The most used “trendword” over the course of the 2023 offseason so far has been the phrase “competitive rebuild” and there are a handful of teams hoping to thread the needle between two iterations of its roster without hitting rock bottom.
The Los Angeles Rams are one of these teams, as are the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Seattle Seahawks pulled off the feat a year ago and now seem to be pulling through on the other side, though they will be stuck in NFL mediocrity if they don’t figure out the QB position.
The difference between a flat out rebuild and a “competitive rebuild” is that you keep enough key pieces on your roster in order to give you a fighting chance at the playoffs—not necessarily a chance at bringing home a Super Bowl victory. While a traditional rebuild might have resulted in the Rams tearing their roster down to the studs and moving on from veterans such as Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, and Matthew Stafford, LA’s big three are still around and will help to usher in a new era of Rams football.
However, it’s still fair to wonder how much longer Donald, Kupp, and Stafford have in LA. Will 2023 be a transition year that lands them a top draft pick and the ability to select a younger franchise quarterback, or will Los Angeles surprise as a fringe playoff team that only needs a few more pieces next offseason to return as a true contender?
This brought me to the question: When Matthew Stafford retires, will it be as a member of the Rams? It mostly depends upon the team’s success in the upcoming season, so let’s contemplate a few likely scenarios.
My Top 5 quarterbacks in the NFC (going into ‘23)— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) July 6, 2023
5: Geno Smith
4: Jared Goff
3: Matthew Stafford
2: Dak Prescott
1: Jalen Hurts
Reply with your list, or retweet if I got it right! ✍
Rams make the playoffs in 2023 with ample salary cap space next offseason
While this may or may not seem like a likely outcome to you, the NFL is a league of parity and Sean McVay is still the head coach in Los Angeles.
If LA were to make the playoffs, it would happen by relying heavily on its offense—and the current iteration of the defense probably has more holes than long-term answers. But the Rams are slated to have almost $60M in cap space next offseason, so if they believe they have the offense figured out they can invest in veteran free agent solutions for 2024. Perhaps they will be able to turn things around sooner than expected, and really potential retirement is just a question of how long Stafford wants and can continue to play quarterback in the NFL.
Rams cap space (Over the Cap)— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) March 17, 2023
2023 as of now: $10.1M
Dead money 2023: $52.7M
Cap space 2024 (w/no further player movement): $58.5M
Dead money 2024 (w/no further player movement): $0
Rams aren’t competitive in 2023, finish with top 10 draft pick
You might say that it would take an injury to Stafford , or Kupp, or Donald in order for the Rams to finish as poorly as they did a year ago; however, all three key players battled major health problems in 2022. LA’s defense could be a big issue for the team this season, and that just puts more pressure on the offense to score points.
Don’t rule out a trade up for a top quarterback even if the Rams land outside of the top 2-5 picks, and even if Caleb Williams and/or Drake Maye seem out of reach. In this case Stafford could be used either as part of the trade package or flipped for additional capital for a trade.
Stetson Bennett emerges as the team’s full-time starter
Stetson Bennett has been DEALING at Rams OTA’s.— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) June 9, 2023
Bennett’s “athleticism” has reportedly stood out throughout OTA’s.
Cooper Kupp recently noted that Bennett has made some “really big-time throws” in practices.
The Rams rookie QB is impressing EARLY. pic.twitter.com/hUcuQOA8qt
Probably the least likely scenario, but certainly crazier things have happened in the NFL—including Tom Brady taking the reigns from Drew Bledsoe despite being the fourth-string QB the year before.
It’s worth pointing out that Bennett has been praised during offseason team activities for his ability to make plays on the move, and his athleticism would be a welcome element to an offense that really could have used a mobile quarterback a year ago. John Wolford and Bryce Perkins flashed this ability at times, but couldn’t be consistently effective as passers of the football.
Turning the keys over to a fourth round quarterback on a rookie contract would put the Rams in an even better position in terms of salary cap, and Stafford could fetch quality capital if you find the right trade partner.
Les Snead takes advantage of a team desperate for a QB
Maybe the Rams did plan to move on from Stafford early this offseason before a large portion of his contract because guaranteed; however, the team instead recognized that his stock had fallen after leading LA to the Super Bowl a year earlier. Perhaps the team is hoping Stafford uses the 2023 season to prove he’s healthy and can still play at a high level, and this could attract teams that convince themselves they are just a QB away.
The Atlanta Falcons have a plethora of skill players, from Drake London and Kyle Pitts to Bijan Robinson. They also spent heavily on the defensive side of the ball in free agency. It’ll all be for nothing is Desmond Ridder isn’t the franchise quarterback, and the could be in the Stafford market a year from now—similar to the New York Jets this offseason with Aaron Rodgers.
The Washington Commanders also come to mind, as they are embracing former fifth round pick Sam Howell. If Howell doesn’t work out in Washington, there will almost certainly be a new regime making decisions for the Commanders—thought he roster is in place to turn things around fairly quickly.
Will Matthew Stafford retire as a Ram?
If this upcoming season goes well and the Rams decide they are a few pieces away from a return to contention, then Stafford can and should be the future at the quarterback position. However, if the roster continues to deteriorate and a top quarterback is within reach in the draft, Los Angeles has to pull the trigger and usher in a new era—moving on from Stafford in the process.