ORLANDO, Fla. -- Just 15 months after a forgettable first season back in Los Angeles, the Rams are the most compelling team in football. Monday's signing of Ndamukong Suh looks like the final big addition in a bold offseason by general manager Les Snead in which he took an already entertaining squad and made them truly showtime.
Speaking to the Around the NFL Podcast on Monday before the news broke, Snead explained how defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and his staff detailed to Suh how they would utilize him in every situation in Phillips' 3-4 defense. Suh has traditionally played in a 4-3 scheme, but the opportunity to avoid double teams while playing next to reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald was too good to pass up. Playing in Los Angeles certainly couldn't have hurt the Rams' pitch, either.
The organization wooed Suh like a prospective No. 1 overall draft pick. A contingent including Snead, coach Sean McVay, COO Kevin Demoff and owner Stan Kroenke took Suh out to dinner at Nobu in Malibu, where they ran into Late Late Show host James Corden at the door and then walked by a table with Chris Rock and David Spade.
Snead's wife Kara Henderson Snead described the scene as an "L.A. fever dream," which is how Rams fans must feel about this roster after its dramatic reconstruction.
Just as one three-time first-team All Pro defensive tackle wasn't enough for the Rams, they also traded for a pair of top-shelf cornerbacks in Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Phillips' defensive system is built for thievery, allowing instinctive man-to-man cornerbacks to make plays on the ball because they know that opposing quarterbacks can't hold the ball for long. Suh is still an elite run defender and his pocket-pushing skills should be accentuated playing next to Donald. Phillips has an incredible amount of ways he can attack opposing offenses with underrated defensive end Michael Brockers also in the mix. NFC offensive coaches, meanwhile, have an incredible amount of homework to do.
This focus on reshaping the team's defense this offseason was by design. Despite ranking sixth in Football Outsiders' defensive efficiency last season and 12th in points allowed, Snead saw a group still in transition. His priorities changed because of how successful last offseason was.
"Goal No. 1 was to find the right head football coach. I think we got that done. Goal No. 2 was to fix the offense, which had been our Achilles' heel," Snead said on the podcast. "But I think coming into this offseason if you boiled it down to one goal I think it was let's make sure our defense keeps up with our offense. Because our offense is young and our defense had some aging parts and some parts that weren't the best fits for Wade's scheme."
The Ramstraded defensive end Robert Quinn to the Dolphins and more surprisingly dealt linebacker Alec Ogletree to the Giants. Both players were well-liked leaders dating well back to the team's days in St. Louis, but the moves added the salary cap space necessary to bring in high-priced talent like Talib and Suh that better suit Phillips' defensive approach.
Instead of trying to stand pat after the Rams' most successful season since 2003, Snead aggressively started a league-wide trade tsunami, taking every avenue available to upgrade the roster. It's reminiscent of how Eagles general manager Howie Roseman reshaped his roster with bold moves over two straight offseasons. These are the types of moves -- with Suh at the forefront -- of an organization that can push to win the Super Bowlright now without sacrificing any long-term flexibility. And the work is hardly done.
Once the NFL Draft is over, the focus in Los Angeles will surely turn to a contract extension for Donald. Snead mentioned that was a priority and I suspect that deal will make Suh's one-year pact look like an accounting error in comparison. It's hard to imagine the Rams ever letting Donald go, as Snead is fully aware that he has an enviable core of young homegrown stars in Donald, Todd Gurley and Jared Goff around whom to build with the team's move to a new stadium looming in 2020. Throw in the team's charismatic young coach and this new raft of Pro Bowl defenders and the Rams suddenly boast star power that rivals an average Friday night at Nobu.
What a difference 15 months makes.