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Rams could be first team to take advantage of post-NFL Draft trade market

L.A. has several names reported to be on the block, but contract situations are holding them back

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Since I so often draw the ire of L.A. Rams fans by “making up salacious theories that lead nowhere”, which has been irrefutably proven to be true because the Rams never got an upgrade to Jared Goff, never traded Robert Woods, and never traded Jalen Ramsey, let me start off by making statements that cannot be refuted.

Like that the NFL loves printing money and that Roger Goodell takes his job—which is making the NFL into a 365-days-a-year news machine to keep fans engaged and interested non-stop—very seriously. That quarterbacks get more attention than the rest of the players combined. That trades and trade rumors generate as much interest and intrigue as any other type of story. And that last offseason, the one that saw Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo in trade limbo for most of the summer and therefore gave the media “something” to cover everyday, was a continuation of the blueprint for keeping the NFL news cycle going long after the draft.

Nobody will accuse me of “making up” that the NFL loves money, right? Or that fans—YOU—become more engaged when there is talk of quarterbacks, star players, and trades, right?

For decades, football teams held a death grip on their current quarterbacks because they were under the belief that if they lost that player, they would risk losing relevancy. This was often to their own detriment, as we saw bad quarterbacks get opportunity after opportunity because the franchise was even more scared of the unknown.

I don’t know if the Rams have any good examples on the extreme end of that spectrum, but to give you one somewhere in the middle: Maybe Marc Bulger wouldn’t get eight seasons as the starter if he was playing in the modern NFL.

St. Louis Rams’ Marc Bulger attempts a pass agains Photo credit should read SCOTT ROVAK/AFP via Getty Images

Bulger earned his right to several chances, but at the very least would a modern NFL team ever sit through his 2007-2009 campaigns when the Rams went 5-30 with him as the starter?

That same organization went to a Super Bowl with Jared Goff and then Sean McVay tired of him after back-to-back nine-win seasons.

Something clearly changed for teams after Drew Brees went to the New Orleans Saints in 2006, a free agency move that probably never happens if not for the San Diego Chargers being afraid of Brees’s shoulder injury—and yes, that’s even though they had drafted Philip Rivers two years earlier—and continued with Peyton Manning leaving the Indianapolis Colts for the Denver Broncos in 2012.

Another move that was mostly only allowed to happen because of the Colts fearing that he’d never recover from neck surgery.

Brees won a Super Bowl. Manning went to two Super Bowls and won one. Then Tom Brady left the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and won a Super Bowl.

Super Bowl LV - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Simon Bruty/Anychance/Getty Images

The New NFL QB Carousel

It took a while, but over the course of those three moves we’ve witnessed a transition from “We can never upgrade our quarterback” to “We better upgrade our quarterback” and these last three years have involved so much movement at the position that the carousel is now treated like a yearly spin that’s supposed to just get faster and more chaotic with every new calendar. Which is clearly what has been happening.

The Rams and Detroit Lions super-charged the offseason news cycle (technically the season was still going on actually) by being the first organizations to facilitate an actual trade of a franchise quarterback while he was still thought to be in his prime. It was only two years ago that trading Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff and two first round picks was truly an unprecedented and monumental NFL event. Point me to one other time in modern history when a quarterback near-as-good as Stafford was traded while most believed he still had pivotal years left in his career?

Donovan McNabb was traded to Washington after a Pro Bowl season in 2010, but the return package (a second and a fourth) and the fact that the Eagles moved him within the division paints a picture of how the league truly viewed McNabb at the time.

Seeing Brady get a new team and win a Super Bowl, Stafford felt the confidence to go to the Lions and ask, “Hey, can I do that too?” and Detroit was happy to facilitate his request, knowing that quarterback contracts were going up and that teams had long left potential draft bounties on the table despite not being anywhere near contention. Brad Holmes knew that his old boss was happy to give up first round picks and that McVay was not invested in Goff; the Stafford trade was the first proof-of-concept to see if teams could get the best of both worlds.

Then L.A. won the Super Bowl and Detroit got extra fuel for a rebuild.

Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl LVI Victory Parade & Rally Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

So what’s the next evolution that’s going to come after the Rams win a Super Bowl by trading for a QB and the Lions become one of the hottest upstarts after getting a package of first round picks for him?

The Seattle Seahawks traded Russell Wilson for two first round picks, two second round picks, and three players. The Cleveland Browns traded Deshaun Watson for three first round picks, a third, and two fourths. On a smaller scale, the Indianapolis Colts traded Carson Wentz for essentially a second and a third and the Colts turn around and traded a third to the Falcons for Matt Ryan.

I know that because so much has happened in the last three years with quarterback movement that it might seem like, “That’s not so crazy.”


Especially given that if you just frame Watson as a football player and nothing else, we’ve never seen anything like a franchise trading a 26-year-old quarterback with three Pro Bowls in his most recent three years. Forget that the Browns also gave him that guaranteed contract, never before has a quarterback even felt the confidence to demand a trade like Watson did.

