It’s Super Bowl or nothing for Rams: Takeaways from their many moves
Those were the last in a series of major moves Rams general manager Les Snead made since January to stock a roster capable of making a run to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. And playing in that Super Bowl — in owner Stan Kroenke’s $5-billion stadium — will be the only measure of a successful season for these boom-or-bust Rams.
“Our goal is to try to build a team that stresses opposing teams, applies pressure to opposing teams, whether it’s offense or defense,” Snead said during a videoconference with reporters.
Here are takeaways from the Rams’ moves and how they have worked out:
Move: Traded for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Cost: Quarterback Jared Goff, third-round compensatory draft pick in 2021 and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023.
Analysis: Coach Sean McVay got to a Super Bowl with Goff. But he pined for a quarterback who he believed could win one.
Stafford, freed after playing 12 seasons for the Detroit Lions, has made McVay and Snead look brilliant. His arm talent, experience and savvy are on display every game. He has passed for 22 touchdowns, with four interceptions.
But none of that should be a surprise. Stafford was long considered one of the NFL’s top passers who had the misfortune of playing for mostly bad Lions teams. An accurate evaluation of the move cannot be made until January. That’s when Stafford will have another chance to win a playoff game, something he has never done in three tries.
Move: Signed receiver DeSean Jackson.
Cost: $2.75 million guaranteed plus incentives.
Analysis: No waiting to determine how this homecoming story worked out.
“I’m not going to give it a grade,” Snead said shortly after releasing Jackson. “One came to my mind, but that’d probably be the headline.”
Fair to surmise that Snead was not thinking A+.
The Rams signed Jackson, one of the best deep threats in NFL history, after two injury-plagued seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. They put the 34-year-old, 14th-year pro on a load-managed practice plan, but McVay never figured out a way to utilize him consistently in an offense that included receivers Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Van Jefferson.
Jackson expressed his frustration to McVay after the second game, and then caught a 75-yard touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Turned out to be his lone highlight at SoFi Stadium. He was targeted only 15 times in seven games before asking to be traded.
“Obviously, it didn’t work out like any of us — what our vision was when we signed him,” Snead said. “That’s DeSean, that’s Sean, that’s the Rams as a whole. And because it wasn’t working, we felt like it was best for all of us … to part ways and move on to our next chapters.”
Move: Re-signed outside linebacker Leonard Floyd.
Cost: $32.5 million guaranteed.
Analysis: Floyd, the ninth player chosen in the 2016 draft, flourished with the Rams in 2020 after four underachieving seasons with the Chicago Bears. Playing alongside three-time NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald undoubtedly helped, but the Rams canvassed the edge-rushing market and draft, and decided they could not let him go.
It looks like a solid investment: Floyd has a team-best 6½ sacks and is on pace to easily surpass last season’s career-best 10½.
And now he’ll have opportunities playing opposite Miller.
Move: Re-signed cornerback Darious Williams.
Cost: $4.76 million.
Analysis: In 2020, Williams emerged as a playmaker and outstanding complement to star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, so the Rams put a first-round tender on the restricted free agent to discourage other teams from signing him.
Williams suffered an ankle injury on Oct. 7 against the Seattle Seahawks and, after sitting out three games, he is eligible to come off injured reserve this week. In Williams’ absence, rookie Robert Rochell emerged as a possible replacement if Williams does not return in 2022.
The Rams can try to entice Williams with an extension or put the franchise tag on him. But he almost certainly wants to test the market as a free agent.
Move: Traded for running back Sony Michel.
Cost: Sixth-round draft pick in 2022 and fourth-round pick in 2023.
Analysis: With Cam Akers sidelined because of an Achilles injury, the Rams got Michel on the eve of the season opener from the New England Patriots as a hedge against Darrell Henderson’s durability issues.
It looks like a solid move: Michel stepped in for Henderson against the Indianapolis Colts and ran effectively.
Michel fumbled against the Arizona Cardinals but has proved a solid performer.
Cost: Seventh-round draft pick in 2024.
Analysis: The Rams got a lot more out of Young than they expected. Remember, this was a player the Rams acquired in a 2019 trade that sent cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens so the Rams could trade for Ramsey.
Upon his arrival in Los Angeles, Young played exactly zero defensive snaps in nine games.
But Young emerged as a valuable player in 2020 and started six games.
That was great for the Rams because they were paying him less than $1 million. Not so great when his compensation climbed to $2.2 million.
Young started seven games this season and made some key plays. But trading him to the Denver Broncos cleared salary-cap space, opened the door to play cheaper rookie Ernest Jones and paved the way for the Rams to trade for Miller.
The Rams traded for eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller, giving L.A. a dominant pass rush with Aaron Donald in the middle and Leonard Floyd on the other end.
Move: Traded for outside linebacker Von Miller.
Cost: Second- and third-round draft picks in 2022.
Analysis: This harks to 2018, when Snead traded for edge rusher Dante Fowler. That worked out pretty well — Fowler made a huge play in the NFC championship game that helped the Rams advance to the Super Bowl.
Miller brings experience and Hall of Fame credentials — he has 110½ career sacks and a Super Bowl MVP award on his resume — and joins an already star-studded defense that includes Donald, Ramsey and Floyd.
“Someone who has a pedigree of affecting the passer,” Snead said.
The Rams are paying Miller only $700,000 for the rest of the season. Snead said he has spoken to Miller’s agent about possibly keeping him beyond 2021.
But the move to acquire Miller — like all that preceded it — was all about this season.
And this season’s Super Bowl.
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