By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFL Writer
After watching the dizzying movement of big players throughout the league this offseason, Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead acknowledged that perhaps the rest of the NFL caught up with his team’s ultra-aggressive approach to roster building.
This means avoiding high draft picks for premium players at their peak. “F— picks them” as Snead had printed on the T-shirt he wore during the Rams’ parade after their Super Bowl victory.
The league has certainly followed suit.
The Cleveland Browns traded for Deshaun Watson and Amari Cooper. The Seattle Seahawks have sent Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. The Green Bay Packers sent Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders. The Chargers traded for Khalil Mack. The Colts traded for Matt Ryan after moving Carson Wentz to Washington.
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And then this week, the Kansas City Chiefs sent Tyreek Hill to Miami, where the electric receiver mentioned Snead’s catchy catchphrase during his introductory press conference.
“When there are successful teams, people start saying, ‘Hey, is this maybe a plan we can follow?’ Snead told FOX Sports this week. “I’m not saying everything the world follows the Rams, per se. But it seems that over the past five years we’ve started to see more movement with known players – players who in the past may have spent a career with an organization.
“We’ve had our own offseason, and sometimes you get into your own silo. But it seems like this particular offseason there’s been a lot of aggressive, ‘Let’s do something that’s really going to move the needle and have a impact on our team.’ It’s a very competitive league, and everyone tries to have that advantage.”
The Rams used an aggressive approach to roster building in winning the team’s first Super Bowl title under coach Sean McVay, showing a willingness to give up trade-high picks for players front lines such as Matthew Stafford, Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller. The team has also signed high-profile free agents such as Odell Beckham Jr., Leonard Floyd, Andrew Whitworth, Robert Woods and Eric Weddle.
This offseason for Los Angeles has been more about bringing back fundamental players, including center Brian Allen, left tackle Joe Noteboom and returner Brandon Powell.
The Rams also signed Stafford to a four-year, $160 million contract extension and, according to Snead, are in negotiations with superstar defensive lineman Aaron Donald over a new deal that would keep him in the fold for the long term.
“I was just trying to find something that both parties liked,” Stafford said of his new contract. “And we were able to add players and parts around me, while also taking care of everything that you want to take care of as a professional player. It was great. I’m just happy to be part of this organization for the foreseeable future.”
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However, not everything went perfectly. The Rams wanted to keep rusher Von Miller, but he signed a lucrative contract with the Buffalo Bills. Miller was a top priority, but after losing to Buffalo, Snead said the team turned to signing big receiver Allen Robinson II in free agency.
The addition of Robinson made Woods expendable, and the Rams traded the popular Los Angeles native receiver to the Tennessee Titans.
“There are a few variables involved when you leave a stalwart player like Robert,” Snead said. “Obviously the ceiling situation is one. Skill diversity is another – with our five eligible and trying to introduce different genders to help us move the ball, get first downs, have explosives and hits.
“Also, the continued evolution of our players like Van Jefferson who have rookie contracts. Those three variables really factor into that decision.”
Snead said he would like to bring Beckham back to free agency. The Rams would also talk to the Seahawks about recently released inside linebacker Bobby Wagner, a Southern California native who plays an important role for the team.
“We want to be able to keep as many fundamentals in place, without being naïve to the fact that it’s a brand new year,” Rams coach McVay said. “Even though we have the same goal, there will be new challenges, and you are starting from square one.
“There’s going to be a lot of turnover, whether it’s from our players or our coaching staff. But I think those are things that I’m excited to build on and evolve into the best version of the Rams. 2022 that we can be.”
Along with Miller, in free agency, the Rams lost cornerback Darious Williams (Jaguars), guard Austin Blythe (Panthers), defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day (Chargers), tight end Johnny Mundt (Vikings), point carrier Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (Texans) and punter Johnny Hekker (Panthers).
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Having lost several role players, Snead and the Rams will likely have to lean on recently drafted young players and develop them into significant contributors if they are to repeat themselves as champions.
The team got little production from a 2021 draft class that included receiver Tutu Atwell, linebacker Ernest Jones, cornerback Robert Rochell, receiver Jacob Harris, defensive lineman Earnest Brown and carry of Jake Funk balloon.
Although they don’t have a first-round pick until 2024, the Rams have eight picks in this year’s draft, including four offset picks. It will therefore be imperative for Snead and the rest of his staff to identify players who can contribute immediately.
“We’ll always be looking to develop from within, and then we’ll look to see if there’s anyone on the outside who can add to the arsenal,” Snead said. “It doesn’t have to be in free agency or trade. It can be in the draft.
“That’s the bright side of the offseason: Game 1 isn’t until September, so we still have a few more months on the timeline to try and add to our arsenal.”
Adding the Super Bowl champions to their arsenal is a scary thought, which seems to have prompted several other teams to try to keep up – following the Rams’ plan.
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for over a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @eric_d_williams.
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