Stafford getting the approval to be traded opened up another can of worms. Then came Wilson. Then came Watson. The fallout of that Watson trade being that Atlanta had to trade Ryan and that the Browns had to trade Baker Mayfield.

What the NFL saw from that: Three full months of “Where will Baker go?” stories that kept people invested in the league after anything that matters had happened and was finished.

Now look at the NFL world today and the QB carousel

People are acting like it’s just normal that Lamar Jackson is on the franchise tag and demanding a trade. That it’s normal that Aaron Rodgers has come out and said that he wants to be on the New York Jets. That it’s normal that the Green Bay Packers would love to see that happen soon. That it’s normal for Zach Wilson and Trey Lance, top-three picks only two years ago, to be secretly-not-so-secretly available for trade.

This is not normal.

It’s not even normal that Jimmy Garoppolo is on the Raiders and Derek Carr is on the Saints, but those changes are a pittance compared to the high-level news on the quarterback market.

A market that is far from finished moving and that’s not just because Rodgers will be traded and that Lamar could be next.

Rumors are now floating on Kirk Cousins, Mac Jones, and Ryan Tannehill.

It may be the case that none of them are moved. It is DEFINITELY the case that the NFL hopes that Mike Florio and Mike Tannenbaum and any other Mikes with mics will keep saying that it could happen. We can call it rumor mongering and to some degree we never know if someone is just speculating—which sometimes does lead to putting the dots together that Jalen Ramsey is going to demand a trade in 2023—or actually hearing good intel, but the fact is that the people who make those decisions, THE OWNERS, also read the news.

And owners who read speculative news, well you never know when they get anxious and they also start saying, “You know what, maybe we could be the team that trades for a quarterback and wins a Super Bowl.” Or “You know what, maybe we could be the team that trades our quarterback and gets back draft picks and cap space to rebuild and come back even stronger”.

And owners who love printing money and who would love to make sure that the NFL is never boring. Not even for one day out of the year.

If we get past the NFL Draft and Rodgers is still on the Packers and Lamar Jackson hasn’t signed a contract yet, the league will just keep drawing out this news as long as possible. It behooves them. But the fact is that the Jets and Packers will complete that deal soon and that Lamar has to come to some decision by July 17, the deadline to sign an offer sheet.

People will get exhausted by Lamar Jackson news by then. They already are, that’s maybe why you’re hearing about Mac and Cousins right now. They’re not Lamar. They are quarterbacks. Trades are feasible scenarios.

You know what comes next, don’t you? Surely, if you hate my theories about the Rams that have never come true, you know the answer to that.

Matthew Stafford made perfect sense on the Rams in 2021 and 2022. He makes no sense on the Rams in 2023.

They can’t protect him. L.A. has nine offensive linemen under contract, Rob Havenstein is the only one with a solid track record. Joe Noteboom has been hurt or sitting as a reserve way more often that he’s been the left tackle. Logan Bruss has never played. Brian Allen needs to be surrounded by talent. We don’t even really know who the left guard is. Or the right guard, for that matter, Bruss hasn’t won any competition yet.

They don’t have any weapons beyond Cooper Kupp. When the Rams acquired Stafford, they had Kupp, Robert Woods, and Van Jefferson. Then they signed DeSean Jackson and drafted Tutu Atwell. Then they signed Odell Beckham, Jr. That would have to be the bare minimum number of weapons for Stafford. Nobody disputes the Rams are trying to trade Allen Robinson—or that they should.

Whether you buy that it would happen or wouldn’t happen, when the draft is over and people are tired of Lamar Jackson, “Hmm, what will the Rams be able to save by trading Stafford and where could he go?” will be the next stage of the NFL’s 365-days news cycle.

Whether it’s the Falcons or the Colts or the Commanders or the Ravens or the Patriots, there will be teams out there that did not draft or acquire quarterbacks and there will be speculation of “Hey that team isn’t that bad, what could they do, oh look, maybe the Rams are rebuilding, what about Stafford?”

(And to answer your question, the Rams could save $1.5 million by trading Stafford after June 1st, according to

Les Snead helped set a precedent for how teams that were only a couple of pieces away could trade draft picks to finish off their roster. Les Snead could next set a precedent for how teams move those assets again—potentially after the draft for future capital—to deplete the roster in the hopes that with one or two years of really high picks that they could be back in contention in short order.

Whether that’s intentional or merely out of necessity because the L.A. Rams have no salary cap space and bloated contracts that can’t be moved until after June 1st on a roster that will clearly fall short of the Super Bowl next season, who knows? It would seem like if it was intentional, the Rams would have rebuilt in 2022 instead of 2023. But when “Stafford trade rumors” and “Aaron Donald trade rumors” circulate this summer, the NFL will know that at the very least its got another dominant story on their hands and that stories lead to attention, attention leads to money.

Isn’t that something that we can all agree on?