According to Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline, the Los Angeles Rams are in the lead to land Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay. This might come as a mild surprise as the Rams don’t necessarily have the assets to make a big-time trade:
According to PFN Draft Analyst & Insider @TonyPauline, Ron Rivera and Dan Snyder appear to share a unanimous opinion on what to do with second pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
More on that – along with other news from across the league – in the link below. https://t.co/wysVDFdATF
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) February 20, 2020
Pauline states, “I am told right now the two teams at the top of the pack to land Slay are the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams.”
While we will analyze what a trade could look like later on, that’s not going to be my main point here. My main point will be how Rams fans should be applauding general manager Les Snead instead of remaining skeptical about the GM over contract issues.
Snead As the Rams General Manager
The second point is certainly worth criticism. Paying Alec Ogletree, Tavon Austin, Todd Gurley, and Jared Goff the amount that they did and when they did is questionable.
Ogletree was a solid linebacker, but to be paid as much as he did, did not make sense. Austin never should have gotten a second contract. In today’s NFL, you don’t pay a running back top dallar. Lastly paying Goff as much as they did one year too early is proving to be a mistake one year later.
Like I said, that is all worth criticism. What isn’t is Snead’s willingness to make the big move and it’s something that he’s been willing to do since day one. In his first offseason he went out and signed the best left tackle on the free agent market – Jake Long.
While the Long deal didn’t work out, it showed that Snead wasn’t going to be afraid to make the big move like so many NFL general managers are. And it didn’t stop with Long. The Rams made the big trade to go up and get Jared Goff at the No. 1 overall pick. The team traded for Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters, Dante Fowler, and most recently Jalen Ramsey.
Since the report came out that the Rams were in the Darius Slay, it’s only been criticism for the Rams and Snead. “How will they afford that?” “The Rams don’t have any assets.” “As always, the Rams are only one big contract away.” “Slay only hurts the Rams cap situation.” Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
The criticisms are incredibly frustrating because many fans criticize their own teams and general manager for not being willing to make the big move. Fans push their team to make that big splash in free agency or make that big trade at the deadline and that is exactly what Snead has done. Yet he’s being crucified for it by the national media.
Les Snead has show time and time again, he’s not afraid to make that move.
Last season, the Eagles tried to get Ramsey, but backed out. The Rams didn’t do that. They gave up two first round picks because that’s what you give up for a once in a generation player. Snead is willing to do whatever it takes. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s just the NFL. However, at least the Rams have a GM who doesn’t just sit in his office afraid.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was pushed away to the janitor’s closet in favor of Chip Kelly. Packers fans screamed for years for Ted Thompson to make a move and sign a big name player in free agency. The thing is, several other general managers won’t even make the call for Slay or make that big free agent move. That’s not Snead and that’s a good thing.
Have the Rams paid a lot? Yes. But you have to give something to get something, especially when it comes to high profile players like Watkins, Cooks, Ramsey, Slay, etc. and Snead realizes that and he realizes that those players only make the team better.
The Rams aren’t one piece away and it’s ok to not be in favor of Slay who’s on a one-year deal. But the fact that the Rams are consistently in these conversations, is why Snead should be applauded,. not criicized because not many other general managers would even make the call or if they did, have a serious conversation.
Snead being in those conversations says that he’s doing his job without fear and shows that he wants to win. Rams fans should be happy with that.
What A Rams-Lions Trade Could Look Like
Now let’s get into the trade itself and what it could look like. The thing is, it might not even happen. Just because teams are talking does not mean that a trade is going to happen. I’m not going to question Pauline’s source, but the Lions could have released the name of a second-team, like the Rams or the Broncos depending on the team that they’ve had conversations with, and said there was another front-runner just to raise up the price. Heck, it might not even be the Lions releasing the information, but Slay’s agent to let the Lions know that there is interest and that the client wants out. That’s just how trade negotiations work.
The big things to look at here are the Rams cap space, their draft assets, and a fair price for Slay that’s not overpaying. Slay is on the last year of his deal and would count for $13M against the cap. Then, the Lions will most likely get a third-round compensatory pick not next year but the year after for Slay anyway.
Like last season with Jadaveon Clowney and Marcus Peters, teams didn’t receive more than what they would have received in a comp pick. Having that third round pick a year earlier and higher in the draft order can be appealing.
While I’m typically against throwing out trade ideas, let’s take a look at some potential trades:
Rob Havenstein and a 6th Round pick for Darius Slay
The Lions don’t have a huge need for tackle, but they do need to be able to keep Matthew Stafford upright and healthy. The Rams meanwhile have Bobby Evans who played well at right tackle last season while Havenstein has been very up and down. By trading Havenstein, who I value as a fourth-round pick as that’s most likely what the Rams would get as a comp pick for him, it would open up $3M in cap space. Throwing in a conditional sixth-round pick would bring that value to a third-round pick which is the most the Rams should be willing to pay for Slay.
Tyler Higbee and a 6th Round pick for Darius Slay
This trade is familiar but it’s with the same intent. The Rams get to dump a contract and open up $4M in cap space while giving the Lions a starting caliber player.
Brandin Cooks and a 4th Round Pick for Darius Slay
This is where the two teams would have to work things out cap-wise. I’m not a cap expert, but as of right now if the Rams traded Cooks, they would have to eat almost $17M in dead cap. There may be a way to get the Lions to take on all of Cooks’ cap which is why I have the Rams throwing in one of their two fourth round picks. If the Rams are able to dump that contract, it opens up a lot this offseason in terms of bringing back a player like Littleton.
Jalen Ramsey for Darius Slay and a 2nd Round Pick
This trade is extremely intriguing. The Rams trade Ramsey, but in return still get one of the best cornerbacks in the league and net a second round pick. Essentially that second-rounder would be a first because the Lions selection is so high. Heck, the Rams may even be able to get a fourth or fifth round pick from the Lions as well.
There isn’t much of a difference in cap space between the two players and the Rams get draft picks to build roster depth that they need.