Did I miss something? Is LA Rams GM Les Snead an adrenaline junky? Does he have some aversion to enjoying a quiet offseason and allowing other sports to be in the spotlight? Or maybe, he’s just not satisfied sitting on his team’s first-round playoff exit after such a stellar regular season, and figures (as my roommate always tells me) if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly.
Whatever, the reason, Mr. Snead has been as active these past two weeks as an early morning jogging soccer mom with a pension for sprinkling cocaine on her pancakes. The offseason that the man has put together of late is unlike anything I can remember since the failed Chip Kelly experiment in Philly several years ago. However, something tells me this one isn’t doomed to fail like that one did oh so spectacularly.
Let’s take a look back at the trades that he’s made so far.
- February 26th: The LA Rams trade their 2018 4th round pick and their 2019 2nd round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for CB Marcus Peters and their 2018 6th round pick.
- March 2nd: The LA Rams trade DE Robert Quinn and a 2018 6th round pick to the Miami Dolphins for their 4th and 6th round picks in 2018.
- March 7th: The LA Rams trade LB Alec Ogletree and a 2019 7th round pick to the New York Giants for their 4th and 6th round picks in 2018.
- March 8th: The LA Rams trade their 2018 5th round pick to the Denver Broncos for CB Aqib Talib.
There’s a lot to unpack here, and even more moving parts, but these trades tell me three things.
The Rams are Shedding Salary
This one should be obvious. The two players that the Rams sent away have respected cap hits this season of 12.4 and 11.6 million dollars (24m total). The two that they brought in have cap hits of 12 and 3 million dollars (15m total). So, right there the Rams have saved themselves 9 mil. Add to that the fact that Alec Ogletree had just signed a 4 year 42 million dollar extension in October that is now off the books, and it seems clear that Snead is going to start redistributing that wealth to other means, namely young studs needing extensions like Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald.
The Rams are Changing up their Defense.
This one takes a little more of a closer look, but it’s there. In their second year under his direction, the Rams are fully committing to Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 system. The past season saw him incorporate many of the old regime’s studs, namely 4-3 defenders, into his system to create a sort of hybrid. That, apparently, will be a onetime project. The players that were traded away, Ogletree and Quinn, are classic 4-3 defenders. Ogletree is a sideline to sideline tackler with little pass rush ability. He would’ve fit in as their mack or buck inside backer, but his aforementioned contract made him expendable. Quinn especially was an ill fit. The 6’4” 250lb. pass rush specialist was listed all last season as a linebacker, but he brings little to the table in terms of pass coverage or open field tackling, things that are almost as important for OLB’s in the 3-4 as bringing the pain to the opposing quarterback.
On the flip side, the two players brought in, both cornerbacks, show an interest in shoring up shut down man coverage. In a Tampa 2 system, one of the most fashionable systems in a 4-3 defense, the team’s success relies mainly on the pass rush from the defensive lineman while the defensive backs drop deep, preying on mistakes and rushed throws caused by the d-line wreaking havoc. In 3-4 defense, there is more of a reliance on both the d-backs and pass rushers working in tandem. The OLB’s often need a little more time to reach the QB, or at the very least diagnose their assignments because of their extra responsibilities, which requires the corners to shut down the receivers for longer. The two corners brought in by the Rams, Talib and Peters, have been two of the best shut down corners in the league over the past three seasons. Each are All-Pros, and each thrive in man coverage. Clearly, Phillips knows what he needs if his system is to succeed, and he figures better to have his to corners locked down, and deal with the rest afterwards.
The Rams are in “Win Now” mode.
It may not look like it due to the salary dump, but the Rams are putting all their chips on the table. In fact, upon a closer look, the salary dump furthers that argument, as its main purpose would seem to be so that they can ensure players like Donald and All-World running back Todd Gurley stick around a little while longer. It’s about knowing that the window to win a championship is wide open, and they need to do whatever they can to prop that window open as long as possible. A new inside linebacker can be found at a cheaper price, and they don’t have time to wait for Quinn to fully transition from one dimensional pass rusher to multifaceted linebacker.
Need more proof. Just look at the net result of their draft picks. In the 2018 draft, the Rams netted two extra mid-round picks, sending three and gaining five, specifically an extra 4th rounder. That’s a nice haul. On the flip side, they lost two picks, including a valuable 2nd rounder in the 2019 draft, while getting no picks for that draft in return. Clearly, the Rams feel that once the 2019 draft class reaches its full potential, it may be too late for them to win a championship anyway. Might as well bet the farm now.
In the end, who knows if this will work. Like I said before, Chip Kelly’s monopoly-like rearranging of the Eagles was a disaster. But that was more about Kelly getting “his guys” and exiling old players who didn’t follow him without question. It was more about ego, rather than shrewd analysis. This time, Snead may be on the right track. Shaking up your roster is always risky, but their reasons for doing so seem rooted in solid logic. I’m no fortune teller, but Snead’s river boat gambler act this offseason might have us crowning his Rams this time next year.
Only time will tell.