This offseason the Rams find themselves in a precarious position; scant cap room, no first round pick yet again, and an increasingly shallow depth chart. Les Snead has earned the reputation of being one of the NFL’s best general managers and for good reason.
Lately, Snead has taken heat for trading away first-round draft picks and signing outsized deals to lock down important assets. Despite this recent heat, Snead has added several key pieces in his time as Rams GM. Here are a few of the best free agency moves Les Snead has made during his entire tenure.
The Best Free Agency Moves Les Snead Has Made As GM Of The Rams
Signing Robert Woods
Like many offensive weapons, Woods was languishing in Buffalo, never reaching his full potential. His peak year was 2014 when he caught 65 passes for 699 yards and five touchdowns. In 2015 he suffered a season-ending groin injury and in 2016 he missed two games with a knee injury. So it is no wonder how the Rams scooped him up free agency in 2017.
At the time, the five-year, $39 million deal, seemed outsized for his production, but after arriving in LA, Woods was able to rise past expectations. In the last two seasons, he has been healthy and putting up great numbers. He was 13th in the league in receiving yards in 2018 and 16th in 2019. Compared to other receivers that make a similar amount, he is out-performing them. He is also out-performing receivers who make much more, such as Stefon Diggs and his recently traded former teammate Brandin Cooks.
The best news for the Rams is that Woods isn’t a free agent until 2022. With the absence of Cooks, Woods will get more looks and will have an even more productive season.
Resigning Greg Zuerlein (2017)
Les Snead drafted Zuerlein in Snead’s first draft as Rams GM in 2012. The Lincoln, Nebraska native was taken 171st overall. He proved to be reliable during his rookie deal by making all but two of his PAT’s and hitting 87.5% of his field goals under 50 yards under that contract. Snead liked him so much that they have re-signed him twice, once after his rookie contract in 2016 to a one-year, $1.25 million deal and again in 2017 to a three-year $6.75 million deal.
In what can only be seen as a cap saving move, Snead has decided to move on from Zuerlein. Zuerlein signed a three-year, $7.5 million deal with the Cowboys.
It isn’t unusual for a team to take a good kicker for granted, but Zuerlein will be tough to replace. Snead noted Zuerlein’s prowess in a recent conference call with reporters, saying “[we are]…in the process of hopefully finding someone similar to Greg- and by similar I mean someone that can be around a long time because with Greg, he had some superpowers. His ability to kick from 50-plus was a superpower that you can’t put that on just anyone.”
He leaves the Rams as their second all-time scorer and the most accurate field goal kicker in Rams’ history.
Signing Andrew Whitworth And John Sullivan
Going into the 2017 season, Les Snead had one primary objective; protect his number one overall draft pick, Jared Goff. How did he achieve that? He signed two of the best free-agent o-linemen available. And how important is protecting Jared Goff? Just look at his performance with and without these two guys blocking for him.
According to Nextgen stats, in 2016 Goff had 2.54 seconds to throw, but in 2017 and 2018 he had over 2.9 seconds. And what does Jared Goff do with less time to throw? He throws interceptions. Soul-crushing, game-costing interceptions.
The Whitworth and Sullivan signings took the Rams from a 30th ranked offensive line to a top-ranked line and Jared Goff just might need an elite line to excel. Les Snead let Sullivan walk last season, but retained Whitworth this year for another three seasons.
Although Sullivan hasn’t officially retired, it doesn’t look like he will be the Rams answer this time around. Perhaps Snead can find a draft prospect to lift the line up this time around.
Not Resigning Dante Fowler
Fowler is good, but a player like Fowler is worth a lot more to a team like Atlanta. Les Sneads ability to see that is huge. Fowler’s absences will not go unfelt, but his departure allows for some young (and cheap) talent to step up. Samson Ebukam has been itching to be a starter and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is the prospect that had an elite college career but is still trying to break out at the next level.
The addition of Leonard Floyd may garner similar results as with Fowler. With the Jaguars, Fowler did not live up to his potential as a third overall draft pick, but in his first full season with the Rams, Fowler posted career-high sack and tackle totals. Floyd was drafted ninth overall and hasn’t yet looked like first-round talent. A change of scenery and a chance to work with veterans like Aaron Donald and Michael Brokers may be just what he needs to flourish.
Fowler signed a three-year $45 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons, coming off his rookie contract of four years, for $23.5 million.
Resigning Michael Brockers
For all intents and purposes, Brockers was a Raven. But, due to coronavirus travel restrictions, he was unable to meet with team doctors for a comprehensive look at Brockers’ past injuries, and Baltimore pulled its three-year, $30 million deal. Brockers instead, re-signed with the Rams for $24 million over three years.
Brockers has been a Ram from the start and he was, in fact, Les Snead’s very first draft pick as Rams GM. So the bond between Snead, Brockers, and the Rams runs deep, but the team would require some sacrifice from Brockers. The willingness to take a Rams friendly pay cut seems to come out of the bottom of Brockers heart.
“When the opportunity came up and the opportunity to go to the Rams came back, it was like heaven,” he said during a video conference with reporters.
The joy seems to come more specifically with the deep bond that he and Aaron Donald have forged over the time they have played together. “That’s my brother,” Brockers said to The Baltimore Sun. “What we’ve built over these six years has been special. For me to sit back and tell my kids that I played with one of the greatest three-techs that ever played football is going to be awesome.”
Donald expressed his displeasure with Brockers departure on social media and had shunned Sean McVay, giving him a good ole’ dose of the silent treatment.
It would be worth it to bring Brockers back even if it’s just to appease the team’s best player, but it’s lucky that Brockers is still playing at a high level.