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If Rams remove big pieces, it’s time to face reality and call 2023 a rebuild

Is Aaron Donald the next to go?

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the beginning of the offseason, Los Angeles Rams general manager spoke to the media for his annual season breakdown. Several times throughout the press conference, Snead consistently used the word ‘remodel’. Said Snead,

“We would almost have to tear it down for it to be a rebuild, because we do have a lot of really good players in their prime on this roster. So a lot of times it’s tough to say rebuilding with that type of roster, so you’d have to go through some type of tear down to truly rebuild, so that’s why I use the word remodel.”

Snead used the words remodel and retool, but avoided the word rebuild.

Either things aren’t going according to plan or the Rams are in fact rebuilding. When you remodel the kitchen, you take out the cabinets and replace them with new ones. You don’t take out the granite countertop, remove the tile and cabinets, and also get new appliances all at the same time.

That’s exactly what the Rams are doing. It’s time to call a spade a spade. The Rams aren’t just remodeling or retooling. The 2023 season is being treated like a rebuild year.

Bobby Wagner was arguably one of the best linebackers in the NFL last season. The former Seattle Seahawks linebacker finished the season with the highest grade on Pro Football Focus and was a big reason for the team’s top run defense throughout much of the season. The Rams and Wagner have already mutually agreed to part ways.

Since arriving in Los Angeles, Leonard Floyd has accumulated at least nine sacks in each of the last three seasons. While Aaron Donald has certainly helped open things up, Floyd is the only Rams edge rusher to produce. He is the only Rams edge rusher to record more than five sacks each of the past three seasons. That’s not to mention his effect in the run game. The Rams have told Floyd that unless they can find a trade partner, they plan on cutting him.

The Rams traded for Jalen Ramsey in 2019. For three and a half seasons, Ramsey has been a cornerstone of the defense and a pillar. He’s one of few defensive backs in the secondary that can play and succeed anywhere coaches put him. This is why Ramsey played in the “star” role in 2021. Ramsey has an Aaron Donald effect in the secondary where he makes the players around him better. Over the past few weeks there have been several reports that the Rams are seriously shopping their star cornerback.

Last offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles were close to signing Allen Robinson. All the wide receiver needed to do was sign the dotted line. Instead, Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford vouched for Robinson and he ended up coming to Los Angeles. Robinson’s first season with the Rams didn’t go as planned. However, after just one season, the Rams have given Robinson and his camp permission to seek a trade.

Coming into the offseason, the Rams already had a need at edge rusher. If they cut Floyd, that need becomes a lot more prevalent. If Ramsey is traded, the Rams only have Derion Kendrick, Cobie Durant, and Robert Rochell and options at cornerback.

It’s one thing to admit a mistake on Robinson. One year later following a season in which the offensive line was in shambles and Stafford missed time in training camp and during the season? It’s fair to question if Robinson was a fit to begin with.

There seems to be this misconception that if the Rams make these moves, it opens things up for them to make other moves and allocate those resources elsewhere. With the amount of dead money that they’d be eating, that’s not necessarily the case.

If the Rams cut or trade Floyd before June 1, they save only $3M. If they are able to trade Allen Robinson, that saves around $6.8M. A Ramsey trade saves $5.6M. Currently they sit at $9.8M over the cap and still have a ways to go to get under before the start of the league year on March 15.

This isn’t necessarily a case where the Rams are going to be able to cut Floyd and then replace him with 3-4 players. The money saved isn’t significant for this season.

The key phrase there is “for this season.” A few things can be true here. Yes, it’s true that these moves open up the cap for 2024. However, what about 2023? It’s also true that we need to wait and see what the Rams end up actually doing and what team they put on the field in Week 1.

Still, the Rams have a 35-year old Matthew Stafford and will have a 32-year old Aaron Donald. Both of those players have been in the middle of retirement rumors. Hoping Donald comes back for 2024 and the last year of his deal seems like quite a risk.

Contracts like Donald and Kupp will possibly be restructured to open up some cap space for this season. Joe Noteboom’s contract could also be restructured. However, that would tie the Rams to an oft-injured offensive lineman for another season.

Over the past few years, the Rams have gone with an “all-in” approach. Snead has been unafraid to make moves where other teams may have been. The Rams signed Stafford and Kupp through 2026 so that they would be tied together. The final year of Donald’s contract is 2024. Is the plan no longer to maximize the window with these players? Take a mulligan or rebuild year in 2023 and that would appear to be the case.

There have been some comparisons of what the Rams are doing to the Kansas City Chiefs remodel between 2020 and 2021. The difference is that the Chiefs have a 1-of-1 at quarterback and an all-time great head coach in Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. If you start trying to build like the Chiefs, you’re already losing.

Teams tried to replicate what the New England Patriots were doing on the field for 20 years under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. They tried hiring Belichick assistants and bringing in Patriot players to recreate “The Patriot Way”. All of those attempts failed. Winning in the NFL is hard. It’s even harder when you try to recreate an anomaly.

When some think of the word “rebuild” they think of a 2-3 year process. The Rams may not be doing that, but they are certainly doing more than a retool or remodel if they move on from staple players such as Ramsey and Floyd.

It’s time to face the reality that the Rams may be in for another season with growing pains. Following a tough year that ended with a 5-12 record, a lot of changes are coming. What impact those changes have or how the Rams manage them will determine their success moving forward.