Leading up to, at the start of and after the new league year, the Rams have said goodbye to several veteran contributors.
The difficult departures were expected as part of their "disciplined" path forward for 2023 and beyond – an approach that will also likely see them rely on rookies and other young players for the first time in several seasons.
"I think when you have those conversations, as well as with (Vice President of Football and Business Administration) Tony (Pastoors) and (Chief Operating Officer) Kevin (Demoff), you kind of understand what's down the road," McVay said last week at the NFL Annual Meetings in Phoenix. "It's something that you got to have the necessary agility, but it is something that we knew was inevitable, and 'How do we really figure out how to have a more disciplined approach?' is the way that you look at it."
For Los Angeles, being agile meant trading star defensive back Jalen Ramsey, releasing linebackers Leonard Floyd and Bobby Wagner, and having several other impactful players from the past four seasons move on. While moving on from Ramsey, Floyd and Wagner impacts what they can do in 2023, it will make for a healthier cap situation in 2024.
Of course, this isn't the first time L.A. has made such moves – go back to the dead money hits from releasing Todd Gurley in 2020 and trading quarterback Jared Goff in 2021. The Rams finished 10-6 and made it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs in 2020, then won Super Bowl LVI in 2021 while managing the financial impact of those moves.
"We've always figured out different avenues to be able to acquire players or try to be able to create the most competitive roster that we possibly can," McVay said. "But it was something that we knew was coming down the pipe. And it's always challenging, because we talked about Jalen, but there's a lot of other great players that have been instrumental in a lot of good things that have gone on here that you're seeing sign with other teams, we're not able to resign them, or we're we're moving in a different direction, and those are tough conversations. But I think it's about reassessing, making sure that we do a great job with the players that we do onboard."
Having players on their rookie contracts – whether they be in their first season, second season, etc. – contribute has been done before.
In McVay's first season as head coach in 2017, the Rams got tight end Gerald Everett, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, safety John Johnson III, and wide receiver Josh Reynolds as part of that class. Everett had 16 catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns that year; Kupp 62 catches for 896 yards and five touchdowns; Johnson 11 passes defensed, 75 total tackles and one interception as he emerged as a starter; Reynolds 11 catches for 104 yards and one touchdown.
"There was a lot of guys from that (2017) draft that became foundational parts of what we did moving forward, and then you hit on the guys that you add and acquire," McVay said. "And so that's going to be the key thing for us, is (that) we got to hit those spots the right way, we got to be able to have a vision for the players that we are going to onboard, and then let's see how quickly they can develop to be the players that we want them to be."