Going into 2023 training camp with three running backs set to either play on the franchise tag or sit out the season, there has been a lot of focus around the NFL on how that position has been devalued over the last decade. The Los Angeles Rams played a significant role in at least the perception of devaluation because of their contract and subsequent release of Todd Gurley, but since then have gone cheap at running back whenever possible.
That’s not the only way that the Rams salary cap lines up with NFL trends.
Going into 2023, the L.A. Rams rank 30th in running back spending with only $5.5 million allocated at that position against the salary cap. The Rams have picked Cam Akers, Kyren Williams, and Zach Evans in the draft to enter a competition alongside veteran late signing Sony Michel. OvertheCap.com’s Jason Fitzgerald posted salary trends since 2013 and no position has gained more value in the last 10 years than right tackle, while the smallest gain (other than punter) is running back at only a 24% increase in average salary.
Change in top of the market contract value at every position from 2013 to 2023. RT market exploded. QBs number 2. IDL, guard, WR, and safety all more than doubled. LS, RB, and P are the ones with a major lag on cap growth pic.twitter.com/cR6AGv5nPp— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) July 20, 2023
That’s worse than long snapper and much worse than kicker.
When you look at the Rams, they clearly have gone from one of the spendiest running back teams to one of the cheapest, but they line up in other ways too. For example, right tackle Rob Havenstein has one of the best contracts on the roster and is the highest-paid player on the team right now outside of the well-known “top-3”. Havenstein makes $9.7 million in 2023 and his contract is well protected from release for the next three seasons.
The next-highest increase goes to quarterback, which of course applies to Matthew Stafford. The next goes to interior defensive line and Aaron Donald is the highest-paid non-QB in NFL history. He has a lot to do with that increase.
After that is guard, where the Rams buck the trend. They didn’t pay Austin Corbett and they paid Joe Noteboom, but in the hopes that he is a left tackle. The team is hoping that Steve Avila (which is significant use of DRAFT capital) and Logan Bruss can man down those positions for cheap.
Then you’ve got wide receiver, which of course is where Cooper Kupp’s $80 million over three years comes into play. The Rams are technically middle of the pack this year in receiver spending, but when you add in Allen Robinson’s $21.45 million dead money hit...they aren’t middle of the pack anymore. In fact, if you added that $21 million to the $27.7 million they’re spending, then L.A. would have the most expensive receivers room. (Before accounting for dead money on other teams, of course.)
The rest of the list is slightly hit or miss, but not really. As far as the positions getting more value, the L.A. Rams are right on target. For the positions being devalued, like running back, the Rams follow that trend too.