The Los Angeles Rams have had a busy offseason. As anyone who follows the NFL surely already knows, the Rams have added four huge names in free agency; Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh, and Brandin Cooks. On paper, the talent acquired looks like a home run. GM Les Snead has drawn a ton of national media attention that has largely commended him for his aggressive approach, but I’m not so sure it’s all going to work out quite the way everyone thinks.
I’m not a contrarian and I’m not a bitter Rams hater that’s still upset they jumped ship. Full disclosure- I’m a cheese head born and raised and that isn’t changing anytime soon. In fact, I actually really liked the Rams last season and I think Sean McVay is an incredible coach. However, my knee jerk reaction every time I saw the Rams had made another move was somewhat negative.
If you go beyond the popular names and look into the details of the players they’ve acquired, there are glaring concerns about each and every one of them. Marcus Peters is probably the biggest talent Snead landed, especially if you take his age and trajectory into account. He’s only 25 and is probably on the fringe of being considered a top-10 talent at his position. Along with his undeniable ability, he’s still on his rookie contract and as long as the Rams pick up his 5th year option he’ll be in Los Angeles for at least two seasons.
Again, it looks like a home run on paper but Peters had a rough start to 2017. He finished as the 17th corner according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) and didn’t really shadow top receivers, playing 94% of his snaps on the left side of the field. In addition to his dip in production, he hasn’t exactly been a model citizen in Kansas City. He’s already been fined four times, suspended once, and reportedly had trouble getting along with coaches and ownership. Perhaps the most alarming detail of all is that when it became clear the Chiefs were getting ready to move Peters, neither Browns GM John Dorsey or Colts GM Chris Ballard were interested enough to even call. Why does this matter? If anybody was going to take a chance on a questionable personality it’s those two teams (both have cap room and a positional need).
The Peters trade by itself actually isn’t bad in my opinion. Sometimes players need a change of scenery and a good locker room can absorb one boisterous personality. The problem is that the Rams have absorbed three. Although Talib is talented (15th corner according to PFF), he’s old and expensive. He’s entering his age-32 season and will be paid 19 million by the Rams over the next two years. Corners can fall off a cliff at any moment once they hit 30 (ask Darrelle Revis), and Talib comes with his own character concerns. Despite his elite play throughout his career, he’s been suspended four times and has forfeited over 1.5 million dollars in fines. The pair will join a secondary that includes Lamarcus Joyner, who hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows himself off the field.
As if that wasn’t enough, Snead then doubled down in his most recent move, acquiring Ndamukong Suh. It really isn’t even worth getting into with Suh. He’s been one of the most controversial players in the NFL since he arrived. Whether it’s stepping on the opposition or kicking them, his extra-curricular exploits are well known. Like Talib, Suh is also over the hill and is basically a mercenary on a one-year deal.
The only player without baggage that the Rams signed was Brandin Cooks. Cooks is a talented player, but he’s played with Payton and Brees, then Brady and Belichick, and each said no thanks. McVay will undoubtedly find some creative things to do with him in the offense, but isn’t he basically a little better version of Tavon Austin?
The big networks have talked to death about the additions the Rams have made, but lost in the shuffle are the players Los Angeles has lost. They filled the Trumaine Johnson void no problem, but they lost Sammy Watkins, Alec Ogletree and jettisoned Robert Quinn to the Dolphins since he didn’t fit Wade Phillips’ defensive scheme. Those aren’t insignificant talents.
Perhaps the biggest problem so far with these signings is the fact that they’ve now caused unrest within their best player and a guy that’s been a consummate pro, Aaron Donald. He’s up for a massive extension, and if you took positional importance out of the equation, he’s probably the best player in the NFL. The guy flat out dominates (99.7 grade this year with PFF). While Snead has brought in others, he has yet to take care of Donald, causing him to no-show to begin the Rams’ first official offseason activities. Donald isn’t the only one the Rams will need to extend either. Todd Gurley will need to be extended as he will be a free agent after the 2019 season and whether or not you’re sold on Jared Goff, he’s entering his third year and will need to get paid big soon as well.
It’s pretty clear the Rams are going for it now while they have some financial flexibility. Some, if not all of these signings are one or two year rentals. It’s an aggressive approach, but I think there’s a difference between being aggressive and being reckless. The Rams have given away valuable draft picks, picks they may need when all of their expensive players walk in the next year or two.
Regardless, the Rams will be one of the most intriguing teams to watch next fall with their new-look roster and all of the expectations that will undoubtedly be thrust upon second year head coach Sean McVay. After all, you have to be interesting if you’re playing in Los Angeles, and interesting they will be.
Photo Credit: Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY Sports