10 takeaways from Rams GM Les Snead’s pre-free agency call

Rams general manager Les Snead has his work cut out for him, as does the rest of the front office. The Rams are in a situation where they don’t have much cap space to use on free agents, and though they have 10 draft picks, eight of them are between Rounds 5-7 with none in the first.

In the coming weeks and months, the Rams could part ways with key veterans as a way to either free up cap space, acquire draft picks or both. Snead didn’t deny that plan during his pre-free agency call with reporters, acknowledging the Rams will shift their strategy this offseason.

Here are 10 things we learned from the GM this week.

He wouldn’t deny possibility of trading Ramey, Floyd or Robinson

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Snead was asked point-blank if he’s actively trying to trade Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd and Allen Robinson. He wasn’t going to say yes or no for obvious reasons, but his answer made it pretty clear that the Rams are considering moving all three of those players.

Snead said the team has talked to a lot of its players, saying “it’s been interesting with those players.” Other teams are probably calling to inquire about the availability of those three, being expensive veterans that the Rams are thinking about trading.

“I’m going to keep the specifics of those in-house because time will tell,” Snead said. “I know we’ve communicated with a lot of our players those included. We’re trying to assess situations, figure out how to get under the cap, what’s the best way to do that. In this year, it’s been interesting with those players. It’s based on probably the dynamics of the league. We’ve had calls on a lot of our players, probably other places trying to figure out what are we doing big picture and things like that. It’s been a busy offseason discussing players. The nice thing is other teams would like to have a lot of our players, but at this point we don’t want to give away all of our good players.”

Dead money is a real hinderance to Rams’ roster building

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Snead admitted dead money is impacting the way the Rams are approaching things this offseason. No matter who they release or trade, there will be dead money that hits the books and limits the moves the Rams can make financially.

And as a result, the Rams are going to tap the brakes a little bit on their aggressiveness and try to get back into a more favorable cap situation.

“A lot of variables involved there,” Snead said of how dead cap impacts their moves this offseason. “What’s interesting for us this year, Step 1 is actually getting under the cap when the bell rings on Wednesday. That sometimes will limit your ability to hold onto a player until June 1st, even though you could release him Wednesday and designate him June 1st. He is still counting in the moment, so there’s a lot of calculus that goes into that, especially with our roster. It’s a very complicated, complex situation that we got to work through. And I think what the big picture is this year, different than probably the past five years for us, we definitely have to engineer a healthier cap situation just because obviously we’re not in a luxury tax situation so we can’t pay our dues annually, we can push them out, they can compound. So we have elected, based on the cap and based on what we’ve done – our DNA is to attack, hit the gas, we’re going to hit the brakes a little bit. That does not change how we’re going to approach the season, how we’re going to approach the day-to-day, but it will definitely change how we approach constructing the roster.”

Finding another premier pass rusher will be a challenge

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The Rams are likely to move on from Leonard Floyd this offseason, which will leave Aaron Donald as their only consistent and reliable pass rusher. Finding a one-for-one replacement for Floyd will be difficult, just as it was after Von Miller left last offseason.

Instead of seeking another premier pass rusher, Snead realizes the Rams might have to rely on a committee instead.

“I do think the other part is if as an example you don’t think there’s one person who can do that, is there an element of, let’s call it constructing a collective, and that usually is some version of a four-to-five-man rush,” he said. “And let’s just try to keep it simple, maybe all of the players… of course Aaron Donald’s an A player, but let’s just say we can’t get another A player, can we find three to four other B players that can partner with Aaron. And then as a collective, they may be an A bunch, an A minus bunch. If you see where I’m going with that analogy.”

Stafford, Kupp and Donald are pillars of this roster remodel

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

As dire as the Rams’ situation seems right now, they aren’t tearing it all down and starting over. Snead once again called it a “remodel” instead of a “rebuild,” in large part because they already have “weightbearing walls” in Safford, Kupp and Donald.

Those three players aren’t getting moved, though it’s hard to ignore the fact that he didn’t mention Ramsey’s name in that group.

“The reason I said remodel, not rebuild is a player like Matthew Stafford is, to me, in a rebuild, you would just bulldoze the house down and begin rebuilding from the ground up, but when you have someone like Matthew Stafford, players like Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, there’s some weightbearing walls there that we still have and we’re going to rely on those,” he said. “Don’t want to put pressure on them and at that point, remodel around them with maybe different teammates, different partners and then even ask some of the players who’ve been here, still here, to keep evolving and going in that direction.”

Rams will rely on younger, unproven players more in 2023

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Snead is well aware of the fact that the Rams will need to part ways with some of their more expensive veterans, even if those players have helped them win in past years. To counter those forecasted moves, they’ll try to have their younger and less experienced players step up to fill those voids.

