The 2018/19 season was the closest Los Angeles will get to the Year of the Ram. The Rams roster was absolutely stacked. It’s one of the most impressive accumulations of talent we’ve witnessed in the salary cap era. Now though, as Kenneth Arthur points out in his excellent post Super Bowl article, Los Angeles is confronted with some difficult cap decisions.
They also face the challenge of precedent. New England’s victory was only the third time in NFL history that a team has won a Super Bowl just one year after losing the big game. The time before that came 46 years ago, when the Dolphins beat Washington in Super Bowl VII to avenge their 1972 defeat in Super Bowl VI. Super Bowl VI was the first instance of a team getting immediate retribution, after the Cowboys made up for their loss in Super Bowl V.
Arthur touched on the biggest question the Rams face in the future; Jared Goff.
“The Rams have one more season of Goff on his rookie deal and then they have to pick up his costly fifth-year option and likely an extension that could pay him $30-35 million annually at which point the “cheap years” of a “franchise QB” are over.”
The quarterback, who had a Super Bowl full of bad reads and jittery play, is what made this year L.A.’s best chance. Once a quarterback gets paid, a team finds it increasingly difficult to win a Super Bowl.
As Steven Ruiz highlights; only four quarterbacks since the implementation of the salary cap before the 1994 season have ever won a Super Bowl while accounting for at least 11% of their team’s cap room: Steve Young, Peyton Manning (twice, once because of an elite defense), Tom Brady (twice) and Eli Manning. Young’s victory came in the first season of the salary cap and is the record for the highest cap hit percentage at 13.1%.
Similar trends apply to the championship games. Based on the research of Tom Mead at Inside the Pylon, in the last 15 seasons just nine of the 51 starting quarterbacks in the championship games were paid more than 12% of the salary cap.
Goff’s cap hit for the 2018 season was his highest so far. Yet it was still a paltry 4.3%. His 2019 cap hit of 4.7% gives the Rams all-in room, but Los Angeles must now deal with major free agents and an offensive line—key to Sean McVay’s offensive approach—that is a geriatric to the point of requiring serious draft investment.
The Rams’ front office is projected to receive three compensatory picks, thanks to their smart maneuvering. This will give them something like picks in rounds one, three (x2), four, give, six and seven in the 2019 draft. In the 2020 offseason they are likely to receive additional comp picks but still, they must now plan further ahead than solely 2019.
Goff’s fifth-year option will likely be picked up next offseason, which will place him above the 11% mark. (Andrew Luck’s option saw him account for 11.9% of the Colts’ cap.) Then things get truly terrifying for Los Angeles. Do they pay Jared Goff? Asides from the fact that this would initially take him right into even more dangerous cap percentage territory, it would assume that Goff is a superstar.
It’s conventional thinking among NFL decision makers that if your quarterback has been productive in the league, you pay him. It’s how Kirk Cousins was paid; it’s how Joe Flacco made bank; it’s how teams reach quarterback purgatory.
As Kevin Clark of The Ringer wrote, 2018 saw “too many quarterbacks being paid like superstars.” The six highest-paid quarterbacks in 2018 by average salary missed the playoffs—Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr.
I’ve long believed Goff isn’t it. Yes, he had a productive year and made some gorgeous throws. However, even in a successful year, he still showed some of the hideous traits that will seemingly always plague his game. McVay just managed to hide them and scheme around them. Then Bill Belichick stopped McVay’s babysitting:
The Patriots' strategy: make Goff think on the fly. They did it by essentially sending in two defensive calls each play, and shifting the look after Goff's helmet radio shut off. @AlbertBreer digs deep into NE's Super Bowl win: https://t.co/0yQjg2TuqK pic.twitter.com/nyGz7B1Dby— The MMQB (@theMMQB) February 4, 2019
This isn’t some rash, reactionary take from me:
What if the Rams never pay a quarterback and instead surround them with playmakers and McVay's coaching?— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) April 3, 2018
Just discovered via @MichaelKistNFL that Jared Goff is 46.8% in completion % under pressure. That ranks 24th in the NFL (PFF 20% of snaps min)— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) October 31, 2018
My opinions on Goff remain. I hope McVay is bold enough to never pay a QB, instead churning through and surrounding QB with elite talent
It made me very confident in this fourth quarter Super Bowl proclamation:
So Jared Goff must lead his team to a touchdown against a disguised defense he's looked awful against all game?— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) February 4, 2019
Yeah, game over.
That bad huh?:
jared goff career postseason numbers (4 games so far) pic.twitter.com/Y8Yiqbafk2— charles mcdonald (lakers 27-25) (@FourVerts) February 4, 2019
The Rams have 2019-2020, a year where the front office will have to think ahead more, and then they too could be sucked into the mediocrity vortex—far away from any Super Bowl victory, or even appearance.