How Von Miller trade to Rams impacts 49ers, NFC playoff chase

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How Miller trade to Rams impacts 49ers, NFC playoff chase originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Jimmie Ward probably just sent an "smh" text, and it doesn't have to do with his quad injury. The 49ers' safety, just like the rest of us, has to be wondering how the Los Angeles Rams keep doing this. 

And by this, we mean trading for superstars. 

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday morning that the Rams pulled off yet another blockbuster trade, acquiring outside linebacker Von Miller from the Denver Broncos for two picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

This, once again, is a big contrast to how the 49ers have conducted business. Yes, they swapped picks with the Miami Dolphins and sent them two future first-rounders for a big trade ahead of the 2021 draft. But that was to take a rookie QB in Trey Lance, who spent Sunday's game watching from the sidelines as San Francisco fought back to beat the Chicago Bears and their own rookie QB Justin Fields. 

By virtue of trades, the Rams now have recently acquired Miller, Jalen Ramsey and quarterback Matthew Stafford. They have won four straight games and at 7-1 are tied with the Arizona Cardinals atop the NFC West. 

Ahead of DeForest Buckner's return to Levi's Stadium for the 49ers' Week 7 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts, Ward wondered aloud how the Rams are able to bring such big names to their roster in a league with a salary cap. 

“Couldn’t keep everyone,” Ward said when asked about Buckner being traded to the Colts in March of 2020. “Well, maybe. I don’t know. Probably could have made it work somehow. The Rams keep doing it.

"I don’t know how. You know where they’re getting all this money from? But I don’t know. It’s the business side of it.” 

In this case, the 4-4 Broncos are paying $9 million of the $9.7 million remaining on Miller's contract. 

The point is, even if the Rams don't have another draft pick before the planet melts, they aren't scared one bit. They're going all-in, and, in most cases, it has worked pretty well for them.

The Rams were crowned NFC West champions in 2017 and 2018 and reached the Super Bowl in that '18 season. They disappointed in the 2019 season and failed to make the playoffs following their Super Bowl run, but again were back in the playoffs last season. But they weren't satisfied.

All the Rams did was upgrade from QB Jared Goff, who has eight touchdowns and six interceptions this season, to Stafford, who has 22 TDs and four interceptions so far in his first season under coach Sean McVay. 

While the 49ers wait for Lance's time to come and can't play rookies like Aaron Banks, Ambry Thomas, Trey Sermon and Deommodore Lenoir, the Rams have shoved all their chips to the center of the table and made the playoff race that much harder for the Niners and the rest of the NFC.

Miller was inactive for the Broncos' Week 8 game against the Washington Football Team as he recovers from an ankle injury. He's expected to be ready this Sunday when the Rams face the Tennessee Titans. 

Through seven games this season, Miller has 4.5 sacks, nine QB hits and seven tackles for loss. Even at 32 years old and removed from the same dominant player he once was, all Miller can do is help the Rams' defense. Despite missing all of last season, Miller has the most sacks in the NFL since he entered the league in 2011, bringing the QB down 110.5 times.

Following their 33-22 win over the Bears to snap a four-game losing streak, the 49ers now are 3-4 on the year. They sit as the No. 9 seed in the NFC, two places out of a playoff spot, and could be getting some help. 

Their upcoming Week 9 matchup against the NFC West-leading Cardinals figures to be a tough one on paper. However, star quarterback Kyler Murray could be out with an ankle injury. But then, the 49ers face Miller and the Rams the following week at Levi's Stadium. 

RELATED: Grades for 49ers' offense, defense in win over Bears

The 49ers haven't faced the Rams yet this season. They'll square up against each other in Week 10 in Santa Clara and then again in the regular-season finale at SoFi Stadium.

Miller last played against the 49ers in the regular season in Week 14 of the 2018 season. He had three tackles, one sack and three QB hits in the 49ers' 20-14 win. In two career games against the 49ers, Miller has three sacks and six QB hits. 

Once again, the Rams are stacking stars in Hollywood. Their latest mega-move isn't just to be the best in the West. It's to add a Super Bowl ring to Miller's résumé as they raise a certain other finger to the rest of the NFL.

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