That’s easier said than done, but Snead is confident it’ll work because the Rams have Sean McVay and Raheem Morris.

“Unfortunately, in our situation now, we’re going to have to move on from some veteran players,” Snead said. “And with that being said, going back to the weightbearing walls. We’re definitely going to rely on Sean, his coaching staff, even Raheem and his coaching staff. If we do make it harder on them and in terms of maybe having to play with new partners, younger or less experienced players. So, we have to continue relying on our scouts, coaching staff, even front office to listen to them, make the sound decisions, maximize the draft, coaching staff, athletic performance to help develop these players.”

Sean McVay is in for the long haul

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After McVay weighed retirement the last two offseasons, he decided to return and remain the Rams’ head coach. In Snead’s view, that’s a sign that McVay is in it for not only 2023, but the long-term picture.

“I definitely think Sean’s taken the right steps, took a step back, and definitely has an action plan,” he said. “I think when he sat down to determine whether he wanted to coach or not in 2023, it was more than just 2023. It was for, let’s call it a longer-term range. So I don’t think you’re going to see Sean each year determine whether he wants to coach or not. I do think there’s a possibility where every year you might hear his name in television based on if there’s a job opening there. But I don’t think that’s going to be Sean ignited. I think that’s just where he is in his stage of the career, how much those networks appreciate Sean, and maybe what they think he can do for them in a color role. So we might see that every year, but I don’t think you’re going to see Sean trying to determine whether he really wants to coach or not. I think he spent some time this year and figured that out.”

Rams are slowing down on the pick-for-player strategy

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The model of the Rams’ roster-building strategy has been to trade draft picks for proven veterans like Ramsey, Stafford, Brandin Cooks and Marcus Peters. That strategy is being put on pause this year, it seems.

Snead indicated the Rams will try to use those draft picks on rookies instead of trading them away for players who will cost a pretty penny on the salary cap. That will help the Rams get back on track financially, while hopefully still fielding a championship-caliber team.

“Well maybe in the past we’ve used draft capital to maybe go get a veteran player knowing that veteran player’s going to cost a certain amount, we could actually fit him under our cap situation,” he said. “So with that being said, in this situation, maybe you don’t use draft capital to get a veteran player, but instead you use the capital to draft let’s call it normal rookies. With that being said, again, rookies help in the cap situation based on the salary structures and also in an intentionality of when you do have a core layer of veterans who are getting into their prime and on the other side of the prime, you definitely want to be ready to replenish it. So that would be a good example of that and we’ve seen it. Stepping on the gas or pressing the gas or using the brakes a little bit more. I’m not saying one or the other is better. We’ve seen teams engineer their rosters in many different ways.”

Everyone is expected to be healthy for camp

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So many Rams players missed time last season due to injury, but it sounds like they’ll all be ready for the start of training camp. Snead couldn’t say with 100% certainty that everyone will be healthy by July, but that’s the impression he’s gotten right now.

That would include Donald (ankle), Kupp (ankle), Stafford (back), Ramsey (shoulder), Joe Noteboom (Achilles) and Robinson (foot).

“You might fact check me and I may eat my words, but the answer is yes for camp,” he said. “But I can say that we haven’t really sat down in the meeting and said, ‘Okay, this player might need to ease into camp.’ A lot of times that’s still to be determined based on how the between now and then goes.”

Teams have called Rams with trade interest in 9 players

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It’s been a busy offseason of answering phone for the Rams, which is often the case for a team with as much talent as they have. Snead counted nine players that the Rams have gotten trade calls about, opting not to name which ones teams have inquired about.

“Again, I’m not going to get into who we’ve actually taken calls about, but I can say this that we’ve probably taken calls on nine players,” he said. “I think I counted before this press conference, definitely discussed. Y’all can figure out the rumors of them. Usually it’s some of your better players.”

NFL combine is still very important to the Rams

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Neither Snead nor McVay attended the NFL combine this year, staying back home in Los Angeles and evaluating the incoming class of prospects from afar. Their absence doesn’t mean the Rams are ignoring the combine or treating it as unimportant.

They just feel that all things considered, it makes more sense for them to remain in L.A. and get other work done at their own offices rather than in Indianapolis.

“I do think that the combine is very useful and what you’ve seen with us and maybe some other teams is really who goes and why and the efficiency of it, of time spent, time traveling, maybe some dead time at the combine, and what can you do in the office?” he said. “So the combine is very important. We still use it. Again, it’s case by case and it’s very intentional. But you can also see where, like I said, these players are training for the combine and they’re probably setting records every year in some of the drills that are measured. So again, that can complicate things because maybe you’re comparing this player to a player four years ago and it doesn’t mean it translates on the football field, but wow, in Indianapolis on that day, he ran faster, did some drill very, very fast or jumped really, really high.”

Story originally appeared on Rams Wire