Rams now seem years behind Seahawks, are 49ers next?
12 months ago, Rams were Super Bowl champs and Seattle traded Russell Wilson. What a league: Seaside Joe 1478
I know, time doesn’t seem to be moving at the same pace that it was running at prior to the pandemic. Consider that it’s been a year since “the slap” (though podcasts and talk shows seem to be covering it as if it just happened) and CODA winning Best Picture at the Oscars. The top movie at the box office was The Batman—even though it feels like that has been on HBO Max for at least three years.
The start of the baseball season was delayed because of a lockout. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was barely getting started. And there was no show yet called The Bear, which even if you’re like me and you haven’t seen it, haven’t we all been subject to this poster by now?
“Man, that is one stressed guy working in a kitchen!”
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I can’t even say if the point I’m making is that time is moving faster or slower than it used to run. It seems more like time simply doesn’t exist, if it ever even did. Will Smith’s slap seems like it could be a year ago, five years ago, or five days ago. I don’t quite know anymore.
But as the calendar claims, about a year ago the Los Angeles Rams were the defending Super Bowl champions and on March 31st, they added Bobby Wagner to that roster, two weeks after signing Allen Robinson. Roughly three weeks after the Seattle Seahawks released Wagner and traded Russell Wilson.
As of “now”, the Rams are coming off of a 5-12 season and they are the latest team to have released Wagner. Robinson’s departure is coming soon. And L.A. could go into the 2023 season with the worst roster in the NFL.
One of the most important tones that I want this Seahawks newsletter to maintain is that Seaside Joe doesn’t claim to know the future. As you can see, I barely have a grip on the past. This idea that anyone who covers the NFL (or any news, but we’ll stick to the topic at hand) can argue, “Well, this will happen! And then that will happen! Leading to those things!” is absurd and we’re wading through a steaming bog of it right now because it’s draft season.
“The Seahawks will draft a quarterback.” “Jalen Carter will fall in the draft.” “Anthony Richardson will learn how to throw a football through this:
To borrow a phrase from Chuck Turtleman in the comments section on Saturday…”Time will tell.” Even if time doesn’t seem to be telling the truth anymore.
Speaking of Saturday’s post: Get your votes in for grading the first week of free agency! We had a banner number of new signups and we might actually hit 2,000 subscribers before the draft!
So obviously if people were getting ahead of themselves and making predictions on the 2022 season based on the 2021 season, the Rams were much better than the Seahawks. Matthew Stafford vs. Geno Smith; Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd, and Wagner on a defense compared to Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, and Tariq Who-len?; the NFL’s youngest coach vs the NFL’s ageless coach; the reigning Offensive Player of the Year at wide receiver vs. the first pair of starting rookie tackles since the invention of calendars.
I don’t like making too many predictions because yeah, time will tell…and time told a cautionary tale to Sean McVay, nearly forcing him to retire before Pete Carroll.
This article is not so much to say that the Seahawks will be much better than the Rams. This is to say that if the Seahawks are not much better than the Rams, then they will have made some huge missteps with their many advantages through a week of free agency, going into a draft with by far the most capital in the division, and going into next season with a much more experienced and proven roster than an L.A. team that will The Bear little resemblence to the one that won the Super Bowl 13 months ago.
L.A.’s fall from the top of the NFL has been a true slap to the face.
2023 Los Angeles Rams
For those of you unaware, let’s cover some of the key players from the 2021 Rams (the team that went 12-5 and won the Super Bowl) who left after that season: LT Andrew Whitworth, OLB Von Miller, WR Odell Beckham, Jr., WR Robert Woods, CB Darious Williams, DT Sebastian Joseph-Day, G Austin Corbett, RB Sony Michel, OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, P Johnny Hekker, and offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell.
Now these are players from the 2021 Rams who are now gone after the 2022 season: OLB Leonard Floyd, CB Jalen Ramsey, K Matt Gay, RB Darrell Henderson, DT Greg Gaines, S Nick Scott; and those these names haven’t officially left yet, they likely will be gone soon: S Taylor Rapp, DT A’Shawn Robinson, G David Edwards
2021 Rams starters who are officially still on the roster: QB Matthew Stafford, WR Cooper Kupp, RB Cam Akers, WR Van Jefferson, TE Tyler Higbee, RT Rob Havenstein, C Brian Allen, DT Aaron Donald, S Jordan Fuller, OT Joe Noteboom, LB Ernest Jones
I would be surprised if Akers, Jefferson, and Fuller are a part of the plan in 2023. They have not been good. Havenstein is getting to the end of his career. Higbee might be in the same boat. Jones was disappointing. Noteboom was injured, which is common for him.
