Rams committed to Matthew Stafford, but salary-cap woes remain a big problem

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford throws on the run during a win over the Carolina Panthers in October.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford throws on the run during a win over the Carolina Panthers in October. The high-priced quarterback remains central to the team’s plans.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Rams general manager Les Snead channeled his inner building contractor on Thursday as he searched for the right term to define the team’s philosophy for 2023 and beyond.

Remodel? Restructure? Rebuild?

Whatever the term, the Rams appear to be sledgehammering how they built a Super Bowl champion in the 2021 season — before cratering last season.

“Our DNA is to attack, hit the gas,” Snead said during a videoconference with reporters. “We want to hit the brakes a little bit.


“That does not change, right, how we’re going to approach the season, how we’re going to approach the day to day. But it will definitely change how we approach constructing the roster.”

Rams GM Les Snead doesn’t have many high draft picks or a ton of money to spend but has stars who sat out because of injuries last season. He just needs pieces around them.

Jan. 20, 2023

As the Rams attempt to trim about $16 million to get under the $224.8-million salary-cap by the start of the NFL’s new league year on Wednesday, they appear to be pivoting from all-in to nearly all-out-the-door.

High-priced quarterback Matthew Stafford, receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive lineman Aaron Donald will be back, according to Snead.

But the Rams already released veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner. And though Snead would not confirm it, star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, edge rusher Leonard Floyd and receiver Allen Robinson all could be traded or released before, during or after the start of free agency on Wednesday.

“I’m going to keep the specifics of those in-house because time will tell,” Snead said when asked if he anticipated that Ramsey, Floyd and Robinson to be on the roster by the end of next week. “I know we’ve communicated with a lot of our players, those included.

“So we’re trying to, right, assess situations, figure out how to get under the cap, what’s the best way to do that.”

Rams general manager Les Snead looks on before a game against the Arizona Cardinals in October.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Shortly after Snead spoke, the NFL awarded the Rams four compensatory draft picks for the 2022 departures by offensive lineman Austin Corbett, defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day, linebackers Von Miller and Obo Okoronkwo and cornerback Darious Williams. The signing of Robinson offset receiving a fifth pick.

The Rams have 10 picks heading into the April 27-29 draft in Kansas City, including one in the second and third rounds, three in the fifth, three in the sixth and two in the seventh.

The Rams have not had a first-round pick since 2016, when they traded up 14 spots to select quarterback Jared Goff No. 1 overall. In the years since, they have traded high draft picks for star players.

But that practice could change as the Rams “have to engineer a healthier cap situation,” Snead said.

“In the past we’ve used draft capital to maybe go get a veteran player, knowing that that veteran player is going to cost a certain amount and we can actually fit him under our cap situation,” Snead said, adding, “In this situation maybe you don’t use draft capital to get a veteran player but instead you use the capital to draft normal rookies.”


Sam Farmer’s crystal ball: NFL mock draft 2023 version 1.0. Farmer makes his first-round pick predictions.

March 4, 2023

In January, the Rams held onto their most important asset when coach Sean McVay decided to return for a seventh season. The day after their season-ending loss to the Seattle Seahawks, McVay for the second year in a row indicated he would take time to decide whether he would return.

Less than a week later, he was back.

McVay, who is scheduled to speak with reporters on Friday, has “an action plan,” that goes beyond 2023, Snead said.

“It was for, let’s call it, a longer-term range,” Snead said. “I don’t think you’re going to see Sean each year determine whether he wants to coach or not.”

But Snead said he anticipated that broadcast networks would probably continue to pursue McVay.

“We might see that every year,” Snead said, “but I don’t think you’re going to see Sean trying to determine whether he really wants to coach or not.

“He spent some time this year and figured that out.”

Rams coach Sean McVay watches the team warm up before a game against the Denver Broncos.
Rams coach Sean McVay watches the team warm up before a game against the Denver Broncos on Christmas Day last year.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Now McVay and Snead must come up with a plan rebound from their disastrous 5-12 finish in 2022, the worst season-after performance by a Super Bowl-champion.

It starts with maximizing the talent of Stafford, who turned 35 last month.

“We’re going to definitely rely on Matthew,” Snead said. “He’s definitely one of our pillars.”

So the Rams won’t “bulldoze the house down and begin rebuilding from the ground up,” Snead said.

“When you have someone like Matthew Stafford, players like Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald… there’s some weight-bearing walls there that we still have and we’re going to rely on those,” he said, adding, “And at that point remodel around them with maybe different teammates, different partners.”


McVay finalized his coaching staff, the Rams announced. It includes new hires Jimmy Lake (assistant head coach), Chase Blackburn (special teams coordinator), Ryan Wendell (offensive line), Nick Caley (tight ends), John Coniglio (outside linebackers), Aubrey Pleasant (defensive backs/pass game coordinator), Andrew Carter (assistant defensive line) and Mike Harris (defensive assistant).