Some Rams fans are understandably concerned that the franchise will never fully be out of this “hole” that general manager Les Snead has dug for himself in order to make the present-day rosters better at the time of certain decisions. Ever since trading up to select Jared Goff in 2016, then constantly reloading the team for head coach Sean McVay beginning in 2017, Snead hasn’t stopped selling the future to obtain better footing in the present.
With no first round picks since 2016 — and none on the schedule again until 2024 — plus dramatic dead money hits year after year, many fans feel uneasy with this method of roster construction. And every time LA absorbs another dead money hit, it is met with a wall of fan and media responses that carry the same tune: “Not again, Les.”
But what about all the moves that Snead hasn’t made? Well, it’s hard to receive praise for the moves you don’t make, but I can try because I believe this is the best way to have a complete and rational reaction to how the Rams got to where they are today.
And in case it isn’t apparent because last season is over and next season hasn’t started yet, where the Rams are today is quite good.
On Wednesday, it was announced that the Atlanta Falcons and Dante Fowler, Jr. have agreed to reduce his 2021 salary based on his disappointing performance in year one of a three-year, $45 million contract. Fowler’s cap hit was going to be $18.54 million next season but the Falcons are not interested in paying that after he produced only two sacks for them in 2020.
Dante Fowler reportedly set to accept a pay cut for 2021 https://t.co/eqJ5oZd1S8— The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) March 17, 2021
Snead’s relationship with the acquisition of Fowler went a hell of a lot better than that.
The Rams bought low on Fowler in 2018, giving up a conditional third and a fifth to acquire him from the Jaguars. Fowler then produced 11.5 sacks for Los Angeles in 2019 and when Snead chose to let him walk in free agency, the Rams received a compensatory third round pick from the NFL.
So, Snead paid Fowler market value and simply exchanged a 2019 third rounder for a 2021 third rounder in the process, only losing a 2020 fifth. He got the best that Fowler’s had to give during his NFL career and it barely cost the Rams anything. A very simplistic way to approach the decision to re-sign Leonard Floyd would be to compare it to Fowler and say that it is 1:1 based on the fact that they played linebacker on the same team, but for different defensive coordinators.
That’s the most simplistic possible way to do that, even if you include context-less sack totals...
Dante Fowler's one full season with the Rams: 11.5 sacks, parlayed into a $45M contract— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 16, 2021
Leonard Floyd's one full season with Rams: 10.5 sacks, parlayed into a $64M contract
If I were a pass rusher willing to play on a one-year deal, I'd call LA. The Aaron Donald effect.
A more reasoned way to look at it would be to say that clearly Snead and company see something in Floyd that they have rarely seen from all the players who the Rams didn’t strive to keep on long-term deals.
Like Cory Littleton, who signed with the Raiders in 2020 and has been at least as disappointing as Fowler.
Or Lamarcus Joyner, who signed with the Raiders in 2019 and was released after two disappopinting seasons.
Or Sammy Watkins, who never lived up to his potential, but who could be available this year on a cheap one-year deal.
Or Trumaine Johnson, who has only had 15 starts since parting with Los Angeles in 2018 for a massive contract with the Jets.
In some cases, Snead did use the franchise tag on these players to see if something would come of their talents beyond just projection, but he did avoid the long-term mistakes with them that yes, he did make with Jared Goff, Alec Ogletree, Brandin Cooks, Todd Gurley, and some others. (Was the extension the issue with Cooks, or the decision to trade him?)
I can’t excuse the mistakes that Snead makes other than to say that every general manager in history makes financial blunders. Risk isn’t just part of the job of a general manger, it’s 100-percent necessary if you want to be any good at the job, and that also means that embarrassing failures are part of it too. I’m not excusing what hasn’t gone right for Snead but I think it would only be fair if we also noted that non-moves by the Rams that have saved them from actually collapsing.
Regardless of how you feel about the situations in 2022 and 2023, remember that the Rams are set up well for 2021.