It leaves a really pressing question for the Rams that nobody seems willing to face: What the hell are Stafford, Kupp, and Donald doing there anymore?
Donald is the only good or even experienced player on defense and he might only have a couple of seasons left, if he chooses to keep playing. Stafford was struggling to throw the football last training camp, sitting out most practices, and then L.A. couldn’t do enough to protect him with the most injured offensive line in the NFL. The line doesn’t appear to be any better now. Could the Rams really force him out there again or will Stafford try to file an injunction before that happens?
I don’t know what an injunction is, just a legal term, but it sounds within his rights.
The Rams currently seem to have one of the three worst rosters in the NFL and little ability to recover. They have made no moves in free agency. They have traded Ramsey to the Dolphins for the best offer that they could get, which wasn’t much because Ramsey wanted a lot of guaranteed money from his next team. They can’t trade Stafford or Donald without a massive financial penalty.
But they also can’t hope to draft Jalen Carter or Will Anderson or Anthony Richardson because the Rams traded their first round pick (sixth overall) to the Lions for Stafford. L.A.’s first pick is 36th overall, followed by 69 and 77, and then not again until the end of the fifth round.
By all accounts, it seems the Rams are strapping in for a season that could result in a top-three pick and maybe a new franchise quarterback in the 2024 draft. How the team will prepare to support that project player is anybody’s guess.
The Seahawks will make two picks (5, 20) before the Rams make one (36), then Seattle will pick two more times (37, 52) before L.A.’s second (69). The Seahawks are set to make eight picks before the Rams make their fourth (167).
And if we had to pick either of these teams that is desperate to make draft picks, it’s by far the Rams.
Prior to sweeping the L.A. Rams in 2022 (against John Wolford and Baker Mayfield), McVay had given Pete extraordinary trouble in their head-to-head meetings. With Aaron Donald and McVay, the Rams went 8-3 against the Seahawks. I hate to make predictions, but anything other than a sweep over the Rams in 2023 should be disappointing.
As for the other teams in the NFC West, we know what the Arizona Cardinals are—coming off of 4-13, another re-set, another new head coach (Jonathan Gannon, former Eagles defensive coordinator), Kyler Murray probably starts season on PUP, DeAndre Hopkins on verge of a trade, it’s the Cardinals—and Seattle damn well better feel that they can beat Arizona next season.
But the Seahawks know that the San Francisco 49ers held their heads under the water for most of the 12 quarters between the two teams last season and are still the NFC West foe to beat.
The 49ers have replaced defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans with Steve Wilks. They’ve lost a few players, but added defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, one of the top-five free agents of 2023. It’s going to take a much better effort by Geno Smith and Shane Waldron’s offense next season to score enough points to compete with San Francisco in their next two meetings. Though the 49ers still don’t know who their quarterback is going to be—Brock Purdy (recovering from elbow surgery), Trey Lance (recovering from a season-ending ankle injury), and Sam Darnold (recovering from being Sam Darnold)—that didn’t much matter with Christian McCaffrey against Seattle’s run defense.
However, the Seahawks still have an opportunity—even if they aren’t as good as the 49ers next season—to get a huge advantage in the near future. The 49ers received an incredible seven compensatory picks this year, but still don’t make their first selection until 99th overall. The Seahawks will pick five times before them.
And though the 49ers have a talented roster now they have some major cap considerations ahead: San Francisco has $232.9 million in liabilities for 2024 already, with Nick Bosa, Brandon Aiyuk, and Javon Kinlaw among next year’s free agent crop. The Seahawks only have $187.8 million in liabilities for 2024 and savvy, quality drafting could allow the team to save even more headed into their next round of free agent decisions.
I’m not ready to say that Seattle is on the cusp of winning the Super Bowl next season. I am comfortable saying that anything less than getting that sense a year from now—that the Seahawks could win the following Super Bowl—would be a disappointment given all that’s at their disposal.
Then again, who knows what we’ll be thinking a year from now. Or when a year from now even is.
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