It’s a quieter vibe this year for the Rams.
In 2018, on the second day of the NFL owners meetings in Florida, most of the franchise’s contingent put off scheduled responsibilities and huddled en masse to speak by phone with free-agent defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.
They were working out the details of another blockbuster acquisition that fueled last season’s Super Bowl run.
“Probably right now, at this moment, we went into a room and probably spent the afternoon missing meetings to complete that deal,” Rams general manager Les Snead said about last year during a midday break Monday at the Arizona Biltmore.
Suh is a free agent again and not expected to return, but the foundation for another Super Bowl run is in place for third-year coach Sean McVay. Offseason moves made in 2017 and 2018, and the recent signings of edge rusher Dante Fowler, safety Eric Weddle, linebacker Clay Matthews and backup quarterback Blake Bortles, have helped position the Rams for continued success.
“We came up with kind of a blueprint action plan and were relatively active,” Snead said of the previous two offseasons. “But I think those two years have probably, let’s call it, put a damper in terms of excitement on the ’19 offseason.
“But I like to say that’s a good thing, because all those things have kind of put us in a situation where we’ve got this foundation built and move forward from here.”
Quarterback Jared Goff and stars such as running back Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald were on the roster when the Rams hired McVay. The Rams then signed free-agent receiver Robert Woods and offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan during the offseason, and drafted players such as tight end Gerald Everett, receivers Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds and safety John Johnson. The Rams won the NFC West in McVay’s first season and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
In 2018, Snead traded for cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, signed Suh and then traded for receiver Brandin Cooks, among other moves. Their draft picks included offensive linemen Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen. The Rams won the NFC title but lost to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
About a month later, the Rams elected not to pick up Sullivan’s option. They released linebacker Mark Barron. Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold and safety Lamarcus Joyner then left for larger free-agent deals, but the Rams re-signed Fowler, whom Snead had tabbed as their top offseason priority.
Then they added Weddle, a 12-year veteran, and Matthews, a 10-year veteran. Both were voted to the Pro Bowl six times.
Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, a future Hall of Famer, grinned Monday when asked about Weddle and Matthews joining the Rams.
“I was sad to see those guys go there,” Fitzgerald said. “I was hoping they were going to go to the AFC West.
“I don’t like to see anybody in the NFC West improve besides the Cardinals. I wasn’t happy about it.”
With the second wave of free agency complete, the Rams might be done dealing for a while.
“Nothing’s ever off the table,” Snead said, but added it was “highly doubtful” Suh returns.
The Rams’ decision last week to match an offer sheet that backup running back Malcolm Brown had received from the Detroit Lions was an indication that running back C.J. Anderson also probably would not return.
“Malcolm’s been a heck of a second [running back] for us, and when he’s not carrying the ball he can play 30 really good snaps” on special teams, Snead said. “C.J. did an unbelievable job for us, so that was a tough decision because there’s an emotional side.”
The Rams now will turn their attention to the draft next month.