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5 takeaways from Les Snead’s NFL Combine press conference

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By: Blaine Grisak

Rams general manager Les Snead provides some insight into Kevin Dotson and how they’ll approach the draft

The Los Angeles Rams may not be at the NFL Combine, but general manager Les Snead still spoke to the media on Wednesday as the offseason is set to officially begin. Snead and the Rams enter an important offseason with a lot of resources. How they use those resources will be imperative to taking that next step after a promising 2023. Here are five takeaways from Snead’s press conference.

1. Coleman Shelton and Kevin Dotson will test the market

Two of the more important players that the Rams have that are set to his unrestricted free agency are Coleman Shelton and Kevin Dotson. While the Rams have been in communication with the players’ camps, it’s unlikely that either deal gets done before free agency opens. Said Snead,

“We’re in constant communication with Coleman and his rep. He had a void and he wanted to take the void. At that point, let’s begin the next contract for him. To help figure out the market is, go to the marketplace. Sometimes you have to be patient in this process which I do think is healthy and productive for both sides. When you go to the market, it’s 31 other teams involved and you can usually come up with a win-win.”

Added Snead on Dotson, “To find his real market, the reality of his market, it’s probably going to go into the window at minimum. You can’t microwave free agency.”

This approach shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Snead said much of the same back in January following the Rams’ season. The Rams likely have a number in mind when it comes to both Shelton and Dotson. They’ll allow both players to hit the free agency period and find their value from other teams. If the Rams can beat or match that price, they will. However, Snead is very disciplined in this sense and won’t overpay just to keep a player on the roster.

2. Snead gives insight to Rams’ approach at 19

For the first time since the 2016 NFL Draft, the Rams should be picking in the first round. As it stands, their first picks comes at 19th overall. It will be interesting to see how the Rams approach that pick and Snead gave some insight into that on Wednesday,

“As we continue going through this process of understanding the draft, who fits, who might be around us, that’s when you get into ‘hey at 19 is there an opportunity to move up for a specific player. If you do that, you’re giving up some picks behind you. And then there’s the trade off of moving back. What are we getting in return? And is it worth not picking at 19? Usually in these cases we may have a pod of players. ‘If one of those players get there, kind of like a dream 19 pick’. Then there’s gonna be I call it a ‘more realistic pod at 19’. Usually you get there and you usually figure out how many left are there on the board. Everybody’s stack is different, everybody’s board is different. But you’re probably talking about good football players.”

The Rams sit in a weird portion of the first round. They aren’t high enough to get a “blue chip” caliber player. Instead, they are right at the beginning of that next tier and where players with second-round grades begin to enter the conversation. Snead and the Rams will have a plan and trade scenarios in mind. Of course, it’s hard to know exactly what will happen until the picks are actually made.

3. Will the Rams triple-down on Joe Noteboom?

Noteboom had been a draft pick that the Rams simply can’t move on from. While he started at guard in 2019, he struggled. However, after moving to left tackle and playing well at the end of 2021, the Rams signed him to an extension. Noteboom then struggled in 2022 before getting hurt. Last offseason, the team restructured his contract. The Rams could designate Noteboom as a post-June 1 release and save $15M. However, it sounds like they may want to keep him around. Snead said,

“We’ve actually had discussions with Joe and his reps and trying to figure out a win-win to come back just because he’s been a valuable piece for us. This year he played both tackle spots and guard for us at different times. We’re trying to come up with a win-win.”

At the very least, it sound like no matter what, Noteboom isn’t going to be back on his $20M cap figure in 2024. If the Rams can find a win-win here, it might not be a bad thing. Noteboom does provide some versatile depth. With that said, this is a player that the Rams have invested heavily in and the return has been minimal.

4. Will Aaron Donald be back?

It’s not a big storyline yet, but at some point this offseason, there will likely be some conversations regarding Aaron Donald’s future. He’s entering the final year of a three-year deal. While that contract does have some void years over the next two seasons, it still seems unlikely that Donald plays with just one-year on his contract. When asked on if he thought Aaron would be back in 2024, Snead said,

“Definitely hoping Aaron is. I know Aaron’s definitely approaching the offseason, where he’s doing his normal getting away trying to get revitalized with the goal of playing good football.”

The best thing that the Rams can do here would be to give Donald a small extension. This would be a win-win for both sides. The Rams could lower his cap-hit while at the same time giving Donald more future security. This will be a situation to monitor.

5. Expect Rams to be aggressive, but smart

The Rams are set to have around $40M of cap space entering free agency which should allow them to sign one of the top free agents if that’s something that they choose to do. With that said, it also shouldn’t be expected for the Rams to be among the biggest spenders in free agency either. Said Snead,

“At the core we like to attack. We like to be aggressive. Hopefully there’s some reason there. If we’re going to try and put reason into it and we talk about this internally a lot. Just because there’s this amount of space when the bell rings, let’s not spend all the cap at Christmas. If you’re somewhat wise, you can have some space for a Von Miller or OBJ.”

This is typically the approach that the Rams have taken when it comes to free agency. They may sign a top free agent, but they may be looking more at the second tier of players, that way they can leave some cap room available during the season. Leaving that flexibility allows them to make a trade if they would like or sign a player that unexpectedly gets cut in the middle of the year. If the Rams are in contention next season, having some cap space available allows them to make an in-season move that could allow them to get over the hump.