However, did the Rams really have to get to this point to pay the bill for sacrificing draft capital to acquire players that helped the franchise win a Super Bowl? No, not really.
The Rams did a half-hearted housecleaning job this year, parting ways with players like Jalen Ramsey, Bobby Wagner, Leonard Floyd, A’Shawn Robinson, and Allen Robinson but then not going all the way with the few stars who remain. Matthew Stafford is on the mend, Cooper Kupp missed half of the season, Aaron Donald is the lone man on defense, and all three are owed a ton of guaranteed money in 2024.
While some of these recent moves were advisable, others and several moves that came after winning the Super Bowl, like spending money on new talents like Robinson and Wagner instead of keeping outgoing names like Darious Williams, look questionable in hindsight.
Yes, the Rams are 3-6 with many needs going into the next offseason, but is it that hard to believe that L.A. could be 5-4 or better if they had kept certain players who wouldn’t have even hurt the salary cap to keep? Based on the seasons that some are having with new teams, it appears that maybe the franchise should have either started the rebuild in 2022 or not given up on what the team had in 2023.
If these players were still on the team, could the L.A. Rams be NFC playoff contenders?
CB Jalen Ramsey, Miami Dolphins
Trading Jalen Ramsey wasn’t a matter of saving cap space, but instead saving cash and avoiding adding guarantees to his contract. As soon as the Rams traded him to the Dolphins for a third round pick and tight end Hunter Long, Miami guaranteed the next two years of his contract. That’s the real reason Ramsey wanted to be traded.
The Rams are paying $19.6 million in dead money to not have Ramsey, who has now played in two games for the Dolphins (with an interception) after injuring his knee in training camp.
L.A. used the third round pick on Byron Young but that doesn’t mean they would have lost him if not for the trade: The Rams could have made a decision between Young and defensive tackle Kobie Turner with their next third round pick, assuming he stayed on the board a short while longer.
We’ll never know what his injury report would have looked like if he had stayed in L.A., but the Rams probably could have had Jalen Ramsey as an outside corner instead of Derion Kendrick. How much is that worth?
CB Darious Williams
The L.A. Rams once had Ramsey and Williams as their top two corners, but they lost the latter in free agency last year on a three-year, $30 million contract with the Jaguars.
Should the Rams have re-signed Williams instead of spending that money on a player like Bobby Wagner or Allen Robinson? Williams has been one of the top-rated cornerbacks in the NFL this year.
Darious Williams: highest-graded CB in the NFL this season - 85.5 pic.twitter.com/X9bdWIKTq6— PFF JAX Jaguars (@PFF_Jaguars) November 2, 2023
Williams has three interceptions and entered Week 9 as the NFL leader in passes defensed with 14.
Signing Robinson will always be one of the worst free agency moves of the decade, but I’m still kind of at a loss on the amount of money spent on Bobby Wagner. L.A. is still paying $7.5 million in dead money this season to not have Wagner, who played only one year of a five-year, $50 million contract with the Rams. It wasn’t as though middle linebacker had ever been the key position to L.A.’s defense, now the Rams must always wonder what it could have been like to enter this season with Ramsey and Williams as the cornerbacks instead of Kendricks and Cobie Durant.
The Rams could have still had Ahkello Witherspoon and former a really respectable depth chart at the position.
OLB Leonard Floyd
Huge stop for the #Bills defense right there. Leonard Floyd now with 7.5 sacks on the season.— Kevin Siracuse (@kevin_siracuse) November 6, 2023
Not that anyone should be surprised that Floyd is racking up sacks with the Bills, but he’s been a better all around player and could set a career-high amount of pressures and sacks in 2023. A couple of years ago, Floyd was nowhere near the player that Von Miller was during their stretch together on the Rams and now the opposite is true.
Floyd is the new number one over Miller in Buffalo.
The Rams are paying $19 million to not have Floyd. They could have kept him without it really impacting the salary cap. Hypothetically that would also solve the problem of losing Byron Young if the team doesn’t trade Ramsey.
Without needing to do salary cap gymnastics, the Rams could have had starting cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey, Darious Williams, edge rusher Leonard Floyd, and kept Aaron Donald, Michael Hoecht, Jordan Fuller, Ernest Jones, Ahkello Witherspoon, and either Kobie Turner or Byron Young.
You could also add in Morgan Fox and Sebastian Joseph-Day. Both are now on the Chargers playing for former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley: Fox has 11.5 sacks in the past two seasons, SJD has been a key starter on the defensive line. Fox has made less than $5 million for three years worth of contracts, SJD is on a three-year, $24 million contract. Couldn’t the Rams have paid Joseph-Day instead of Joseph Noteboom?
It’s not a fantasy defense...it’s the defense that the L.A. Rams literally just had. There’s an argument to be made that the Rams could have also kept those players and Wagner, as there was not much cap savings in releasing him either. If only the team didn’t spend so much on Allen Robinson, that’s really just one move that helps solve the salary cap problems, as he has $21.45 million in dead money this year.
G Austin Corbett
One of the easiest positions on offense to point to as one that needs stability is right guard, which is why I could never understand why the Rams parted ways with Austin Corbett so easily. Though he just returned from injury two weeks ago, it is clear that Corbett has quickly become one of the most liked starters on the Carolina Panthers.
The #Panthers right side of Taylor Moton and Austin Corbett is one of three most consistent aspects of the #Panthers offense. Those two did a great job in pass protection, run blocking, and communication on loopers.— Jared Feinberg (@JRodNFLDraft) November 3, 2023
Glad 63 is back on the field.
The Rams could have had Corbett starting in between Coleman Shelton and Rob Havenstein for years to come, using the money that they for some reason spent on Brian Allen instead.
That’s the one player on offense who stands out, compared to a lot more on defense, but you could definitely make mini-upgrades here and there with past decisions. For example, Josh Reynolds has been a very dependable player for Jared Goff since joining the Lions and he has 22 catches for 397 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Reynolds instead of Van Jefferson? Who says “no”?
Based on how they’ve played this season, the Rams do not seem that close to being a playoff contender. Based on who they could have kept these past two offseasons, it seems like the Rams weren’t as far away as they thought they were.