Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


NFC West: Why the Los Angeles Rams’ window of winning may be larger than you think

Sequoia Sims
Apr 4, 2018 at 9:29 PM


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There's a narrative that's been floating around that the Los Angeles Rams are in win-now mode and have only a one-to-two-year window of winning or being highly competitive. That narrative might not be completely true, and I'll attempt to explain why.


Recently, I wrote an article on the 49ers Webzone titled: Are the Los Angeles Rams sending a competitive message to the 49ers? Recently, the Los Angeles Rams traded for former New England Patriots' wide receiver Brandin Cooks. The Rams expect Cooks to be their deep threat in 2018, replacing former Rams' deep threat wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

The Rams are expected to try and work out a contract extension with Cooks, who's under a fifth-year option worth roughly $8.5 million. The Rams still have to find ways to fit Cooks' salary under the 2018 cap, but you have to figure they wouldn't have made the trade if they couldn't get creative with dollars and cents.

The narratives that have been surfacing


How are the Rams trading for all these big name players? Do the Rams have the cap space to make all these trades work or to be sustainable long-term? The Rams don't have any draft capital left to replenish what they have lost already, do they?

The Rams only have a one- or two-year window to be competitive right? Hold those thoughts and allow me to paint a better picture of the Rams' short-term to long-term plan.

Building through the draft at a glance


The Rams have their franchise quarterback already in place in Jared Goff (heading into his third year), a franchise running back in Todd Gurley (heading into his fourth year), and a starting slot receiver Cooper Kupp (heading into his second year), tight end Gerald Everett (taken in the second round in 2017 and heading into his second season).

They have starting strong safety John Johnson (third round pick, heading into his second year), wide receiver Josh Reynolds (6-foot-3 and 198 pounds, a fourth-round pick, red zone threat who started one game and is heading into his second season), and 3-4 edge rusher Samson Ebukam (a 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, fourth-round pick, expected starter in 2018, who started two games and posted two sacks in 2017).

As well as wide receiver Pharoh Cooper (heading into his third season, made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team as a return-specialist), and starting tight end Tyler Higbee (taken in the fourth round in 2016, and heading into his third season).

Did I mention all the players named above are under 25 years old?

As for All-Pro defensive tackle and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, he's up for a big payday, and won't turn 27 years young until May. Donald is regarded and well recognized as the best at his position and most disruptive defensive player in the NFL. The Rams and Donald are expected to come to an agreement on a contract extension in the near future.

Hitting in free agency


Rams wide receiver Robert Woods' contract of five years and $34 million looks like one of the better bargains of 2017 for a number two wideout (56 catches for 781 yards at 13.9 per catch and seven total touchdowns, two from rushing, in 11 starts).

Woods caught 66 percent of his passes and is only 25 years old.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth signed a free agent deal worth $33.75 million over three years and at 36 years young, helps provide the kind of protection that made Goff one of the least sacked (just 25 times) quarterbacks in the NFL last season.

Look for the Rams to address tackle at some point in the draft; center John Sullivan, who recently re-signed with the team for two years, worth $15 million. Sullivan, at 32 years of age, started 15 games in 2017 and provided security protection for Goff, as well as opening up holes for MVP candidate Gurley.

Looking at the Rams' draft capital over the next two years


In the 2018 NFL Draft, the Rams have eight picks between rounds three and six (three fourth-round picks). In 2019, the Rams have six of their own draft picks after trading a future second-round pick in 2019, in the Marcus Peters trade.

However, as it stands now, they are on course to pick up two third-round compensatory picks in 2019, which can now be traded.

The Rams have the draft capital over the next couple years and beyond to replace or add to their depth, or restock potential lost starters down the line.

The Rams cap situation


The Rams have a projected $90 million in cap space in 2019 and $159 million in 2020 (according to OverTheCap.com). The Rams have the necessary cap space to lock down their core players for the next few years, as they see fit.

Why the Los Angeles Rams' window of winning may be larger than you think


The Rams don't need to extend Gurley this year as the team can pick up his fifth-year option in 2019; this will buy them time on an extension. The Rams have plenty of time to extend Goff to a long term-deal based on him just heading into his third year. The Rams could wait two more years if they so choose to, and have the franchise tag at their disposal.

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is really a one-year rental, and he's expected to take a fair-market deal in 2019, if his production and personality warrant a return. If he doesn't and elects to leave for a larger payday in free agency come 2019, the Rams could get a compensatory pick for losing him.

Cornerback Aqib Talib comes off the books in two years and in 2019, his salary dips from $11 million to $8 million.

As previously mentioned, the Rams have quality depth that they're grooming behind Talib and Peters. They can rent Peters' services over the next two years with a fifth-year option before considering an extension for him (quality depth like cornerback Kevin Peterson who intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo twice and is an exclusive restricted free agent in 2019).

In closing, the Rams have the ammunition needed to sustain a winning/highly competitive culture (assuming they stay relatively healthy in their core players), longer than the two-year window "narrative" would suggest.

Recent Niners Live article alerts: How Adrian Colbert will Punish WR Brandin Cooks with Extreme Violence.

What should the 49ers do to counter (2018 NFL Draft: No Pass-Rusher, "No Rings") the Rams? Stay the course and continue to build through the draft, extend their young, talented players sooner than later, and continue to make player development a priority.

Sequoia Sims: Founder of Niners Live, Content Creator, player breakdown specialist, and Senior Author. The home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, and different perspective, of course.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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