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Would the Rams trade Robert Woods?

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Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Over the last two seasons, the LA Rams have only seen one of their three star receivers remain both healthy and productive. Robert Woods caught 86 passes for 1,219 yards in 2018, then followed that up with 90 catches for 1,134 yards in 2019. He did miss one game, Week 11 vs the Chicago Bears, for a personal issue. He returned from that issue to post 97 yards vs the Ravens, then 172 vs the Cardinals, and then another 98 vs the Seahawks.

Woods caught a career-high 13 passes twice last season and even as the Rams struggled to repeat their success of a year earlier, he was steady. Perhaps the biggest mark against him was the lack of touchdowns as Woods finished the season with only two scores, both coming in the red zone. He wasn’t that threat to go the distance from deeper than that, but perhaps that is a minor quibble of situation and opportunity?

Woods was also targeted 41 times on third or fourth downs and finished with 19 first downs in those situations. Comparatively, Cooper Kupp scored 10 touchdowns, including three outside of the red zone. He was targeted 54 times on third or fourth downs and finished with 31 first downs.

In a comparison of targets, catches, and yards, Woods and Kupp were practically identical. In terms of touchdowns, as red zone threats, as threats outside of the red zone, and in picking up third downs, Kupp was the clear winner. They work in tandem, they also work off of Brandin Cooks and Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett and Josh Reynolds. This season it was that way, next season, even with the same personnel, it could go another way. In 2018, Cooks had 80 catches for 1,204 yards and Kupp missed half the season. In 2019, Cooks caught 42 for 583. Things change.

So why would the question of Woods even be brought up?

LA’s financial situation in 2020, their inability to move certain contracts to save money, the value of Woods in a deal compared to his peers even though advanced stats have him on a level below, and the likelihood that Sean McVay could come out with a plan just as effective without Woods — these are all fair, I believe, reasons to explore the idea.

LA’s financial situation

You already know there are some things that need to be worked out here. As of this sentence, the Rams are expected to be around $18.4 million under the cap for next season following the retirement of Eric Weddle. They could save more money by releasing Clay Matthews, Troy Hill, or Nickell Robey-Coleman. There’s also talk of trading Todd Gurley. They could get players to agree to convert dollars to signing bonuses and renegotiating and all kinds of possibilities. But no matter what you reasonably do, the Rams are going to lose at least one key player because of their financial situation.

Andrew Whitworth wants to return, but will still cost money. There’s also Dante Fowler, Cory Littleton, Greg Zuerlein, Michael Brockers, Austin Blythe, Blake Bortles (you still gotta have a backup QB, even if it’s not Bortles), and other role players who either need to be re-signed or replaced. This also straps LA for opportunities to explore outside options, which is clearly Les Snead’s favorite thing to do.

Think of all the excitement that Snead and McVay have had in bringing in Woods, Cooks, Sammy Watkins, Jalen Ramsey, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, Matthews, Weddle, Whitworth, John Sullivan, and so on. They are in no position to do anything like that this year. Does it mean you get rid of a guy to add a guy, as Snead did with Peters/Talib and Ramsey? Or Watkins for Cooks? Or saying goodbye to Robert Quinn and then adding Fowler the next season?

This front office likes to mix it up and if they see a time to sell-high and buy-low while freeing up cap space, it can’t still shock you to see big name LA Rams players be shipped out and new big names brought in. Especially with $18 million to spend and too many starters on the way out.

Their inability to move other contracts

They could attempt to save $4-5 million by trading Gurley, but do they have a buyer? And do they feel that Gurley is less valuable than Woods?

They could attempt to trade Jared Goff to save $16 million, but isn’t that money going to a different QB even if they do? And is $16 million enough to add a different QB? This is an unlikely rumor that will die soon.

They save nothing in trading Cooks, who carries a $16.8 million cap hit.

They aren’t going to trade Ramsey, Higbee, or probably even Rob Havenstein. By trading Havenstein, the Rams would save $5.4 million, but they’d be selling low, getting a poor return, and having to replace him with a different right tackle who doesn’t have as high of a ceiling perhaps.

By trading Woods, LA moves his base salary and saves $5.825 million against the 2020 cap according to OvertheCap.com. He has a $2 million roster bonus coming up as well. I’m not a cap or contract expert, I’m going off of what the calculator at OTC says, but assuming there’s a $5.8 million opportunity to trade Woods, it’s worth looking into.

The value of Woods in spite of Advanced Stats

Woods will be 28 in April and he’s been very consistent in his career. Even playing with the Bills as a 21-year-old in 2013, playing with EJ Manuel and Thaddeus Lewis, Woods has been productive and reliable. Over the last four seasons, his 8.7 yards per target ranks 24th.

There would be a lot of teams interested in adding Woods and since he re-worked his contract in 2019, he’d be a 28-year-old with two years left on his deal, including a $5 million base salary in 2020 and $9 million 2021. That makes him one of the best bargains in the league and you might be able to convince a team to let go of a second round pick for him. Maybe more?

The New England Patriots traded a second round pick for Mohamed Sanu last season and though they were desperate at the moment, Woods is more valuable than Sanu. If the Indianapolis Colts are going to spend a lot of money on a QB, would they want to give him someone like Robert Woods to throw to and would they give up the 34th overall pick? Would the Chicago Bears give up the 43rd? Both of those are picks they acquired in other deals.

Just don’t direct them to FootballOutsiders. That’s where Woods ranked 44th in DYAR and 53rd in DVOA. Why? His catch rate is good, not astounding. He only scored twice. He had four drops. And he wasn’t converting first downs at a very high rate. There’s also the matter of not playing on a team that won as often as they did the previous two years. But Woods also had just 6.2 yards before catch last season compared to 9.3 a year prior. That was a lot of short throws to Woods, tying him at 83rd place in YBC with Christian Kirk, Hunter Renfrow, Alex Erickson, and Everett.

Without Kupp for half of 2018, Woods ranked 11th in DYAR and Cooks was 10th.

This season, the un-tradeable Cooks was 48th in DYAR and 45th in DVOA. Kupp was 18th and 29th, respectively. Per this one site, Woods was the number three receiver on the Rams this time. We also know that Cooks is more than capable of being a number one. LA could trade Woods and still have two receivers who are capable of being number ones, not to mention the two tight ends I already mentioned, and the Rams are likely to bring back Gurley.

Who will Goff throw to if he doesn’t have Woods? Who won’t he throw to?

That’s where it seems likely that McVay’s plan without Woods would also be effective, but by dealing from one of his only valuable resources — a good, still-young, still-cheap receiver surrounded by good receivers — he can also not only keep one of his outgoing players but he can add a draft pick. This one move could save them money to pay both Zuerlein and the player they choose in the second round which could still be a receiver as this is one of the best WR classes in NFL history, they say. As you know, the Rams are without a first round pick again as is.

They can’t trade Cooks.

They wouldn’t trade Kupp.

They’ll get poor value in trading Gurley.

They might struggle to replace Havenstein.

It doesn’t make sense to trade Goff without an immediately replacement plan.

But they do love to trade. And they really love to be active in the markets for any big name that becomes available, even when they’re the ones putting that name on the market.

Would you be okay with the LA Rams trading Robert Woods for a good draft pick?