I can’t say that I’ve ever seen anything quite like Rams’ COO Kevin Demoff’s letter to the fans this week to let them know that the team is not tanking. It feels like something you’d only write...if you were tanking.
Sorry, it’s not a letter to “Rams fans” actually. It’s a letter to someone much more important to the bottom line. Season ticket holders.
Season Ticket Members,
The consistent hallmark of our team under Sean McVay and Les Snead has been aggressive moves in pursuit of Super Bowl titles. While this year may feel different given the first two weeks of the offseason, make no mistake, we expect to compete for the NFC West division title this season and make a run towards Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.
In a move that hasn’t been necessary at any other time under Sean McVay, to say the least, Demoff goes onto explain why the Rams made the moves that they made in the past and why L.A. preferred to not go that route again in 2023; Even though the long running narrative on the Rams that most NFL fans are well aware of is everything that Demoff explains in the letter to season ticket holders.
During the trade deadline this past year, it was clear that in a new era where teams were willing to be as aggressive as we were that we had neither the draft capital nor the salary cap space to win trade conversations and be able to take on top players at the salaries they would command.
As a result, we faced a choice this offseason. We could once again restructure contracts to give ourselves one last shot with our core roster but that would mean a total rebuild would be necessary over the next few seasons. Or we could focus on replenishing our draft capital and improving our long-term salary cap situation, clearing the way for us to compete both now and in the future.
Collectively as an organization, we chose the latter path, believing in the talent on our current roster and the skills of our coaching staff to return us to the playoffs.
As I wrote this week, the Rams’ roster at present doesn’t make much sense and it seems as though Demoff practically penned a response to it. I proposed that the team could either free up cap space to improve the roster around “the big three” again or to acquire more cap space and draft capital and it seems Demoff is saying that L.A. chose the latter.
Except that it’s still not quite good enough. To fully accept the rebuilding plan, the Rams would have to also consider shopping Aaron Donald, Matthew Stafford, and Cooper Kupp. That is probably happening as we speak behind closed doors and while that continues to be educated speculation on my part, it’s now being supported by some of what the team COO wrote on Friday.
Two weeks ago, I wrote that it made no sense for the team to not listen to trades for Donald following their decisions to part with Jalen Ramsey, Bobby Wagner, and Leonard Floyd without making any corresponding moves to improve the roster in literally any area. The one caveat being that Donald needs to approve a trade and decide to continue playing.
There are teams that make sense for Donald, teams that can afford Donald, but it’s all a moot point until Donald agrees to waive his no trade clause and commits to that franchise for a couple of years.
You may not want to hear it, but Rams fans should get used to post-draft trade rumors involving Donald and Stafford. While it may not help L.A. get draft picks in 2023, negotiating offers that happen after June 1 would make the moves financially possible and increase draft capital for 2024. I’m not the one creating the rumors, I’m just telling you that as the Rams continue to get closer to the season without looking like a contender, the rumors will exist and they will only get louder until the trade deadline.
Fans—sorry, season ticket members—will read Demoff’s letter about the Rams and come away with only one of three conclusions that make sense. It’s hard to rationalize how the team will contend for the playoffs and the Super Bowl, as Demoff insists, with any one of these three conclusions.
Coming off of a 5-12 season, it would be hard for a team to do much worse, especially given that L.A. lost nine of their last 11 games and those two wins were largely helped by Baker Mayfield’s stunning play against two of the worst teams (Raiders, Broncos) in the NFL. But there’s still a chance that the Rams will do worse than 5-12 anyway, even if the collapse was partially due to injuries.
Yes, the Rams could theoretically be bringing back Stafford, Donald, and Kupp after they missed most of the last two months. They say that the entire offensive line, including Joe Noteboom (Achilles), will be ready for the start of the season.
This doesn’t mean that Noteboom will start and finish a season for the first time in his career. Or that A.J. Jackson will. Or that Brian Allen will. Or that Logan Bruss will. The one dependable player on the offensive line is 31-year-old right tackle Rob Havenstein.
Sean McVay may need to protect Stafford from training camp just to be sure first that his offensive line is capable of even keeping a practice defense off of him. It’s a scary thought to repeat the protection issues of 2022 and to put Stafford, of all people, in danger again. If Stafford gets hurt, forget any ideas of recouping a first round pick (and more) while also relieving the team of salary cap space for a potentially huge move to improve the future of the quarterback position in 2024.
I think the odds of Stafford starting Week 1 for the Rams are lower than what’s being said by anyone else right now. But Demoff may be serious and McVay could definitely prove me wrong.
Is that the smart thing to do though? If it is, will McVay once again sit all of his starters for preseason even if that’s somewhat contributing to these players not being ready for the start of the season and sometimes getting injured? And who will Stafford be throwing to apart from Kupp? Demoff shouts out Van Jefferson, a player looking to become one of the few receivers in NFL history to break out after three seasons in the NFL—at the age of 27—despite multiple opportunities to become a viable top-two weapons in the past.
