2018 Los Angeles Rams: Super Bowl or Bust?

Wow. What a turn around the Rams franchise had. From being ranked the NFL’s lowest scoring offense, to being ranked the number 1 scoring offense in 2017, the Rams turn around was one that will forever go down in NFL history. It all started with the firing of head coach Jeff Fisher, someone the Rams clearly needed to rid themselves of for quite some time. In Fisher’s 5 year tenure with the Rams, they suffered 5 straight losing seasons. Fisher is tied for the record of most losses in NFL history by any head coach with 165. Legendary head coach Dan Reeves also has 165 losses. Special teams coordinator and assistant coach John Fassel took over as interim head coach to finish of the season. In 2016, the Rams finished 4-12 and third in the NFC West division.

In the off-season after the 2016 season the Rams would soon like to forget, they hired then Washington Redskins Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay as their new head coach. McVay became the youngest head coach in NFL history when he was just 30 years old. It was obvious, the Rams still had a lot of work to do. One of the biggest things Rams GM Les Snead did that off-season, was getting young quarterback Jared Goff some help. They inked offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth to a contract, and also went out and signed reliable center John Sullivan to a deal. It appeared one of the only bright spots of the abysmal offense in Kenny Britt was going to depart in free agency, and the Rams needed to bring in some reinforcements for their sophomore quarterback in Jared Goff. That’s exactly what they did when they signed Robert Woods in free agency, and drafted wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and versatile pass catcher Gerald Everett. The Rams finished off the off-season with the trade to acquire wide receiver Sammy Watkins and a sixth-round draft pick from the Buffalo Bills, in exchange for Cornerback EJ Gaines. It’s appeared they were ready to go.

The Rams got off to a hot start, dismantling the Andrew Luck-less Colts in Week 1 by a score of 46-9. The team’s continued success led them to a 5-2 record at their bye week in Week 8. The Rams went on to finish the season 11-5, and appeared in the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. The waiting was over for Rams’ fans, and it appeared the Rams were well on their way to continued success. They had a young quarterback, franchise halfback, and a head coach who has appeared to revolutionize Rams football. Although it is still early, the Rams seem to have something brewing.

The Rams were defeated by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2017 NFC Wildcard Game by a score of 26-13. Yes, it was a very disappointing end to an exciting season of Rams football, but the fans have a lot to look forward to in the future.

Here is where it starts to get really exciting; the off-season before the 2018 NFL season. Although the Rams had a successful 11-5 season in which they appeared in the playoffs, they needed something to get them ‘over the hump’. The Rams contacted the Patriots, and acquired wide receiver Brandin Cooks in exchange for their first-round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Boom. The Rams now have a 1,000 yard receiver for their young quarterback. Also in that same off-season, the Rams traded a 2018 fourth-round pick, and a 2019 second-round pick for Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters. Out of nowhere, the Rams just significantly improved their secondary, and overall defense. But wait, that’s not it. The Rams also acquired Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib for a 2018 fifth-round pick. Talib, a five-time Pro Bowler, recorded 6 pick-sixes in 4 years with the Denver Broncos. Talib is now joined with former AFC West foe Marcus Peters, and safety Lamarcus Joyner in what should be a lockdown secondary in 2018. The only downside to this, however, is that twice-tagged cornerback Trumaine Johnson has since moved on due to financial reasons. Johnson signed with the New York Jets this same off-season. On March 14th, the Miami Dolphins released All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as they were attempting a complete culture change, and entering the rebuilding process. One of the best defensive lineman of the generation has just hit the open market, and with one of the Rams’ biggest needs being a defensive tackle, the Rams were licking their chops. Sure enough, on March 26, the Rams signed Ndamukong Suh to a 1-year deal. Suddenly, in a matter of a month, a good team got even better. Significantly better.

Now, it’s no doubt that there is a ton of talent on this Rams’ football team, and they are primed for a great season. However, financially, this team may not hold up for long. Let’s breakdown each of the four Rams’ significant offseason additions, and take a look at their contracts and cap hits for the upcoming seasons (if any).

1. Marcus Peters: 4-years / $9,584,157

  • 2018 Cap Hit: $1,741,931
  • 2019 Cap Hit: $9,069,000
  • UFA: 2020 (with team option exercised)

Breakdown: Marcus Peters is still on his rookie contract that he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs after they drafted him back in the 2015 NFL Draft. Peters shouldn’t be much of a financial problem for the Rams this year, as they have 1 year left on his base contract which will cost them next to nothing. However, assuming Marcus Peters has the season we expect him to have, the Rams would most certainly like to pick up his 5th year team option, which will cost them $9,069,000 against the cap. That’s a lot for a team with as much talent on their roster as they have, especially with a starting quarterback and halfback still on their rookie contracts who you can most certainly expect to want their big contract at some point in time. Marcus Peters is an exceptional cornerback and football player who will expect his own big contract. Can the Rams keep up? We’ll have to see. Now, let’s take a look at some of the veterans the Rams acquired in the off-season.

2. Aqib Talib: 6-years / $57,000,000

  • 2018 Cap Hit: $11,000,000
  • 2019 Cap Hit: $8,000,000
  • UFA: 2020

Breakdown: Although he is becoming fairly old as far as cornerbacks goes, Aqib Talib has proved to be a very reliable player during his NFL career. However, whether or not the Rams will be willing to invest in an aging cornerback when they have two very important players they must lockup for the future in Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, will be very interesting to see. I would expect that if the Rams end up having to let any of their new acquisitions walk in the future due to financial reasons, it will be Talib.

3. Ndamukong Suh: 1-year / $14,000,000

  • 2018 Cap Hit: $14,000,000
  • 2019 Cap Hit: N/A
  • UFA: 2019

Breakdown: It’s almost fair to assume that this signing was what is referred to as a ‘rental’, or a player that is acquired for a short period of time in order to win now. These types of acquisitions typically involve winning teams with lots of promise and championship potential, such as the 2018 Los Angeles Rams. Again, just like the Talib signing, it will be hard to give Suh what he wants during contract time due to the fact that the Rams have loads of other talent they have to worry about financially. However, I wouldn’t rule anything out just yet.

4. Brandin Cooks: 4-years / $8,383,452

  • 2018 Cap Hit: $8,459,000
  • 2019 Cap Hit: N/A
  • UFA: 2019

Breakdown: Brandin Cooks is one of the more interesting acquisitions the Rams have made this off-season. When it comes contract time, will the Rams let him walk due to financial reasons, or will they make an effort to sign him? It all depends on how he performs this year with the Rams. Cooks had a great season with the Patriots in 2017, posting 1,173 yards and 8 touchdown receptions. However, with the Patriots rolling with a ‘running back by committee’ type approach, it appeared Cooks was relied on a lot as a receiver. How will the presence of Todd Gurley impact Cooks’ game? We’ll have to see.

Are the Rams primed for a Super Bowl or bust season in 2018 due to financial reasons? The amount of impending free-agents and paydays coming up for the Rams might lead to just that.

But hey, it doesn’t matter if you win a Super Bowl, right?