Jeff Fisher and Les Snead were hired in 2012 - and they inherited a team that had just completed the worst five year stretch in NFL history. Just take a look at the roster they inherited and compare it to the 2016 roster - there's improvement there. They've dragged this team out of purgatory and into mediocrity.
However, after failing to post a winning record during any of their four seasons in St. Louis, the lack of a hot seat with both GM and Coach is somewhat baffling. There is talk of contract extensions instead of regime change. Even when regime change is mentioned, Les Snead seems to get the benefit of the doubt. The TST staff was nearly unanimous in their belief that Fisher needed to be fired last November, but there were Snead sympathizers there.
Why is that exactly? Is it because he's successfully navigated several blockbuster trades - a rarity in today's NFL? Or is it because he's been able to capitalize on high draft picks to build the core of the roster? I've thought this a lot in recent weeks and decided to do a little digging.
There is no doubting Snead has a strong trade game and has benefited from having a plethora of draft picks. He's been relatively strong in drafting as well. He's been able to bring in players like Trumaine Johnson, Tavon Austin, Alec Ogletree, Aaron Donald, and Todd Gurley.
But those strengths hide an albatross - he's horrible with contracts. Let's take a look at all of the sizable contracts handed out by Snead and analyze year by year.
At the time, the extensions for Laurinaitis and Long were well deserved. Jeff Fisher obviously wanted to lock up the two best players on defense long term. Unfortunately due to injuries and the structure of the contracts, neither player stuck with the team for the duration of their contract,
The first of many Tennessee Titans castoffs was brought to the Rams when the team signed Finnegan. After a strong start, it was downhill fast. He lasted two seasons.
Wells was a disaster. He was injured. Then he was injured again. Then he revisited the IR. Then in the ICU for a tick bite, reworked his contract, passed go and collected $200 before being cut.
Langford was the best signing of the bunch and only played 3 of the 4 years on his contract due to a rising cap hit.
Long's signing was lauded because of Long's stature at the time as a premier LT. Unfortunately for Rams fans, he followed the same path as Wells and ended up lasting only two seasons.
We all know about Cook - no sense beating a dead horse there.
Hayes was actually signed in 2012 on a one year contract before earning this three year pact. While Long had some success with the Rams, Hayes was far and away the best signing of this group.
Where do you even start with this one? He tried bolting for the Oakland Raiders, but controversy led to him returning to St. Louis. When health, he's a mauler of a guard, but he's never, ever, ever, ever, healthy.
Ayers is an intriguing piece, but was pretty unspectacular after beating out Jo-Lonn Dunbar for the strong side safety job. I'd say the jury is still out here.
As far as pass catching ability is concerned, Kendricks is being severely overpaid. But when you consider Fisherball, it's a bit easier to understand his worth to the offense. Personally, I'm a fan and I think he's a bit underrated - but he hasn't played up to that contract yet.
The Foles deal is an absolute disaster. a year after anointing him the savior with a two year extension, the Rams are likely going to eat his $6M roster bonus as they now have Jared Goff behind incumbent Case Keenum.
It's hard to condemn Snead for tagging Tru instead of Janoris Jenkins. But the lack of organizational commitment to getting a long term deal done is confusing. We'll come back around to that shortly.
Barron burst onto the scene in 2015 after Alec Ogletree went down with a broken leg. He played so well that the Rams cut Laurinaitis to move 'Tree to MLB. Athleticism is key in today's NFL and the Rams have the potential to have a dynamic pair of linebackers - both with experience playing safety - on the field every play. But paying Barron $9M a year is ballsy.
Sensabaugh's signing is questionable at best. The Rams have depth at the position and Sensabaugh is only going to take snaps away from Lamarcus Joyner and Marcus Roberson.
The final two signings are solid. Barring injuries they will go down as bargains as well. Hayes is a force and Sims provides solid depth.
Tally Them Up!
By my count, the Rams have handed out 17 large-ish contracts and I would count five (Langford, both Hayes deals, Sims, and Tru) as good investments - less than 30%. That might be good in baseball, but in football that's no bueno.
There are a few that could swing the other way (Kendricks, Barron, Ayers) and if they play to expectations that would bring the grand total to eight. Which is still less than 50%. If the Rams are going to ascend from mediocrity to playoff contention, that isn't going to cut it.
Figuring in Tru's Potential Extension
If the Rams can't work out something with Tru by 4 PM EST today, they risk losing him in 2017. But let's just get this out of the way now......
Absent unlikely change, no extensions expected for franchise players K. Cousins, Eric Berry, Alshon Jeffery, Mo Wilkerson, Trumaine Johnson.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 14, 2016
This is where the Franchise Tag sucks. The Rams are going to end up paying a premium for Johnson in 2016 without any surety that he will be on the team past this season. Personally, I think the Rams need to pony up and pay the man, but they made their own bed here and are now being forced to lie in it.
"Priority A" for the Rams this offseason was to keep their defensive backfield in tact. Yet here we are nearly five months and a hair under $100M later with Jenkins on the Giants and Rodney McLeod with the Eagles. It was never feasible to keep all three of the DBs, but the Rams clearly prioritized Barron over McLeod, which tied up too much money to keep JJ without jeopardizing an extension for Tru.
It was an interesting dynamic to watch unfold, and now the Rams face the possibility of Tru walking after 2016. I want to believe that the Rams will work something out, but history shows that would be optimistic.
To be fair, I think the Rams made the right personnel decisions. But the money breakdown just doesn't make sense to me. Barron's deal pays him $6M in 2016 before jumping to $11M in 2017 - when Tru, Michael Brockers, Tavon Austin, Alec Ogletree, and T.J. McDonald will be coming due for their second contracts.
If you were surprised when the secondary fell apart, I'd advise steeling yourself now. A lot of key players could be walking next spring - chiefed by the Rams Franchise Player.
I can't think of a better way to cap this off than from sharing this.
Every organization must make difficult talent evaluation decisions. The best ones ones obviously make the right move more often than not. Conversely, being hesitant or indecisive isn’t exactly foreshadowing success.
The Rams already made their choice by choosing Johnson over Jenkins. The new Giants’ CB set the floor for Johnson’s monetary compensation. Whether it’s second-guessing or wanting a larger sample size, L.A. is coming across like a wishy-washy organization which can’t show the courage of its own convictions.
It’s time for the Rams to put their big-boy pants on and show a bit of testicular fortitude.
Decisions have consequences. Watching Los Angeles evade the repercussions of its own problem-solving technique doesn’t inspire confidence in its front office.
Time to step up your game Les Snead.