Cap Mismanagement: The Captastrophe of Les Snead

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Updated: July 12, 2017
General manager Les Snead enacted a Rams scouting shakeup over the weekend, dismissing four front-office scouts.

On a recent episode of The Ringer NFL Show hosts Robert Mays and Kevin Clark were discussing the different methods front offices use to build their teams. They had a group of teams that didn’t seem to be operating under any discernible plan. Naturally, the Rams fell into that category but Mays went on to say that he was astounded that the Rams had only $3 million in cap space this season and couldn’t fathom where all that money went. Snead has had a rough tenure since taking over in 2012.

Not all of their personnel problems were his fault. He’s not the one that drafted Sam Bradford and gave him $50 million dollars, nor is he the guy that drafted Jason Smith. He managed to pull off the RGIII trade but it didn’t bear much fruit outside of Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn. That’s not to say they aren’t great players but they’re offense has been a wasteland since he took over. A big part of that was not recognizing that Jeff Fisher was the embodiment of mediocrity until it was too late.

Perhaps Snead’s biggest weakness is his inability to be responsible with the salary cap. A major source of the teams’ woes is the fact that they can’t make any major upgrades because they didn’t have the cap space. This season was unusual in that Snead had some money to spend, unfortunately he made worse decisions than Jon Hamm’s character in between heists in Baby Driver.

The Robert Woods signing was a signal that Snead wanted to make the offense great again but Woods was not worth $35 million. Many were stunned Woods got that deal let alone a second contract considering how anonymous he was in Buffalo. He gave Tavon Austin a $42 million dollar extension when it would’ve been smarter to let him test the market. Fans have defended Austin’s lack of offensive production due to Jeff Fisher’s allergy to offense but its clear to everyone outside of Los Angeles that Snead was bidding against himself.

Even more concerning is his bizarre handling of the Trumaine Johnson situation. Snead didn’t seem to understand that there was a boom in the corner back market. He also overestimated Johnson’s value to the team perhaps trying to save face after Janoris Jenkins left for the Giants and had a banner year. It was strange to tag Johnson two years ago but it was slightly defensible because Snead wanted to see what he had in Trumiane Johnson. His decision to tag him a second year in a row was absolutely indefensible.

It caused a $16 million dollar cap hit and priced the Rams out of players that could’ve upgraded both sides of the ball. Johnson only had one interception last year and in coverage he wasn’t exactly Revis Island. The only silver lining was that he would net a nice trade package but Johnson nixed a trade to New Orleans so now he’s just an expensive boondoggle. Luckily he comes off the books after this season and since they have to resign Donald, Johnson will be tagged a third time.

One of the biggest market inefficiencies in sports is a competent front office. It would be unfair to compare Snead with Belichick because Belichick can Jedi mind trick players into taking less. It is fair though to ask Snead recognize what kind of talent he was on his team and properly assess their value. He wisely shook up his player personnel department ahead of the draft and he got a two year extension in order to suss out if Goff is the future or not. In the meantime, this next off-season is critical as he needs to find a way unclog the cap.

He’ll lock down Donald and Ogletree no one doubts that but in handing out those two major extensions he’ll also have to clear space so that the offense can get better too. The silver lining in the Rams’ cap issues is that Snead does seem to be learning from his mistakes. Sure, he didn’t nail free agency but little by little it does seem he understands that he’s on the hot seat.

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