The Los Angeles Rams’ 2018 season was defined before we even got to the 2018 NFL Draft.
It was Super Bowl or bust.
Chief Operating Officer & Executive Vice President of Football Operations Kevin Demoff, Vice President of Football and Business Administration Tony Pastoors, and General Manager Les Snead identified a window of opportunity based on the salary cap peaking in this year in which both QB Jared Goff and DL Aaron Donald were on their rookie deals saving the Rams tens of millions of dollars. They used that money to franchise tag S Lamarcus Joyner and sign DL Ndamukong Suh on a one-year deal while allowing for space to trade for WR Brandin Cooks, CB Aqib Talib and CB Marcus Peters.
While the aggression was obviously understandable, it carried notable risks.
The salary cap window is going to close, and it will require deft skill to transition from this team into some thing new and more sustainable. It also required the Rams to give up on much of the recent drafts depriving the Rams of talents they could have deep into the future instead of temporary veteran stalwarts. And yes, it was going to take flexible coaches who could adapt some temperamental personalities into Rams Head Coach Sean McVay’s “We, not me” philosophy.
But in the end, the aggression paid off. The Rams made the Super Bowl while the rest of the NFL, save for the New England Patriots, watched.
How will the Rams’ front office executive trio’s aggression reverberate throughout the league?
Will fans of other teams with stars still on rookie deals push their teams to be aggressive as well and try to move for veterans or players in soon-to-be-curtailed situations the way the Rams did with WR Sammy Watkins, Cooks and Peters? Will they expect their teams to make a push the way the Rams did?
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy in the NFL. Not every team would be able to handle the meshing of personalities and the balance of relationships required in a situation like this as well as the Rams did. Not every team would be able to deal with injuries and the need to share the spotlight as well as the Rams did. And well...not every team in this situation would be able to win as often as the Rams did.
But the Rams did it. And much like the rest of the NFL tried to copy the Rams’ glow up from 2016 to 2017 and are now trying to hire the next McVay, it would be hard to envision a situation where a team has a QB and a young defensive superstar on rookie contracts and isn’t under pressure from their fanbase to make good on that opportunity the way the Rams did.
Since the Rams did.
Here was our own Brandon Bate back in March:
The moves the Rams have made aren’t a mere attempt to “move the needle”, or to maintain their current status as NFC West Champions. These moves are being made in an effort to hoist the Lombardi in early 2019.
With all 16 games left to be played this season, Rams’ fans can rest assured that this regime is not like that from years prior. Winning is of the utmost importance. And 2018 isn’t being viewed as a season to improve — but as a year to capitalize.
And the Rams did capitalize even if they fell just short.
What the rest of the NFL will take from this might be more important league-wide in the long run.