Almost nothing about Van Jefferson’s status on the 2023 Los Angeles Rams roster makes sense.
The fourth-year wide receiver is heading into a contract year and has yet to distinguish himself as a true starting caliber player. Given how the Rams have embraced a youth movement this offseason, it’s head scratching as to why the team seems intent on bringing him back as WR#2—what is there to gain from having him on the roster other than recouping a compensatory draft pick if he leaves in free agency next spring?
Now, after missing the first seven weeks to start last season, Jefferson has received two veteran rest days to kickoff the first week of training camp. It’s possible there’s nothing more to read into; however, given LA’s recent treatment of injuries, it’s probably a good idea to maintain a healthy amount of skepticism.
We were told by the Rams and Sean McVay over 2019 how Todd Gurley’s knee was “doing good” and that the running back was 100%. But hindsight is 20/20, and we now know that Gurley and his knee was never the same after a last season aggravation in 2018—less than one year after he signed a contract extension with LA that reset the running back market.
And then there’s Matthew Stafford’s elbow injury from last year, where we also benefit from hindsight. While Stafford sat out offseason workouts and had ample rest days during training camp, we were led to believe that this was more of a precaution than rehabilitation. The team’s comments on Stafford’s current health and relief that he’s able to participate more often this year tell us that wasn’t truly the case.
Fool me once, shame on thee; fool me twice, shame on me.
I refuse to be fooled thrice.
So what exactly is going on with Jefferson’s veteran rest days?
With two very affordable veterans, Demarcus Robinson and Tyler Johnson, now in the fold, could the Rams consider Jefferson more expendable than he was earlier in the offseason? While attrition sets in across the NFL—such as the Denver Broncos losing Tim Patrick for the season today—Jefferson could be an appealing option for a desperate team.
I’ve considered Jefferson a prime trade candidate across the offseason, as he probably doesn’t have a future in LA beyond this year. There are plenty of teams that have adopted the McVay/Shanahan offensive scheme and could benefit from someone with Jefferson’s skillset. Why delay the inevitable?
Jefferson did miss the first seven weeks of last season with a knee injury, and this injury also reportedly limited him over the team’s 2021 Super Bowl run. But I question whether this is carrying over to 2023 because he played meaningless snaps often last season and generally looked good when he was on the field—including his game-winning touchdown from Baker Mayfield against the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Rams don’t deserve our trust when it comes to injuries, and two veteran rest days for Van Jefferson over the first week of training camp just smells fishy. Again, it could be nothing other than rest—but Los Angeles shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt in this situation.