The Los Angeles Rams might not have had the most splashy offseason, but that didn’t stop some NFL experts from saying they had a good offseason.
ESPN NFL expert Bill Barnwell ranked the Rams’ offseason as the eighth-best in the NFL.
Rams’ Moves to Keep Core Together Impressed Barnwell
Quite possibly the most difficult part of being a Super Bowl champion is being able to keep everyone around to make another run.
While the Rams did lose a few starters from their Super Bowl LVI team, they kept their core players and found ways to make sure they remain in Los Angeles for the forseeable future. That was the best part of the Rams’ offseason, according to Barnwell.
“The best thing the Rams did this offseason might be getting many of their key players to return,” Barnwell wrote. “Amid rumors that one or both could retire in the hours after the Super Bowl, it appears that neither Aaron Donald nor [Sean] McVay is going anywhere. Veterans Eric Weddle and Andrew Whitworth both retired, but the Rams were able to bring back swing tackle Joe Noteboom for what will be either a one-year, $16.5 million deal or a two-year, $25 million pact. The former third-rounder will protect Matthew Stafford’s blind side in 2022.
“What could have been a difficult negotiation with Stafford turned out to be easy. He held significant leverage after the Rams traded two first-round picks to acquire him and promptly won a Super Bowl, but after extracting significant deals when the Lions were cap-vulnerable in the past, Stafford left money on the table in signing a four-year, $160 million deal with $63 million guaranteed at signing. He’ll make up the difference in cell phone ads.”
Barnwell also liked a couple moves that Rams didn’t make, which he believs will pay divdends inthe future.
“The Rams churned several roster spots and picked up their usual compensatory pick haul,” Barnwell wrote. “They project to land two fifth-rounders, a sixth-rounder and a seventh-rounder, and while losing contributors like Sebastian Joseph-Day and Darious Williams isn’t fun, they have established their ability to draft and develop in the middle rounds.”
Defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day and cornerback both signed pricey three-year deals with the Chargers and Jaguars, respectively. On offense, the Rams also lost starting right guard Austin Corbett, who signed a three-year deal with the Panthers. As Barnwell mentioned, Los Angeles is expected to receive mid-to-late round draft pick compenatasion in the 2023 draft.
The Rams used this year’s draft to help fill the losses of the aforementioned players. They selected guard Logan Bruss in the third round and added four defensive backs in Day 3 of the draft.
Barnwell Isn’t a Fan of the Rams’ Additions
The biggest loss the Rams were dealt with this offseason was the departure of star linebacker Von Miller, who signed a six-year, $120 million deal with the Bills.
A move the Rams made to help offset the loss of Miller was signing six-time All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner to a five-year, $65 million deal. But Barnwell doesn’t seem to be a big fan of that move.
“The Rams weren’t able to convince Von Miller to take a discount, as the future Hall of Famer signed a massive contract with the Bills,” Barnwell wrote. “Miller wasn’t replaced in free agency or the draft, and while Los Angeles would have picked up a fifth-round compensatory selection for letting Miller leave in free agency, it canceled out that pick by signing Allen Robinson II from the Bears. (The Rams’ not getting a pick for Miller is a reminder that while compensatory picks are a meaningful part of discussing players and trades, counting on a team getting a comp pick for a player isn’t always a sure thing.)”
“I’m ambivalent about the addition of linebacker Bobby Wagner, whose five-year, $50 million contract is really a one-year, $10 million deal,” Barnwell later wrote on the Rams’ moves to swap linebackers. “There’s something fun about signing away a Seahawks legend — and players have a habit of playing better around Donald than they did in their former stops — but this is a lot of money to spend on a position for which the Rams have typically managed to find talent for cheap. They might have felt like they needed a leader on defense, given that Weddle went from playing pickup basketball in December to donning the green-dot helmet in the Super Bowl, but Wagner really struggled for the Seahawks last year. Even if Wagner returns to his 2020 form, this deal doesn’t offer much of a discount.”
Barnwell also wasn’t a big fan of the Rams’ decision to sign Robinson, preferring that they kept Robert Woods (who was traded to the Titans) so that they could also get a third-round pick for losing Miller in the 2023 draft.
“In an offseason in which the veteran market for free-agent wide receivers didn’t launch and so many talented wideouts were available in the draft, I was a little surprised the Rams would forgo the Miller compensatory pick and sign Robinson to a two-year, $30.8 million deal,” Barnwell wrote. “Robinson turns 29 this year and is coming off what can only be described as a disinterested season with the Bears. Would the Rams have been better off trading a fifth-round pick for a wideout who would command a more expensive contract, such as Amari Cooper, who will make $40 million over that same timespan? Would it have made more sense to wait for Odell Beckham Jr. to return from his torn ACL while signing a stopgap option like Julio Jones? Could they have just kept Robert Woods, who was salary-dumped to the Titans for a sixth-round pick? Robinson needs to have a career season to make this work.”
Robinson is coming off the worst season of his career, catching just 38 passes for 410 yards and only one touchdown, so Barnwell could prove to be right there.
But that’s in the past. As for what the Rams can to do to close out the offseason, Barnwell believes re-signing Aaron Donald would cap off what’s been a relatively good offseason for them.
“The future Hall of Famer still has three years and $52.3 million remaining on his existing deal, but when you win your team a Super Bowl, the usual rules go out the window,” Barnwell wrote. “The 31-year-old will understandably want to be paid like the most valuable defensive player in the game, independent of position. I wouldn’t be surprised if he became the first defender in the league to hit $30 million per season on a new deal, with a three-year, $90 million extension allowing the Rams to reward their star and create cap space in the process.”
Donald made headlines earlier in the week when he told the “I Am Athlete” podcast that he would be “at peace” with retiring if he and the Rams weren’t able to reach a contract agreement. But McVay’s comments at practice this week and Donald’s desire to win another Super Bowl should be good news for Rams fans that No. 99 will be back in Los Angeles next season.
“It ain’t about the money, it’s a business at the end of the day,” Donald told the “I Am Athlete” podcast. “That’s what you’ve got to see. For me, it’s about winning. I don’t want to play football if I can’t win anyway, so I feel like…if I got a real opportunity to win another Super Bowl, then it makes sense to play. But again, it’s still a business. We’ve got to handle the business side of things, and if that wasn’t to get handled then, you know, it is what it is type of situation. I’ll be fine regardless.”