Les Snead has gained an understanding of risk during his tenure as Rams general manager.
Snead was the one who spent the first overall pick on Jared Goff and signed Todd Gurley to a lucrative extension. There were also trades of first-round picks for Jalen Ramsey and Brandin Cooks. And earlier this offseason, Snead made his latest big move when he traded Goff and a collection of picks for Matthew Stafford.
Risk is necessary to improve in any field, and Snead isn’t afraid to take a chance when he deems it necessary to keep the Rams competitive in the ever-changing NFL. Though all of his risks haven’t panned out, Snead’s most recent leap of faith wasn’t an independent decision — it came from the results of his original bet on Goff. And it just might have the Rams in their best position yet.
“We’re gonna always tilt toward, hey, what do we think is best to do roster-wise to help us stay ahead of the curve, help us sharpen our edge, keep our enemies guessing or on their heels if we possibly can?” Snead explained in an interview with The Athletic. “That’s what we try to do. If we think it can help us on Sunday afternoons both in the short and long term, we’re gonna try to do it. It’s all a bet. Not every bet is going to work out. We certainly feel like some of the bigger bets have a relatively good chance of working out or we wouldn’t make them.
“Jared did a lot for us to even get to the point to go, ‘Wow, Matt Stafford’s available and where we’re at, right now in the present, probably over the next four to five years, Matt Stafford could elevate us at that position based on experience that maybe Jared couldn’t.’ Not saying Jared can’t get there. But that opportunity just doesn’t come, and sometimes, I call it, you have to make a surgical, surgeon-like decision that’s … It may be unemotional, right, what we think at this point is best for the Rams not only in 2021, but ’22, ’23, ’24.”
The acquisition of Stafford required Snead to admit that the first-round pick on Goff, which helped the Rams reach a Super Bowl, didn’t have Los Angeles poised to reach its full potential. That meant Snead had to concede that the 2016 first overall pick wasn’t entirely a slam dunk of a selection, but considering the next quarterback taken, Carson Wentz, was also traded this offseason, Snead wasn’t alone in that regard.
Where he was alone, though, was in a perfect spot to upgrade at the position and firmly plant the Rams in a title-contending window that some might see as having a length of a few years. Snead believes recent trends could extend such a window well beyond that mark.
“I don’t think we did it thinking two years,” Snead said. “Based on (Stafford’s) age, you can legitimately think five to seven, eight years if you look at what Drew (Brees) has done. I don’t feel like we’re going to get into Tom Brady, right? With quarterbacks of his pedigree, a lot of those guys have played, right, into their late 30s, for sure. So that was definitely the vision with (Stafford).”
Such a belief had to be a requirement to make such a deal, especially considering the Rams were getting older at the position by shipping the 26-year-old Goff to Detroit for the 33-year-old Stafford. A deal of this magnitude only happens if the team moving a mid-20s signal-caller is getting an instant upgrade, not a pick to be spent on a player in need of years of development.
Snead undoubtedly had to be affected by what he witnessed in 2020. Defensive coordinator (and new Chargers head coach) Brandon Staley had helped lead the Rams to a No. 1 ranking in total defense, and Los Angeles wasn’t holding up its end on the other side of the ball. With superstars like Ramsey and Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald — who at 29 years old doesn’t exactly have another decade of his prime left in him — currently on the roster, the time was now to upgrade and make a full commitment to the present.
Goff’s inclusion helped make such an upgrade possible. Instead of sending a trove of picks to Detroit and sending them into a full rebuild without a replacement, Goff helped sweeten the deal by at the very least providing the Lions with a bridge quarterback, if not more.
“To do a move of that magnitude involving quarterbacks, specifically involving Jared, there definitely needed to be a Matthew Stafford on the other end,” Snead said. “We were not going to be stronger by moving Jared for a draft pick, per se. That wasn’t the case, and I think it did take someone of Matt Stafford’s pedigree, ability, experience, all those things, skillset to make that move.
“What’s very interesting, I do think having someone like Jared along with the draft picks helped us win the deal, per se, or helped Detroit say, ‘We like the Rams’ deal better than others’ because there was a young, bridge quarterback on the other end of the deal, not necessarily totally going into the rebuild and what we call a QB abyss, right?”
The Detroit-Los Angeles deal was rare in that it could be seen as a mutually productive agreement in which each side could be painted as a winner, with much different timelines serving as the primary factor. The clock starts ticking on the Rams now, though, with Stafford in town and ready to elevate Los Angeles to elite status. We’ll learn this fall whether Snead’s risk was worth it.
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