We are excited to have young players such as Cam Akers, Cobie Durant, Van Jefferson and Ernest Jones take on more prominent roles. Sean has assembled a new coaching staff with a focus on great teachers, communicators, and different backgrounds to collaborate and figure out the best way to go win the NFC.
What are the examples of running backs and receivers with three-year resumes similar to Akers and Jefferson who became stars in year four?
Defensively, the team says that they’re bringing back Aaron Donald, one of only two players to play in more than half of the snaps last year. Only three played in more than 40-percent. My sympathies to Derion Kendrick, Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, Brycen Hopkins, Michael Hoecht, Russ Yeast, A.J. Jackson...no shoutouts from the COO for you this week.
And the Rams don’t have anyone on special teams. Coverage guys maybe.
No kicker, no punter, no longsnapper, no returner. It’s almost the end of March. These surely can’t be “cap considerate moves”. These are “We’re not in a rush to field a team” non-moves. And the Rams had one of the best kickers in the NFL, it was a pain in the ass to find him. Still, Matt Gay was allowed to leave without a fight.
It seems like a meaningless position. The decision to let the entire special teams unit turn over without immediate ideas in mind of who to replace them with is anything but meaningless. It can be done to make the roster better in other areas—but that didn’t happen. It can be done to retain key players—but that didn’t happen. L.A. has let every single free agent leave.
It can be done because the team isn’t expecting to need to that extra 2-5% of advantage to win or lose a game. That’s a meaning.
Perhaps the most incredible statement in the whole letter is this one:
As we sit today, we have 11 draft picks in this year’s draft, including three in the top 77. We have nearly all of our picks in 2024 to both build next year and have as capital to make trades at this year’s trade deadline. From a salary cap perspective, while we have had to move on from players who helped us lift a Lombardi Trophy at SoFi Stadium, we have taken all of our salary cap pain in 2023 and project to have more than $60 million in space in 2024, the most salary cap space we have had since our move to Los Angeles.
Apparently it is now a “brag” to own three of the top-77 picks. I guess if you’re the Rams, that is relatively spectaculary.
Let’s not forget that the Rams own zero of the top-35 picks.
There is nothing particularly unique about owning three of the top-77 picks. Most teams own three picks in the top-77 because that’s near the middle of the third round. The Denver Broncos traded away their first and second round picks this year for Russell Wilson and traded another first round pick for Sean Payton and they still pick twice before the Rams pick twice.
Demoff seems to expect fans to just not have any idea which draft picks L.A. has right now and whether or not that’s a lot of draft capital. In fact, the Rams rank among the bottom teams in draft capital. Demoff seems to think fans don’t check OvertheCap.com or Spotrac.com all the time. In fact, many of you do.
OTC projects $55.2 million in total cap space for 2024, not $60 million, but only $38.5 million in Effective Cap Space for 2024. Could it be that the $60 million number from Demoff is taking into account roster moves that haven’t happened yet?
Cutting Allen Robinson post-June 1 gets the team to $65 million in 2024 cap space. Getting a team to trade for Robinson now would get the team to almost $74 million. The Rams likely eat some of what Robinson is owed just to get a team to take him.
But even if Demoff’s $60 million number is correct, it’s far from “the most” cap space in the NFL. The Texans are projected to have $138 million in effective cap space in 2024. There are four other teams over $100 million and seven more teams over $65 million. That’s effective cap space. L.A. sits in the bottom half of the NFL.
I don’t believe Demoff is delusional though.
He Needs to Sell Tickets
This has also been a long running narrative of the Los Angeles Rams. Are they selling out SoFi Stadium?
Under Sean and Les’ leadership, we are confident that this plan will allow us to compete and contend not only for this year but for years to come, and we can’t wait to see you at SoFi Stadium this fall to start that journey together.
Thank you for your continued support and Go Rams!
The Rams have been laser focused on becoming one of the best shows in the NFL since Stan Kroenke became the owner. A WORLDWIDE spectacle and one of the greatest shows on turf...literally. That’s great! It’s worked before, it led to a Super Bowl win at SoFi Stadium! Good!
There’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of why the Rams have added so many stars since they moved to L.A. in 2016, why they traded up for Jared Goff, why they’ve been on Hard Knocks multiple times, why they hosted the Super Bowl...It’s all about getting more attention to Los Angeles, the second-biggest market in the country, and getting fans of all teams from around the world to come to SoFi Stadium to watch NFL games.
The last thing that the Rams or even the NFL wants is for the Rams to be boring. So this is Demoff’s plea to fans, “We swear, we won’t be boring, buy tickets.”
Baker Mayfield to the Rams in the middle of a lost season with multiple nationally-televised games left on the schedule? That wasn’t 100-percent accident.
This is what Demoff believes. The Rams are not Super Bowl contenders right now. He’s not delusional.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to sell tickets. The question is, how will the Rams look in September, not how will the Rams tell you they’re going to look when it’s only March?