The Los Angeles Rams may not have a fire sale when the trade deadline approaches on October 31, but as seen in the cases of Cam Akers and Van Jefferson, if Sean McVay and Les Snead don’t see you as part of the future, they aren’t afraid to part ways for minimal return.
All offseason and as the 2023 season began, the Rams have shown that 2023 isn’t part of the big picture. This current team build is with 2024 and, most importantly, 2025 in mind.
With the trade deadline less than two weeks away, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell went through every team’s roster and put together a list of players who have first-round pick value. The most interesting one is still quarterback Matthew Stafford. Here’s what Barnwell had to say,
“Stafford is 35 and has a laundry list of injuries over the past few years, but he has looked like a top-12 quarterback this season. This is probably the last season in which the Rams could realistically net a first-round pick for him, but he would be a massive upgrade for several teams that have playoff aspirations”
What makes the Stafford discussion interesting is the current timeline. As mentioned, the Rams have shown that 2023 isn’t part of the big picture. Meanwhile, 2024 is going to be more about getting the foundation in place to make a run in 2025. With 2025 being the current window, when that time comes, will Stafford still be the best quarterback option? Is he still a quarterback you win because of or is he/will he be just a quarterback that you win with?
While Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have played into their 40s, that shouldn’t be the expectation. Stafford is much closer to Matt Ryan who was traded for a third-round pick after his age 36 season and was out of the NFL at 37. Ben Roethlisberger didn’t throw for over 4,000 yards after his age 36 season.
I’m not saying that the Rams should trade Stafford and I'm not sure that Barnwell is either. The fact that he likely has first-round value right now is what makes this conversation worth having.
Also given first round value by Barnwell was wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
Barnwell had a another category of “one first-round pick and change.” Part of this category was of course Aaron Donald, but making a surprise appearance was rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua. Said Barnwell,
“Nacua is a fascinating case and the only Day 3 rookie I’m comfortable moving into the first-round tier...What seals it for me is the contract value. Nacua is in Year 1 of a four-year, $4.1 million deal. Even if he ends up settling in as a solid WR2 in a good offense, players like that are landing about $14 million per season, and that’s only going to keep rising.”
It would be surprising if a team was willing to give up a first-round pick for Nacua. With that said, it just shows how much the Rams got it right with their first-round pick that he is now considered a blue-chip player and worth more than a first-round pick that would nearly make him untradeable.
Just missing the cut was edge rusher Byron Young who leads NFL rookies in pressures this season.
Over the next 12-16 months, the Rams need to focus on building the core that they are going to make a serious push with when that time comes. This is a good exercise to not only see what the Rams’ biggest assets are, but also which of these players will be part of that core.