Thursday, June 21, 2018
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams

What Friday’s Trade Means for the Rams

It wasn’t technically a three team trade, but it certainly worked out that way. At the end of the day the Buffalo Bills still had the services of a talented young wide receiver and cornerback, while the Los Angeles Rams got the weapon their offense has been lacking since the Greatest Show on Turf days and the Philadelphia Eagles shored up their problem secondary with a top young corner.

You’re going to see a lot  of articles (and probably already have) determining the winners and losers of these trades, but let’s be clear. There were no losers when any of these moves were announced. Well, no teams that lost, that is. I’ll explain.

The Rams nabbed the marquee player in the deal, former No. 5 overall pick Sammy Watkins. The also got a 2018 sixth round pick. In return, Los Angeles sent cornerback E.J. Gaines and their 2018 second rounder to the Bills.

Watkins first made news this off-season when the Bills didn’t exercise their fifth year option on the wideout. The issue with the former Clemson star has been his health. He missed three games in his second season and eight last year, but there’s an argument to be made that Rex Ryan and Buffalo rushed him back too soon.

The talent is there, without question. In his rookie year, Watkins caught 65 passes for 982 yards and six touchdowns. His second season, he caught 60 passes for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s a torched cornerback waiting to happen and in Sean McVay’s offense, he’ll have plenty of opportunities.

“With Sammy, I think clearly you’re getting a special receiver,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said. “Obviously, his career when he’s been available, he’s been outstanding in terms of being able to stretch the field vertically, but when the balls in his hands, good things happen. We feel like he’s going to be a good addition to our offense.”

The Rams have been floundering, looking for an actual legitimate target at wide receiver since Tory Holt left town and Watkins is the first guy that we know fits that mold. Frankly, McVay and general manager Les Snead may have drafted a couple of those guys too with Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds, along with signing Watkins’ former teammate Robert Woods. Second year quarterback Jared Goff now has all the weapons he needs to be successful and a coach who can call a real, NFL offense.

“I think it certainly helps him (Goff) because anytime that you have good playmakers where it makes it more difficult for defensive guys to be able to key in on one player,” McVay said. “It certainly loosens up and regulates some of the coverages and I think it’ll be very helpful for our team and especially for our quarterback.

The Rams surrender a second round pick and, make no mistake, those are precious. A second rounder should be a starting level NFL player, so giving that up is potentially huge. But there’s little doubt that Watkins is as good or better than any player they would have snagged in the second round next season, if (and it’s a big “if”) he can stay on the field. He looks healthy right now and caught four passes for 39 yards in the Bills’ preseaosn opener against the Minnesota Vikings.

“I think the thing that you really think about is that when you look at some offenses that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of,” McVay said, “You’ve got a handful of good playmakers and that’s where you can truly say, ‘Quarterback, be a good decision maker, distribute the ball and there’s plenty of touches to go around.’ You look at some of the success that Washington’s offense was able to have with some of the playmakers they have and we’re trying to do something similar here. I feel like adding Sammy to the mix with guys like Robert Woods and Tavon Austin, you’re looking at the emergence of Cooper Kupp. Pharoh Cooper’s done a nice job, done some nice things, done a nice job filling in. And then the tight ends continue to do a nice job as far as developing in their roles. And obviously we know what a special back Todd Gurley is.”

Let’s decipher all that, because it sounds to me like McVay is letting you know which receivers are going to make the team. Los Angeles will keep, at most, seven wideouts and more than likely they’ll just use six. If they do go with seven, we know Watkins, Woods, Austin, Kupp and Reynolds are making the team because all but one of those are McVay’s hand picked guys. That’s five receievers right there.

Since McVay mentioned Pharoh Cooper by name, he’s likely safe. If they go with seven guys, my guess is Nelson Spruce makes the cut. That means Mike Thomas will serve out his four-game suspension as a free agent before likely ending up on the practice squad unless some other team picks him up. Paul McRoberts will likely land a practice squad invite too if he clears waivers. Brandon Shippen, Shakier Ryan, C.J. Germany, K.D. Cannon and Justin Thomas will be on the street, but they never had a shot to make the team anyway. You can’t really call those guys losers in the deal. Even if the Rams just go with six wideouts, I guarantee Spruce will land on another team’s roster so he’ll be fine.

No, there’s only one loser in a Rams jersey with this trade and it’s Tavon Austin. Austin is an exciting player with the ball in his hands, but that’s the problem. He doesn’t get the ball into his hands enough. Now, considering he’s played in grade school offenses under Jeff Fisher it might not be his fault, but he’s yet to show on the field the value demanded by his No. 8 overall pick status and the four-year, $42 million contract extension Fisher made sure the Rams were saddled with last season.

The good part of the contract, at least, is the Rams have an out after this season with no salary cap hit. If they cut or trade Austin before his roster bonus is due, they get off scot free. I see no way Austin remains with the team on that deal, especially considering ho much of the cap Aaron Donald is going to eat up and the contract Sammy Watkins will get. There’s no way they’re letting him walk after one year unless he’s a complete disaster.

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About Adam Greene

Adam Greene is a sportswriter, photographer and humorist. You can email him (and you should) at

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