“McVay said Tuesday that there would be “no limitations” on Stafford when the Rams begin offseason workouts April 17.
Stafford, a 15th-year pro, played through right elbow tendinitis and came back from a concussion before suffering a season-ending spinal bruise that sidelined him for the final seven games of the Rams’ embarrassing 5-12 season.
“It’s been a long time since he’s been healthy through an offseason, where he’s been able to throw,” McVay said at the NFL owners meetings. “I was just with him the other morning where he was in there early working, being able to do the things that are in alignment with preparing for the season.”
Stafford, 35, star receiver Cooper Kupp and star defensive lineman Aaron Donald will be the pillars for a team that is not on track to be bolstered by high-profile offseason additions.
The typically headline-grabbing Rams are in a major economic pullback with an eye toward 2024 and building through the draft.
So, they are counting on Stafford to carry them into playoff contention.
In 2021, the Rams sent quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round draft picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Stafford, the top pick in the 2009 NFL draft. Stafford made the deal pay off by passing for 41 touchdowns during the regular season and leading the Rams to victory in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
But last spring, Stafford did not throw passes during offseason workouts and was limited during training camp, so as to not exacerbate the tendinitis in his right elbow. Stafford’s limited participation affected his ability to create a rapport with new receiver Allen Robinson among others.
Stafford passed for only 10 touchdowns in 2022 before his season ended after a sack against the New Orleans Saints.
“Last year, there was such a unique combination … of things that prevented him from being able to play the way that he’s capable of,” McVay said. “I think there’s a lot of guys on our team that will have a renewed sense of urgency and appreciation for just getting out and competing.”
Sean McVay, Rams counting on totally healthy Matthew Stafford to offset losses https://t.co/mMAfGdtsnG— Gary Klein (@LATimesklein) March 28, 2023
“Are Rams adopting NCAA reality to roster building? Before pooh-poohing the concept, hear me out. Successful college football programs are not capable of finding and retaining players for the long haul. It’s the NCAA way for college football teams to plan their roster around a 3-4 year turnaround and then in the offseason ensure that they have recruited sufficient talent at key positional needs to ensure a competitive team the following season.
While that does eliminate one of the NFL’s advantages of entering into long-term contractual relationships with players, there are several distinct advantage to an NFL team that adopts a four-year cycle on the roster. I will elaborate on this process in a deeper dive in the near future, but for the time being, let’s examine what this brings to the LA Rams in terms of strategic advantages:
I: Scouting and personnel department fluency:
Let’s take a look at the overwhelming workload that the LA Rams have willingly committed to undertake for the 2023 NFL season in terms of their scouting and personnel department. Unless the Rams organization finds a lottery’s worth of available and spendable salary cap space, the team is almost certainly limited to shopping undrafted rookie free agents to fill as many as 30 positions on this roster after the draft. That’s in addition to the 11 (or more) picks that the team will use during the draft. While some teams focus on the final 20 or fewer players, the Rams front office must compile more than twice that. If practice makes perfect, the Rams personnel office will become very adept very quickly.
II: Less expensive roster to maintain
The NFL and NFLPA agreed years ago to cap the salary levels of incoming rookies. Because the incoming rookies held lots of bargaining power, and consume far too much of a team’s payroll in the process, NFLPA members agreed to cap the salaries of rookies in return for forcing teams to spend more on veterans. The result has had the effect of making any rookie no selected among the Top-50 in an NFL Draft into some of the least expensive players to pay for on a roster.
To understand why that matters to the LA Rams strategy, let’s focus on what the LA Rams do: The Rams target elite veteran game-changers, and then pay them at that elite level. That is why Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald have no lack of currency. To balance that top-heavy compensation, the Rams have adopted methods of adding plenty of less expensive rookie contracts to their roster. That is why the Rams seldom re-sign veterans to a second contract. The money that would be used to pay returning veterans has already been earmarked for the top players on the team.”
Discipline. Discipline. Discipline.— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) March 29, 2023
Sean McVay has said the word so many times it’s starting to feel like he’s reminding himself.
