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L.A. Rams: The "Four Year" Window, and What the Market Will Bear...

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I've paid close attention to how the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement has effected the NFL. It's more than clear to me, that an implied "Four Year" window - to establish a winning team through the NFL Draft - is a reality. I base this on teams who hit the "Rebuilding Mode" level; typically after they hire a new head coach...

The thinking that the CBA had some kind of NFL Draft relativity built in, didn't work out the way team owners envisioned. It assumes a drafted player is replaced by another drafted player as he hits the rookie contract term of four years (5 years for 1st round picks, with some option year stuff mingled in)? In a perfect world, this could've been the case. In truth, there are a few teams who've been savant-like when it comes to the draft. Yet, it's more common than not that teams get themselves on a kind of unending treadmill, as they hit on a few draft picks, but not enough to turn the corner in time before the four year window shatters their dreams...

The hiccup comes at two points: The number of positions needed to fill an NFL depth chart, and the Salary Cap. The position thing is kind of a crap shoot. Case in point, let's look at the L.A. Rams. They couldn't afford to keep both starting corner backs - Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins. Both were drafted by the Rams in the same year - 2012 - so their rookie deals expired at the same time. Ideally, the Rams would replace the one they let go - Jenkins - in the draft. As they addressed other position needs - quarterback Jared Goff - the remaining draft picks they had slid into lower rounds. It became a gamble, as they rolled the dice on players already on their roster to fill any voids left by those leaving in free agency. It worked, sort of... But it's fair to say the corner back position Jenkins' filled hasn't improved with his absence. Some Rams fans will argue this point, but there's no denying the fact interceptions, and turnovers in general, have declined for the Los Angeles defense.

The point here, is the never ending roll forward to create - and maintain - a roster in the NFL has become down right daunting. While the obvious answer to some is to strike back at position losses thru free agency, there's no guarantee a new player signed will achieve or meet what's been lost...

Why banter on about what's - for the most part - generally known? The fact is, the Los Angeles Rams are in a "win now" place, and it hasn't worked out. The newly relocated Rams are at the tipping point in their new Los Angeles home. The truth is - regardless of head coach Jeff Fisher's status - this team is about to slide into a mid-level rebuilding mode. They know they'll have to mortgage the proverbial farm to extend and sign All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald in 2018, which means defensive end Robert Quinn is likely gone to create Salary Cap space. With a suspect offensive line, it's hard to see the Rams not hitting free agency to fill gaps.

Devoid of Draft capital in 2017, - due to the Jared Goff selection - it's just not reasonable to believe late round picks will improve their suspect offensive line. In the latest of high pick draft picks at left tackle, Greg Robinson hasn't hit the mark and is quite literally on the bubble at his position. Los Angeles went high and hard drafting offensive linemen in 2015, with mixed results. Now the futures of Goff and running back Todd Gurley are literally hanging in the balance with what happens on this offensive line group going forward...

Added to the potential mire, is a wide receiver corp that's middling at best. Rams fans have pinned their hopes on late round picks from 2016 - Pharoh CooperMike Thomas - undrafted free agents - Bradley Marquez, Nelson Spruce - and underachieving draft picks Tavon Austin and Brian Quick. Kenny Britt  has shined in a year where he's stayed healthy.

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The Los Angeles sports market is a tough one. If the Rams begin a rebuilding mode, they'll have to do so quietly. The very real possibility that the San Diego Chargers will head north to join the Rams in Los Angeles looms large. The Oakland Raiders and the NFL are seriously looking at Las Vegas, which is just a hop-skip- and jump away from L.A. up the I-15 interstate highway. What the L.A. market will bear when it comes to an NFL team is anyone's guess, but I seriously doubt they'll tolerate a loser for long.

I wonder if the Los Angeles Rams players know just how tenuous their roster places are right now? Add in the down right mysterious vanishing act of team GM Les Snead since the Rams arrived in L.A., and I have to wonder if the lack of roster moves lends an eerie portent to the coming off season. An unabashed fan of head coach Jeff Fisher, I truly like the guy. I mean, you can't tell me you wouldn't want a chance to sit down for a beer with Fisher and chat. Still, the reality is that Fisher has had since 2012 to put together a solid team, and it hasn't happened. While I believe he's built roster depth better than any Rams coach has since Dick Vermeil, I think the 2011 CBA caught him off guard a bit. Failed draft picks have kept the Rams teetering on the edge of sustainability, let alone forward progress...