PHOENIX – What was alluded to back in January became formally public last Friday when it comes to the Rams' intentions for 2023 and beyond.
Take the foot off the gas some in 2023 for a healthier cap situation in 2024 and beyond.
"I do know this, (Chief Operating Officer) Kevin (Demoff) did a brilliant job articulating it," Snead told theRams.com Monday at the annual league meeting, referring to Demoff's letter sent to Season Ticket Members (STMs) on Friday. "We can never be that eloquent. But all the variables he mentioned in the letter is what we've been discussing, not necessarily for 2023 but 2024 and beyond. We knew we were going to have to, at some point, engineer a healthier, more sustainable cap situation so that we could take advantage of opportunities in the future. But at some point, right, you have to take a step back to take two steps forward, and that's a little bit what we're doing in terms of the cap situation."
In that letter to STMs, Demoff explained that the franchise effectively faced two choices this offseason. They could either restructure contracts to give themselves another shot with the core of their roster – but that would necessitate a "total rebuild" over the next few seasons – or focus on restocking their draft capital and creating a healthier long-term cap situation, which would help them compete in 2023 and beyond.
Ultimately, Los Angeles chose the latter, which paved the way for some difficult decisions. It released outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and linebacker Bobby Wagner, then traded Jalen Ramsey to the Miami Dolphins for tight end Hunter Long and a 2023 third-round pick (No. 77 overall). More contributors have departed since the start of free agency March 15.
"I told some of our beat (writers) today, when they're like, 'Oh, well, kind of a reset year,'" Pastoors told theRams.com on Monday. "I was like, maybe I missed it, when was the last time we were heavily involved in free agency? This is pretty normal for us. I know (general manager) Les (Snead) probably shared, look at the last four years, we probably lead the NFL in comp picks. And a lot of – whether it was Matthew (Stafford), Aaron (Donald), Cooper (Kupp), those deals got done last year, but really those deals were for '23 and beyond, right? All of them had time left on current deals. Obviously coming off a Super Bowl, we did some things out of the ordinary for them, but those were basically, had we not done them, we'd be staring at them right now, so we actually got ahead of things, full-knowing what was ahead '23, '24, '25."
The Rams' lack of involvement in free agency isn't a total surprise – Snead said that historically, during the unrestricted period, they've tried to take advantage of the compensatory pick formula, so they've never really been active in free agency.
And though those moves mean the Rams may be taking on a little more dead money then they've had previously, Pastoors said it will clear up space next year to get them back to where they want to be and give them the flexibility they have always had. Demoff wrote in that letter that the Rams are currently projected to have more than $60 million in projected cap space in 2024.
Meanwhile, factoring in the pick acquired from the Dolphins, the Rams currently have 11 total draft picks to work with in this year's draft, and "nearly all" of their 2024 draft picks.
"Right now is the process of it," Snead said. "And with that, we're engaged in the draft preparation process, which is a big part, and will be a big part of the next two years. We have 11 draft picks this year, (and) in next year's draft, we expect to get four comp picks again. Again, they're gonna be later with all the unrestricted (free agents) that we lost, but we also gain a first rounder and expect to have 11 picks. So what we've said is, over the next two years, we have 22-plus picks to begin the remodel, the retool, our chapter three."
The projected cap flexibility will give the Rams the chance to be active in free agency next year – though that doesn't necessarily guarantee they will – and, depending on how the season goes, also potentially reinvest in their homegrown talent and young players who emerge.
"We could spend in free agency, (but) that doesn't mean we're suddenly going to," Pastoors said of that projected cap space. "Now I think it gives us a little bit of flexibility to look internally and see if we can get ahead on some of these deals with some of our other guys. We've just been riding it so tight for so long that you actually haven't had the flexibility to really retain too many of our own. I think it gives us some of that flexibility."
In conversations with Pastoors, Demoff and Snead, Rams head coach Sean McVay said "you understood what was coming down the road," the importance of having that necessary agility and that a more disciplined approach was inevitable.
The Rams have previously been able to figure out different avenues to construct a competitive team. They've also successfully relied on rookies and young players before – look no further than the 2017 class with wide receiver Cooper Kupp, former Rams safety John Johnson III and former Rams tight end Gerald Everett.
Now, it's about having a vision for the players they onboard this year and seeing how they develop.
"A disciplined approach is something that we knew we were gonna have to do," McVay said. "And never easy, but but we're excited about figuring out the right way."