Sony Michel’s big-game experience prompted Rams to trade for Patriots running back
Now they are aiming for Michel to help carry them back to the Super Bowl.
On Wednesday, the Rams traded for the fourth-year running back, sending a sixth-round draft choice in 2022 and a fourth-rounder in 2023 to the New England Patriots for a player expected to fill the void left after Cam Akers suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on the eve of training camp.
It was another major move by an organization that made a blockbuster trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford and is going all in to make sure owner Stan Kroenke has an opportunity to show off his team in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in February.
Rams general manager Les Snead said Michel’s production and experience caused the Rams to make the trade.
“Experience meaning, right, a player who’s carried ball in big games, in those big moments, big drives, big series,” Snead during a videoconference with reporters. “The experience of where he played, how he coached. He was one of those players.
Five things to know about Sony Michel, who already has a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots. He has worked with the Rams’ running backs coach before.
“If we were going to go the route of experience. He was someone we were definitely eyeing from the start.”
With Akers sidelined, the Rams needed running back depth because Darrell Henderson’s durability is a question mark. Henderson, a third-round pick in 2019, performed well as a rookie and in 2020 but both seasons ended prematurely because he required ankle surgery. Henderson suffered a thumb sprain on Monday but practiced Tuesday.
Xavier Jones and rookie Jake Funk, a seventh-round draft pick, are other running backs on the roster.
Rams coach Sean McVay said this week that “we feel good about that group that we have right now,” but it was clear the Rams would be in the market for a veteran back via trade or free agency.
“We definitely felt like if we could add the right person with the right experience, that that would, let’s call it, help patch things up and get out roster back to where we wanted it,” Snead said.
The hard-running Michel was “a flavor, a genre we felt like complemented our group,” Snead said.
Michel, 26, played in college at Georgia and was the 31st player chosen in the 2018 draft. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Michel has twice amassed more than 200 carries and more than 900 yards in a season. He eclipsed 100 yards rushing in a game seven times.
As a rookie, Michel had four 100-yard games during the regular season and twice in the playoffs. Last season, Michel rushed for 117 yards against the Las Vegas Raiders, but suffered a quadriceps injury that sidelined him for seven games.
The injury limited Michel to 79 carries. He rushed for 449 yards and one touchdown. The Rams held him to 22 yards in seven carries in a 24-3 victory over the Patriots at SoFi Stadium in December.
Michel’s future with the Patriots was in doubt after the team opted not to exercise it’s fifth-year option, which would have paid Michel $4.5 million in 2022. He is due to earn about $3 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract, according to overthecap.com.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford figures to improve each week even minus preseason games, but they still need to address running game first.
Michel was scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, Snead said. Michel will be reunited with Rams running backs coach Thomas Brown, who was his position coach at Georgia in 2015, when he rushed for 1,136 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 26 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
Brown’s familiarity with Michel was another reason the Rams pursued the running back, Snead said.
“He knew the kid personally,” Snead said. “Anytime you can get insight within your own building, it’s probably a little more quality than a third party.”
Michel is not expected to play in the final preseason game at Denver on Saturday. The goal is to have him ready for the Sept. 12 opener against the Chicago Bears on “Sunday Night Football.”
Snead said Michel and Brown would commence preparation immediately.
“Get together and start learning the playbook as soon as possible,” Snead said.
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