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Should Buffalo Follow the Rams Blueprint? 

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

The last few years the Los Angeles Rams have formed their identity around cap gymnastics and Madden-esq trades. Matthew Stafford, Jalen Ramsey, and Von Miller, are names synonymous with the Rams process. Last Sunday, all those moves finally bore the most important fruit, a Lombardi Trophy and Super Bowl Rings. 

It is often said the NFL is a copycat league, but can you copy what Sean McVay, Les Snead, and Rams have done over the past few years? Ultimately teams will try to pull their own blockbuster trades and perform cap gymnastics. But can you replicate what the Rams have done? And even if you can, should you? Only a few weeks into this off season, and fans have pounded the “be more aggressive” drum. A deeper dive into how this all came together may show why this might not be the best idea.

Big Time Trades

Let’s start with looking at all the trade the Rams have made involving first and second round picks.

  •  EJ Gains and 2nd to Buffalo for Sammy Watkins and a 6th.
  •  4th and 2nd to Kansas City for Marcus Peters and a 6th. 
  •  1st and a 6th to New England for Brandin Cook and a 4th.
  • 1st and 4th to Jacksonville for Jalen Ramsey.
  • 2 1st and a 3rd to Detroit for Matt Stafford.
  • 2nd and 3rd to Denver for Von Miller.

And how did these players do in their time as Ram?

  • Sammy Watkins in 2018: 70 rec, 593 yards, 8 touchdowns. 
  • Marcus Peter: 2019 First team All Pro
  • Brandin Cooks:in 2018-2019: 189 rec 1787 yards, 7 touchdowns
  • Jalen Ramsey: I mean…he’s really good.
  • Matt Stafford: Top 10 in yards, rating, TD %, QBR, rating…
  • Von Miller- 5 sacks, 12 TFL.

Now for one last set of bullets, how did they leave?

  • Sammy Watkins: walked in free agency in 2018.
  • Marcus Peters: Traded for Kenny Young and a 5th round pick.
  • Brandin Cook: Signed extension, then traded for a 4th. 
  • Jalen Ramsey: Made him highest paid corner in football.
  • Matt Stafford: TBD
  • Von Miller: TBD

When discussing whether you truly want to emulate what the Rams have done with trades, ask yourself, is trading a first for a Brandin Cooks tier player a wise use of resources? Is a Sammy Watkins tier player worth a second? Trading early picks has to be for bonafide stars. To connect this all back to Buffalo, you could argue they understand this premise. The Bills traded a first round pick for a bonafide stud wide receiver in Stefon Diggs only a couple offseasons ago. But at the NFL over the last few offseason, how many players worth first round picks ever hit the trade market? Trades are fun and can be great, trades for trades sake, can set you back. Following the Rams 13-3 Super Bowl run, they regressed to 9-7 as they attempted to retool. 

Cap Gymnastics

One of the most annoying developments over the last few years is the narrative that “cap isn’t real” “look at the Saints” blah blah blah. Did you know the Giants couldn’t field 53 players in week 18 because of the cap? People continue to point the finger at the Saints like their second string weren’t players better suited for the USFL this spring and will undoubtedly need to ship more players out to become cap compliant in 2022. Rams are going to have pricy free agents in players like Darious Williams and Austin Corbet, and recent arrivals Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr are also due for new deals. In 2023 Matt Stafford is up for a new contract. 16 million dollar pass catcher Robert Wood will be north of 30 coming off an ACL ter. Veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth , who started his career during the Bush administration, is nearing the end of his career, opening up a big hole for this team. It will not be easy to keep this team together. 

All of this is to say, the Rams went all in on THIS year. They are not trying to keep a window open for 6,7,8 years. Matthew Stafford is not a young buck, they are not trying to keep their window open for the next 10 years. And hey, when you win it all, it looks genius. It also leads to a bevy of fans who think there is “always money in the banana stand.” Restructuring is not some magic elixir that simply makes money appear without consequence.  It has real consequences. Over a 5-6 year window, its survivable. When you want to provide Josh Allen with the resources he needs over the lifetime of his monster contact (and beyond) it simply isn’t sustainable. 

What can we learn?

If you have read this far, you are probably saying, “wow Ryan, you sound really salty.” So let me take a moment to recognize that what the Rams have done is exceptionally impressive. Their ability to hit on day 2 and 3 picks and utilize players is something every team should hope to emulate. Sean McVay may be one of the most creative offensive minds of our era. But that is not even what the lesson is here. 

Always being looking to add.

“Well Ryan obviously, everyone knows that.” A number of teams brought in players during the season that made their teams better. (or at least tried to.) Without trading for Odell, the Rams probably don’t go to the Super Bowl. Melvin Ingram is a name that sticks out from the prior season, who was on the street that could have deepened the Bills pass rush. In 2021, Buffalo leaned into continuity, something you could argue came back and bit them in the end.

The Rams believe in the idea that you are NEVER done getting better and that you should spin every tire that comes available. Don’t just rely on “what got you there.” 

It sounds simple, but when you have a chance to get better, take it, and the Rams have done it every turn. 

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