It’s no secret at this point in the Los Angeles Rams offseason that the team is building for 2024. The Rams have loaded up on draft picks this year and cleared contracts to open up 2024 cap space.
Unfortunately this plan has come at the cost of the talent level on defense. The Rams have cut Leonard Floyd and Bobby Wagner while trading away Jalen Ramsey. With the amount of dead cap that the Rams have had to absorb, that’s left them with no money to bring in replacement high-level players.
TurfShow Times’ very own JB Scott delved into the Rams defensive talent outside of Aaron Donald awhile back, and it’s not a lot. Kenneth Arthur also analyzed the Rams’ defensive depth chart, calling Aaron Donald the sun in a barren solar system.
At this point in time, it’s hard to disagree with Kenneth and JB’s assessments and the numbers don’t disagree.
The Rams currently rank dead last in defensive spending according to OverTheCap and it’s not necessarily close. OverTheCap has credited the Rams with $46.6M spent on the defensive side of the ball. The next closest team is the Arizona Cardinals at $63.3M.
If you don’t want to do the math, that’s almost a $17M difference between the Rams at 32 and Cardinals at 31. With limited cap space as is, it’s highly unlikely that the Rams close that gap.
What’s even more surprising is that the Cardinals are even in a league of their own. Arizona is $15M behind the Detroit Lions and three other teams who are at $78M in defensive spending.
Between the Rams at 32 and Lions at 30, there is a $31.4M gap.
It should be obvious. However, without investing in a particular unit, it’s more difficult for that unit to succeed. While Aaron Donald is one of the best defensive players of all-time, it still takes 10 other players to put together a good product on the field.
Last season, the Atlanta Falcons ranked last in defensive spending at $47.6M. They finished 30th in DVOA and 29th in expected points added (EPA) per play.
To put it even more in perspective, the Rams’ current $46.6M in defensive spending is the least a team has spent on defense since the New York Giants in 2019. The Giants finished ranked 28th in DVOA and 27th in EPA per play.
In fact, since 2013, among the teams that have finished last in defensive spending, only the 2018 Indianapolis Colts finished inside the top-10 in EPA. Meanwhile, seven of the ten teams ranked inside the bottom-10.
The Rams defense has been purged this offseason and in a sense that’s not fair to Raheem Morris. It will be his job to coach up and develop the young players, but at the end of the day, you still need talent and the Rams front office hasn’t invested in the defensive side of the ball this offseason.
With the draft still to take place, it will be interesting to see what the final product on defense looks like. However, as it stands, expectations should be tempered. This is a group that’s been invested in the least in the NFL. On top of that Aaron Donald is the only first round pick and he was drafted in 2014. Five of the projected starters on defense are undrafted free agents.
Finding undrafted free agents to fill roles isn’t a bad thing. Expecting them to play key roles is where things can go wrong.
With the lack of investment by the front offense, the Rams defense may not look great next year. However, that will be no fault of Raheem Morris.