There is a chance that if the Los Angeles Rams lose to the Dallas Cowboys this weekend that they will be staring up to at least five other teams between themselves and the final seed of the NFC playoffs. So if the Rams do lose to the Cowboys and are 3-5 on the eve of the 2023 NFL trade deadline, should general manager Les Snead answer phone calls from other teams about some of their veterans?
The answer is an easy “yes” but there’s nothing simple about which of those players would actually be on the trade block. Simply put, it makes little sense to trade Matthew Stafford and it would take a monumental offer to move Cooper Kupp or Aaron Donald, but almost anyone else not in the long-term plans does make sense.
The biggest mistake the Rams made after winning the Super Bowl wasn’t cleaning house in 2023. It was overloading the house in 2022. L.A. should have started the rebuild a year sooner instead of signing Allen Robinson and Bobby Wagner, should have traded Jalen Ramsey while they could have gotten a first round pick, and should have avoided some of the long-term extensions handed out while they were still basking in the moonlight of a championship.
Better late than never.
When you have high profile veterans on the roster like Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, and Cooper Kupp, it is easy to point to those players and expect them to be the ones on the trade block. While nothing is ever too shocking for the NFL news cycle, the Rams can become sellers at the deadline without moving one of their big three stars.
That’s only if the Rams do lose to the Cowboys this week.
If the Rams beat the Cowboys, then L.A. will be 4-4 and as high as holding the seventh seed in the NFC playoffs at the midpoint of the season. Though the L.A. Rams do not appear to be as competitive as they were as Super Bowl champions, a 9-8 record should be enough to make the playoffs and then anything could happen, even if that’s just giving fans a taste of the postseason to watch the taste of 2022 out of their mouths.
However, the Rams do have to consider if they’re wasting an opportunity to have a brighter future if they pass on opportunities to trade players on the roster.
If the Cowboys get the better of the Rams in Dallas this weekend, then L.A. will be 3-5 with nine games to go, including contests against the Seahawks, Browns, Ravens, and 49ers, as well as road trips to Green Bay, Arizona, and New York to face the Giants. The Rams also play their games against the Ravens and 49ers on the road.
If the Rams are 3-5 after this weekend—with the trade deadline set for Tuesday, the 31st—they will need to go at least 6-3 the rest of the way in order to finish above .500.
That means that even if they beat all the teams with a losing record (Packers, Cardinals, Commanders, Saints, Giants), they’ll still need to upset someone. The Rams have already beaten the Seahawks once, but this is only IF they go 5-0 against all the teams with losing records, four of those games being on the road and one of them (Saints) being on a Thursday.
Getting this win over the Dallas Cowboys would say a lot about where the L.A. Rams stand in the conference and their chances for making a run back to the postseason.
If the Rams lose and fall to 3-5, the phones might be ringing off the hook to see which players the team would be willing to part with and at what price.
QB Matthew Stafford
Trade Block: No
The number one reason I don’t see Stafford on the trade block is simply that I don’t think any team would be able to integrate a quarterback upgrade that quickly, at least among the teams that are interested in quarterback upgrades. Everyone’s going to talk about the Jets, but the Jets aren’t going to give up assets to get Stafford when they haven’t ruled out a return for Aaron Rodgers. They aren’t going to have both of those contracts on their books for 2024. It’s just not going to happen.
Same story for the Browns. Even though Stafford would make them a legitimate Super Bowl contender, the Browns owe over $60 million per year to Deshaun Watson in the next 3 years. Unless Stafford agrees to retire after the season, it doesn’t make any financial sense.
Even if the Rams were 0-7, I wouldn’t see them trading Stafford because it just feels too late to make a change at quarterback. Including in the case of teams like the Steelers, Falcons, or Raiders, in which he would be an upgrade.
WR Cooper Kupp
Trade Block: No
The Rams could probably get the best return for Kupp that they could get of any player on the roster and they do now have Puka Nacua to build the receiving corps around. Kupp is an important player to the franchise and if the Rams would ever consider moving him, best to wait until before the 2024 draft instead of in the middle of a season.
DT Aaron Donald
Trade Block: No
He’s the one everyone who isn’t a Rams fan wants to see traded, preferably to their favorite team, but Donald’s literally the backbone of a surprisingly good defense. Without him, it’s hard to imagine that L.A. wouldn’t become the worst defense in the NFL. If the Rams were 1-7 at the deadline or 0-8, then maybe, but a team would have to offer a lot of draft capital to pry Donald away from L.A..
OL Joe Noteboom
Trade Block: Yes
Have spent all year writing that the Rams should trade Noteboom and they’ve got less than a week to do it. He’s not a starter, he was barely a starter, but he could be an upgrade for a different team that would be willing to part with something. Offensive linemen are rarely traded midseason, but Noteboom could be an exception.
The fact that A.J. Jackson has not been great could be the reason that the Rams hold firm with Noteboom on the roster.
TE Brycen Hopkins
Trade Block: Yes
After the team traded Cam Akers and Van Jefferson, Hopkins is the next most likely to be moved for a day three pick swap in 2025.
FS Jordan Fuller
Trade Block: Maybe?
Simply because Fuller is almost certain to leave in free agency next year with a small chance of returning a compensatory pick, the Rams could entertain a trade now to get a day three pick or a swap in 2024. The team has not put John Johnson out there very many times but he remains on the roster, as does Quentin Lake, in addition to Russ Yeast.