The four people leading the Rams - the same through a SB loss and SB win - all will have to live it in different ways: https://t.co/KQVt5V2bRo
“Sean McVay was asked about the Rams’ quarterback situation during his media session on Tuesday and he acknowledged their need for a No. 2 behind Stafford. He’s open to adding one in either the draft or free agency and has kept an eye on that position throughout the offseason.
“Obviously, Matthew is the only quarterback we have on the roster right now,” McVay said. “So in some form or fashion, we have to be able to address that, whether that’s via draft or free agency. And so those are things that we’re definitely monitoring.”
The Rams have 11 picks in the draft this year but eight of them are on Day 3. They don’t have a ton of premium capital with just three picks in the top 150, and given their abundance of roster needs, it’s hard to see them spending one of their top three picks on a quarterback who won’t play in 2023 or probably even 2024.
For that reason, McVay doesn’t think the Rams need to go out and draft a quarterback early on.
“I think you’re always looking to be able to add. I don’t know if we’ll necessarily need to do that. There’s a lot of different things that we have to address,” McVay said of whether the Rams will take a quarterback early. “So, being able to kind of prioritize those things, and then in a lot of instances, those decisions kind of unfold for you. I think you want to make sure that you have an appreciation for a lot of different players in this draft at a lot of different positions.”
As enticing as it would be to find their next franchise quarterback at No. 36, 69 or 77, the Rams probably won’t spend one of their early-round picks on a player at that position. They badly need pass rushers, cornerbacks, safeties and offensive linemen, which will probably take precedence in Rounds 2 and 3.”
Lots of notable NFL rule changes passed today at the annual league meetings. Here's what they mean for the 2023 season:https://t.co/CSnVKTAlAm— Stu Jackson (@StuJRams) March 28, 2023
Rams rank dead last in defensive spending this offseason...— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakDTR) March 29, 2023
7 of the last 10 teams to rank last in defensive spending finished in the bottom-10 in defense EPA.
Rams' $46.6M spent is fewest since NYG in 2019. Giants finished 28th in defense DVOA and 27th in EPA.
“The theme of this offseason for the Los Angeles Rams has been financial responsibility. The team is being more cautious with its spending, clearing big contracts off the books and choosing not to add big-name players in free agency.
The goal is to set themselves up for a stronger push in 2024 when they have a first-round pick and much more cap space. As for 2023, their cap allocation is primarily skewed toward the offense.
Using Over The Cap’s positional spending table, we take a look at the Rams’ cap allocations at each spot. They have the most expensive wide receiver group in the NFL, but they’re also spending the least of any team at running back, edge rusher, linebacker and cornerback.
And when it comes to the defense as a whole, they’re spending far less than any other team.”
Had a ton of fun at Rams x Kings Night over the weekend! pic.twitter.com/RdRVK6ZGRr— Rams Cheerleaders (@LARamsCheer) March 28, 2023
“Doing so, of course, will be easier said than done. Not only is the NFC a tough conference to win in but they reside in arguably the strongest division - the NFC West.
However, the offseason is still young and they have plenty of time to bring in free agents. Not only that, but they do have draft picks to work with. In CBS Sports’ latest three-round mock draft, they give the Rams a trio of potential key depth pieces.
With their first pick in this mock, the Rams fortify the offensive line, selecting offensive lineman Anton Harrison out of Oklahoma with the No. 36 overall pick.
Even though the Rams already have their pair of tackles in Joe Noteboom and Rob Havenstein, last season’s injury issues show that having depth along the offensive line could be the difference between a 5-12 record and vying for a playoff spot.
After the No. 36 pick, the Rams have a pair of third-round picks at No. 69 and 77 overall which they use on Tulane linebacker Dorian Williams and Iowa State receiver Xavier Hutchinson respectively.
In his senior season for Tulane Williams wreaked havoc on opposing defenses, recording 132 total tackles with 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He also created his share of turnovers with two interceptions and forced fumbles each.”