Cleat Geeks

Super Bowl Or Bust For The Rams? Not Quite

The Rams clearly improved last season, and were a far better team than most anticipated.

As I stated on my 2017 recap (which you can read here), no one anticipated that the youngest head coach in NFL history could do that kind of a turnaround, ending a 13 season playoff drought, and giving the franchise their first winning season in 14 years.

 

But now, here we sit, in the waiting room of the kickoff for the 2018 NFL season, and it seems the Rams made every move this offseason to win the Super Bowl; but is it like that? Are the Rams betting everything they have on a 1-year window and later implode on their decisions?

Let’s take a look to the most important moves made by the Rams for the upcoming season.

 

First of all, new beginnings:

Les Snead & Co. made a series of splash movements following their Cinderella-ending story loss in the Wildcard game vs the Atlanta Falcons at the LA Coliseum.

The front office brought star players in both sides of the ball to make the team stronger in almost every position group on both sides of the ball.

-Before the new NFL year started (March 14th) the team signed former Pro Bowler and NFL champion Sam Shields on a one year contract. Shields, who was let go before the 2017 season by the Packers, would not play any game on it and just one game the season before, as the concussion he sustained week 1 of 2016 would sideline him for the rest of the year. He would take 2017 off to recover from them, and will give 2018 a go to try and make a comeback.

Shields, 30, is a good Cornerback who best excels at press-man coverage, his speed lets him close in on receivers, and, in combination with his ball hawking skills, he can breakdown plays even when he is of the ball.

Image result for sam shields rams

-On the first day of the league year, the Rams and Chiefs made official the trade that had been talked since late February. Marcus Peters, the All Pro CB would become a Ram for the next two seasons, still on his rookie deal, in exchange for a 4thround pick in 2018 and a 2ndrounder in 2019. The Rams would also receive a 2019 6throunder on that trade.

The Rams clearly won this trade as they would get a top tier proven defensive back in exchange for 2 draft picks. Draft picks are often touted as valuable, and they are, but to get a quality former 1strounder that is still yet to reach his prime for some “fliers” speaks loudly for the Rams and their front office negotiations team.

-The same day the league year started, and the Rams announced the trade for Marcus Peters, the organization made official the trade for yet another All Pro corner in Aqib Talib. The Denver Broncos shipped the star CB to LA for a 2018 5thround draft selection; it seems that with head coach Vance Joseph in town, the Broncos are looking to reshape their team around younger players, as Talib is 32. This seems like a salary dump for Denver (Talib is set to make $11’000,00 in 2018 and $8’000,000 in 2019), and a bold move by a young team who would get in Talib a vocal leader in the locker room, and an experienced player who won the Super Bowl 50 with his former team in high fashion.

Aqib and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be reunited in LA, as the two Super Bowl champions always seemed to be in the same page.

-On April 4th, the Rams and the Patriots reached an agreement to trade electric speedster receiver Brandin Cooks and a 4thround pick in 2018, in exchange for the Rams 1stround pick and a 6thround pick in the same draft.

Cooks has played for two exceptional and often said future first ballot hall of famers quarterbacks Tom Brady and Drew Brees, reaching 1,000+ yards in each of his last 3 seasons, along with 24 receiving touchdowns.

After losing Sammy Watkins to free agency, Sean McVay needed a deep threat for his scheme, and could not afford to lose him in the near future, so, after the trade, they agreed to extend him to a 5 year $81’000,000 deal, locking him in LA for the next six seasons.

-April 6thcomes and Los Angeles made yet another massive splash by signing free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a one year $14’000,000 deal.

The All Pro DT would pair in the defensive front with Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and former first rounder Michael Brockers in what should be the most dominant trench pairing in recent memory.

Suh is better known for his stint with the Detroit Lions, and played good football with the Miami Dolphins there after, but is now reunited with his former Lions strength coach Ted Rath, who is often left out for the success of the players he has trained, but he clearly played a big role in the trade, and could be the ace in the hole for Suh to extend his domination for at least another year.

