The Rams have a reputation in the NFL as a team that will trade draft picks for proven talent. In essence, mortgaging the future for immediate results.
Is that sustainable in today’s NFL? What’s the Rams plan now that they are coming off a 5-12 season? Do they need a plan? What about other Super Bowl contenders?
The Rams Plan: Run It Back
Let’s look at the last five Super Bowls. The Chiefs beat the Eagles. The Rams beat the Bengals. The Bucs beat the Chiefs. The Chiefs beat the Niners. The Patriots beat the Rams.
10 teams, of the 10, I would say that the biggest thing eight of the teams have in common is a star quarterback. Clearly, we all know Patrick Mahomes. The Bengals have Joe Burrow, the Bucs and Patriots had Tom Brady.
In fact, I would submit the only two teams to make the Super Bowl in the last five years without an elite/elite (double elite) quarterback were the Rams with Jared Goff (even though it’s close) and the Niners with Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Rams won a Super Bowl two years ago with Matthew Stafford. He is elite/elite (when healthy). When you have that level at quarterback in the NFL, you’re halfway home.
The Rams Plan: Tear It Down
The biggest thing the Rams have done this off-season is release linebacker Bobby Wagner. I’ll believe they are trading Jalen Ramsey when I see it (the Rams just need to rework his contract for a little more $$ and Ramsey will be happy).
Did the Wagner move indicate that the Rams are about to go younger and build for the future?
Here’s the thing about tanking in the NFL. Please tell me a team that has done it and done it successfully. I’ll wait. I mean, the Bengals did it, sort of, but they got Burrow. The Texans are still in tank mode and their fan base is gone. The Carolina Panthers are still bad. The Jets have tried to draft quarterbacks high in the Draft and it hasn’t worked out.
Tanking doesn’t usually work, and it doesn’t make sense for the Rams because they have the most valuable asset: an elite quarterback.
The Rams Plan: Rebuild On The Fly
While the Rams may not look like Super Bowl contenders at the moment, that can all change with a good draft and a few free agent signings.
Again, let’s look at what the two Super Bowl teams this year did. The Chiefs got JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency at wide receiver. They both got hurt and didn’t do much, but hey, the Chiefs have Mahomes and Travis Kelce.
But the Chiefs did strike gold in the NFL draft with seventh-round pick Isiah Pacheco. He led the Chiefs in rushing this year.
The Eagles only had five draft picks. They took DT Jordan Davis in the first round and he was solid, nothing flashy, but they picked up Haason Redick in free agency from the Panthers and paid wide receiver AJ Brown a lot of money (4 years $100 million) to come over from the Titans and play wide receiver. So you’d have to say the Eagles draft was a bit of a flop, but they scored in free agency.
So What Should The Rams Plan Be?
It’s probably a combination of them all. The Rams are still seen as a glamorous NFL franchise. Coach Sean McVay is still seen as the Boy Wonder and players want to play for him. The Rams still have core pieces in place, like Stafford and Aaron Donald. They have the same thing the Chiefs have in Kelce-Mahomes in Kupp-Stafford, an unstoppable offensive duo. Donald is a real difference-maker. Ramsey, uh, talks a lot, but he makes plays.
The Rams need some depth on the offensive line, which they might be able to get in free agency and/or the NFL Draft. At this point, I don’t need Pro Bowl offensive linemen, just guys who can play in the NFL after watching last year’s group of journeymen get demolished every game.
And to me, draft picks are like lottery tickets, the more you have, the better chance you may find someone who can make a difference. The Rams have a lot of picks (10) most on Day 3, but look at Pacheco, there’s talent to be found there. If the Rams can get one or two starters from the Draft this year, that’s a major win.
What Is The Rams Plan?
Staying healthy has to be the first part of the Rams plan. What does that look like? Well, basically, Stafford doesn’t play in the pre-season, or Kupp, or Donald (the Rams have done this anyway). The best plan in the NFL is one that’s constantly evolving. If there is a free agent out there who the Rams think is a good fit or a difference-maker, they’ll go get him. In the Draft, I expect them to shore up the offensive line, as boring as that sounds, it’s the biggest thing they need. And if there is a big trade to be made, the Rams will go for it.
Fans get impatient during free agency, because there will be teams signing a bunch of players right at the start, but those are usually bad teams with a lot of holes. Savvy NFL general managers know they can wait after the initial frenzy and find good players at a reasonable cost.
The Rams plan isn’t as easy as: Build through the Draft, or Sign A Bunch of Free Agents, because that limits what you can do. The Rams plan is patience.