The silence is deafening.
No marquee players acquired by trade. No high-profile free-agent signings. No buzz.
This is not a rebuild for the Rams, or a reboot or remodel.
This is an offseason retreat — though Rams executives insist not a surrender.
“We’re the boring Rams this year,” general manager Les Snead quipped Monday at the NFL owners meetings.
The Rams still employ coach Sean McVay, star quarterback Matthew Stafford, star receiver Cooper Kupp and star defensive lineman Aaron Donald. All signed huge extensions after the 2021 season.
But the Rams’ 2023 austerity plan is a calculated pull-back, one that has made them as quiet as a Saguaro cactus in the Arizona desert.
The Rams are muted intentionally, Snead said, to “engineer a healthier, more sustainable,” salary-cap situation.
“So that when we do get to a moment where we think, ‘OK, let’s press the gas again,’ ” he said, “you have the capability to do it.”
It’s an unusual spot for the Rams. Since returning to Los Angeles from St. Louis in 2016, their nearly annual bold moves made — if not dominated — offseason headlines.
The Rams came to the 2016 owners meetings with a plan, and they pulled the trigger three weeks later by trading up a record 14 spots to select quarterback Jared Goff with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Two years later, they completed a torrid offseason at the league meeting by consummating the signing of defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh — and kicking the tires on trading for star receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
In 2021, the Rams arrived at the league meeting less than two months after trading for Stafford. And last year they were the belle of the ball after completing their all-in, boom-or-bust season with a victory in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
But this week, after last season’s disastrous 5-12 finish, McVay’s second consecutive postseason flirtation with a sabbatical, the trade or release of several marquee players and the team’s non-pursuit of free agents, the Rams are somewhat of a buzzkill.
Team executives are not concerned.
Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer, said he “fully expects” the Rams to be a playoff team.
“This year is the model without a little bit of the sizzle that’s come outside of it,” Demoff said. “But I actually don’t feel that we’ve strayed too far from our core DNA under Sean and Les.”
To get under the $224.8-million salary cap, the Rams released linebacker Bobby Wagner and edge rusher Leonard Floyd and traded star cornerback Jalen Ramsey. They also restructured the contracts of offensive linemen Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen.
They are actively shopping receiver Allen Robinson and remain interested in free-agent Beckham, whose midseason signing in 2021 provided the exclamation point on the Rams’ all-in philosophy.
“Odell is going to have to determine where he wants his next chapter to be,” Snead said.
The Rams re-signed versatile offensive lineman Coleman Shelton and defensive lineman Marquise Copeland. But they bid farewell to a parade of free agents, including backup quarterback Baker Mayfield, receiver Brandon Powell, offensive lineman David Edwards, safeties Nick Scott and Taylor Rapp, cornerback David Long, kicker Matt Gay, punter Riley Dixon and long snapper Matt Orzech.
It is all part of the Rams’ formula to gain future-compensation draft picks.
The Rams have 11 picks in the April 27-29 draft. But for the seventh consecutive year, a pick in the first round is not among them.
That is scheduled to change next season. And if the Rams repeat anything near last season’s meltdown, it could be a top-10 pick. At this point, however, the Rams do not appear on the road to “tankdom.” They are not considered a contender for the worst record in the league and a shot at USC quarterback Caleb Williams.
But Stafford, Kupp and Donald will not be flanked by stars.
“We knew when we did those deals, ‘Hey you’ve got three very highly compensated players you’re going to have to surround with more cost control around them,’ ” said Tony Pastoors, Rams vice president of football and business administration.
Pastoors estimated that the team could have $55 million to $65 million in cap space in 2024.
That does not mean the Rams will refrain from becoming aggressive again if they are contending at the trade deadline, Pastoors said.
“I have no doubt we will do what we do,” he said.
So, the Rams are not worried about a lack of offseason excitement.
“Offseason excitement is really — it means nothing,” Snead said. “Postseason excitement really, really matters.”
Source: LA Times