Image result for brandin cooks rams

In house players, who stays and who goes:

-Slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman would sign a 3 year $15’750,000 extension with LAR, bringing back one of the best slot corners in the league, in a defense that often plays on Nickel schemes on the defensive sides of the ball, giving the Rams one of the best secondary groups in the league and huge depth in a crowded and talented position.

-Slot corner turned safety Lamarcus Joyner would be handed the teams franchise tag for the 2018 season after being key in the Rams major turnaround; his extension will be hard to handle after some in team extensions done this year (I’ll later tell you about them), extending WR Brandin Cooks and trading and signing for some of the hugest names in the NFL nowadays. He will likely compete with CB Marcus Peters (who still has 2 years in his rookie deal) for the payroll, but Wade Phillips is often known for developing good safeties around his career.

-Among other who re-signed with the team are: long snapper Jason McQuaide, veteran center John Sullivan and defensive end Dominique Easley,

-Cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who played all his first career years for the Rams, was not signed after being franchise tagged 2 years in a row by Jeff Fisher, Rams former head coach, and would become a member of the New York Jets after reaching a massive agreement on a 5 year $72’500,000 deal.

Image result for sam shields ramsIt was clear that the organization was moving from him after not having serious contract talks under new head coach Sean McVay, not during the 2017 season or before that.

-Robert Quinn was next in line, the All Pro 4-3 defensive end would be traded to the Miami Dolphins on March 14thfor a 2018 4thround pick and a swap in their 6thround selections.

Quinn, who had his best year in 2013 amassing 19.5 sacks, signed a $66’000,000 extension through 2019 but would never live up to his expectations as injuries set the tone for the rest of his career as a member of the Rams organization.

-The same day Quinn was traded, the same news were broke on linebacker Alec Ogletree, who played better in a 4-3 scheme, and would fail to have a wonder year under defensive mastermind Wade Phillips as he often missed tackles and was unable to shed blocks. Ogletree would be shipped to the New York Giants for a 4thand 6thround picks in the 2018 NFL draft.

His recent contract extension was also a liability for the vision the the new crew in town had for the team.

-Kayvon Webster, the former Rams and Broncos corner, would rupture his Achilles week 14 2017 and would be waived one year short of his two year contract signed in March 2017. He would be released along RB Lance Dunbar, LB Carlos Thompson and FB Sam Rogers, among others who played a lesser role in 2017 for the Rams.

 

Extend your own, build a base for the future:

-On July 25th, the Rams extended their previous season MVP candidate and winner of the Offensive Player of the Year award Todd Gurley who amassed more than 2,000 total yards to a 4 year, $60’000,000, tying knots with the star running back for the next 6 seasons (he still has 2 years left in his rookie deal) making him the highest paid RB in NFL history.

-Aaron Donald’s contract, the biggest elephant in the Rams room this year, finally was extended, giving the star defensive tackle a massive 6 year, $135’000,000 deal, that made him (for a couple of days at least) the highest paid defensive player in NFL history.

Donald, since he entered the league has recorded more sacks than any defensive tackle in that span (39), more tackles for loss than any player in the league (72), he is tied with Von Miller for most QB pressures (243) and he is 3rdin QB hits (108).

Aaron Donald is a beast and nobody can deny it, and the Rams where willing to pay him since day one, but, to be able to retain a solid core both on offense and defense for the next 5 years, they needed to fit the “smaller” contracts first (Gurley, Cooks), restructure some others (Woods) to shape up the salary cap and have an idea of what will they have when Goff’s extension is next in line.

 

And after all that, here we stand with the same question, are the Rams in a “Super Bowl or bust” situation, the simple answer is no, they are building a core, a solid one for at least 4 years. They have key players like Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Gerald Everett, Josh Johnson and obviously Jared Goff to build the core around, and while there are some key players like Lamarcus Joyner, Michael Brockers, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh with contracts expiring either the next year or two, they will find, or at least is what they have shown, a way to either re-sign them or replace them. Being in a market as large as Los Angeles and having some explosive and fun team to watch has give them extra muscle to do so. Watch out, the Rams are here, and they are looking to build a dynasty.

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