The Los Angeles Rams 2022 season didn’t go as expected, finishing the campaign 5-12. While injuries were certainly part of the team’s demise, for the entirety of the season, the Rams looked discombobulated and disconnected.
It was as if the Rams had grabbed pieces from three or four different puzzle sets and tried to build them at the same time. In moments, pieces from the same puzzle would come together and show glimpses of what the team was capable of. However, for the most part, the pieces never seemed to gel or fit.
For the first time before heading into the offseason, general manager Les Snead talked to the Los Angeles media. In a press conference that lasted almost 40 minutes, Snead used the word ‘remodel’ to describe the Rams’ current situation several times.
“We would almost have to tear it down for it to be a rebuild because we do have a lot of really good players in their prime on this roster. So a lot of times it’s tough to say rebuilding with that type of roster, so you’d have to go through some type of tear down to truly rebuild, so that’s why I use the word remodel.”
Calling it a remodel so you don’t invite the idea of it being a rebuild is wonderful wordplay and positive spinning from the Rams general manager. However, in doing so, are the Rams denying a reality that they knew would eventually come? Are they holding on to every last bit of this window with the hopes that just maybe there’s an oft-chance that the stars align once again.
You can remodel your kitchen or your master bathroom over the course of one summer. However, the Rams need to fix the kitchen, the master bathroom, and the unfinished basement that’s been ignored since buying the house.
We’ve seen this story written before and should know how it ends. The Rams did the same thing from 2002-2006. The Greatest Show on Turf was this Jenga tower that the team had built and appeared to be a strong structure coming out of the box.
The Rams held on to an aging Marc Bulger, Marshall Faulk, and Torry Holt. Pieces such as Orlando Pace and Isaac Bruce were removed and went on to play for other teams. The Rams struggled to draft, replacing Pace with Alex Barron and eventually Jason Smith. Bruce was replaced with Donnie Avery.
Due to poor drafting, pieces that didn’t seem as important or seemed replaceable at the time were never replaced. The Rams held on for too long.
Eventually, as pieces were removed, the entire weight of the tower sat on two or three pieces. There came a point when those two or three pieces could no longer hold up and the entire structure came tumbling down along with a rebuild that took ten years.
Now, the Rams face an eerily similar situation and have yet to come to grips with that. Again, using the word remodel, Snead said,
“Every year, there’s an element of remodel tweaks. We’re very well aware at some of our core players are in their primes and getting closer to the twilight of their primes. But that does not mean when you’re a player like that in your prime, that you’re still not very, very productive and can be very successful in this league. So, we’ll have that balance of trying to navigate those waters while still being very competitive in the micro, and then also realizing, you know, from a macro standpoint, there is going to be an element where we’re probably gonna have to, let’s call it, not press the gas as much, pay a little bit of the debt that we’ve accumulated.”
The Carolina Panthers took Austin Corbett and the Jacksonville Jaguars took Darious Williams. Von Miller went to Buffalo and Robert Woods was traded to Tennessee. The Rams haven’t drafted well. Both third round picks from 2020 are no longer on the roster. In the last three drafts, the Rams have netted only 3-4 starting caliber players.
The team signed Allen Robinson to replace Woods. That move is arguably the biggest free agency bust in the McVay era.
The Rams built this Jenga tower back up and once again it sits on the back of a few aging players: Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, and Jalen Ramsey. How long can those four players keep the entire thing from collapsing?
With injuries to Stafford, Kupp, and Donald this past season, there was a glimpse of what a world without those players looked like. The Rams only won two of their last 11 games.
Over the last five years, the Rams have been known as a team that wasn’t afraid to trade draft picks if it meant getting a star-caliber player in return. They weren’t afraid to eat large contracts for players that no longer fit the vision.
This has resulted in a top-heavy roster and limited cap space. While Snead points out that the Rams are projected to have 10 draft picks in April, a majority of those will come late in the sixth and seventh rounds. Sixth and seventh round draft picks aren’t going to skyrocket the Rams back into contention.
Of course, the Rams wouldn’t trade their Lombardi Trophy for any amount of draft picks or cap space. However, as Snead said, there was always going to be a debt to be paid. The lack of high-end draft picks were going to catch up to them.
Heading into 2023, the Rams sit in an awkward spot. Given the players on the roster such as Stafford and Donald, they almost have no choice but to ride this out until the inevitable collapse.
It’s not a matter of if a rebuild is coming, but when.