The swift fall from grace in the National Football League can bite anyone, it seems. Nearly no team is immune to a rapidly shifting turnaround in regards to success. The Jacksonville Jaguars, for example, were a mere few plays away from seeing their first Superbowl appearance in 2017, and have seen their ‘lightning in a bottle’ success disappear rapidly ever since. Many expert analysts suggest that the same fate seems to be approaching for the LA Rams.
The fantastic 2018 regular season, with a 13-3 win/loss record, culminated in a crushing Superbowl loss for the LA Rams, who had reached the NFC championship game the year prior in 2017. All signs seemed to be pointing to the Rams front office going all-in on taking advantage of this window of success, and the Rams entered the 2019 NFL season as heavy Superbowl favorites. Unfortunately, it is all too common in the NFL that teams who lose in the Superbowl, are very unlikely to make a repeat appearance the following year.
The 2019 season started off well. The Rams began the season 3-0 with victories over the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints, and the Cleveland Browns. However, things quickly became tumultuous for the once favored west coast team. Losing 3/5 of their following match-ups lead to the team sitting at 5-3 in an already competitive NFC West division.
In a division competing against the stout San Francisco 49ers defense, and the wildly explosive Seattle Seahawks offense, the LA Rams find themselves on the outside looking in as of week 13 sitting at 3rd place in the division. Things have become so bleak, in fact, that even NFL Podcasters on WSN.com Adam Forsyth and Ryan Sullivan, AKA The Green Men, predicted the Rams to lose to the 3-7-1 Arizona Cardinals in week 13.
Despite this, the Rams pulled off a victory and, for now at least, they aren’t done fighting just yet. In fact, the door has surprisingly not been closed completely on the Rams playoff hopes. According to Sports Illustrated, the Rams still have a 21% chance to make the playoffs as of right now.
Unfortunately, just because the window is still statistically open, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t closing rapidly. In the NFL, each team has to deal with the ever looming salary cap. Each team will have to juggle the salaries of players, and the league limit on spending, in order to achieve the best balance.
In a league filled with superstars, it can become increasingly difficult to pay your best players the amount they are asking for, and stay within your cap. This is the danger that the LA Rams face moving into the 2020 season. The Rams, it seems, have written quite a big check in hopes of reaching the Lombardi Trophy. A check that is on the verge of being cashed.
Going into the 2020 season, the Rams currently lead the NFL with $108.75 in cap spending allocated to only 5 players. As of right now, the Rams have the bulk of their salary cap tied up in contracts for the following players:
Jalen Ramsey, CB = 13.7 Million. Brandin Cooks, WR = $16.8 Million. Todd Gurley II, RB = $17.25 Million. Aaron Donald, DT = $25 Million. Jared Goff, QB = $36 Million.
Even if the Rams management office decided to extend Ramsey, their 5th highest paid prospect, and reduce his 2020 cap impact, they would still likely end up with a 2020 cap hit of around $103 Million. That would still put them at the top of the league in spending. This leaves the struggling Rams with just and estimated $91 Million dollars to pay the remaining 48 players.
Simply put, that’s not a lot of money if you want to keep your talent in town. This poses a very challenging future task for the Rams front office, and how they can maintain their superstars on payroll, while adding key components to the team and remain competitive.
Following the 2018 season Superbowl loss, the Rams went all-in on their team in a push to go all the way to the Lombardi Trophy. However, it seems like that gamble may not have paid off. As it stands right now, the LA Rams will need to play their best Football ever, while simultaneously seeing a healthy amount of luck come their way in order to reach the top of the NFL mountain this season.
If they fail, they could be seeing themselves in a world of financial trouble come next season. The playoff hope, and subsequently Superbowl aspiration, for the LA Rams is still statistically alive. However, they will need to hope and pray for lightning to strike twice.