The Los Angeles Rams are prepared to rest key starters when they take on the San Francisco 49res this weekend. With Matthew Stafford, Kyren Williams, Ernest Jones, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald on the sidelines, there will be opportunities for others to standout in a way they may normally not be able to.
One of those individuals with the most to gain on Sunday in Santa Clara is QB Carson Wentz, who signed with the Rams mid-season after Brett Rypien failed miserably in replacement of an injured Stafford. Wentz is making his first start as a Ram, which effectively becomes an audition for his home in 2024.
We saw last year how impactful these opportunities can be as Baker Mayfield turned his five-game stint in Los Angeles into a starting gig this season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mayfield has Tampa in a “win-and-in” scenario this weekend against the New Orleans Saints.
The Rams would likely love to have Wentz back in royal and sol to backup an aging Stafford next season; however, NFL careers are short and the veteran quarterback must strike while momentum is on his side. If Wentz ends up signing elsewhere on a starting-caliber contract, Los Angeles would still likely benefit in terms of the league’s compensatory draft selection formula.
How many compensatory picks are Rams expected to get in 2024?
In a quiet 2023 free agent period that saw more players leave Los Angeles than come in, the Rams are projected to receive four compensatory picks from the NFL.
Sixth round - Greg Gaines, Buccaneers
Sixth round - Matt Gay, Colts
Seventh round - Baker Mayfield, Buccaneers
Seventh round - A’Shawn Robinson, Giants
The Rams would also receive a seventh rounder for Nick Scott signing with the Cincinnatti Bengals; however, this type of compensatory picks are capped at four per team.
What impact could Wentz’s start have on LA’s potential comp pick haul?
There might not be a more team friendly contract in the NFL than the one Mayfield signed to start in Tampa Bay last offseason. The Bucs are paying him $4M, and the quarterback has notably outplayed that deal and is setting himself up for a longer term contract this spring.
That also gives us a potential comparison for Wentz, but there are some complications since he was available late into the season for the Rams to sign. It was rumored that Wentz struggled with team chemistry and that ended his time with the Philadelphia Eagles. His stint with the Indianapolis Colts flamed out when they lost their “win-and-in” game in the season finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Last year he was replaced as a starter by Taylor Heinicke and eventually Sam Howell with the Washington Commanders. Perhaps Wentz has already worn out his welcome in the NFL.
Still, he’s a former number two overall pick and sitting behind Stafford shows a maturation and a potential that his issues with the Eagles are behind him. Wentz has all the natural talent you want to see in a quarterback, and it only takes a single team willing to give him a chance.
After the success of Mayfied in Tampa Bay, it’s certainly possible for Wentz to end up as someone’s starter in 2024.
Could Rams change offseason spending habits at the expense of comp picks?
After moving on from costly veterans, mostly along the defense, last offseason, LA is prepared to have more than $55 million in cap space heading into offseason free agency. For most of the Sean McVay era we’ve seen the Rams operate under an extremely tight salary cap situation, so this is potentially the first time they could go on a shopping spree.
But spending dollars in free agency can negate the return capital you would receive in terms of the NFL’s compensatory picks. Les Snead and the Rams play the comp pick game as well as anyone, so it’s likely something they will remain conscious of. You’re also better signing one huge free agent deal instead of several larger deals that land within the comp pick range.
Still, it’s possible that signing free agents could offset any return pick that they’d get from Carson Wentz or Kevin Dotson signing elsewhere this offseason.
Other offseason compensatory pick considerations for Rams
Raheem Morris’ coaching job as LA’s defensive coordinator this season as been impressive. The defense cast away most of its stars—save for Aaron Donald—and plugged in young players and rookies across the board. Morris has his unit playing around league average if not better, but considering the degree of difficulty this is a major win for the Rams.
If Morris becomes a head coach for another team this offseason, the Rams would receive third round compensatory draft picks in both 2024 and 2025.