Matthew Stafford

Rams Committed To Retaining Matthew Stafford

After a disastrous title defense in 2022, the Rams are taking a far different approach to this offseason than they have in years past. That has already led to a number of high-profile departures, but a complete tear-down will not be taking place.

During a press conference leading up free agency, general manager Les Snead confirmed that quarterback Matthew Stafford is one of a number of veterans who remain firmly in the team’s plans for 2023 and beyond. “I think we’ll definitely rely on Matthew, he’s definitely one of our pillars,” he said, via The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue (subscription required). “He’s definitely someone we’re going to rely on, [who] we’re gonna have to rely on as we do remodel this.”

Snead, as noted above, declined to use the term ‘rebuild’ to describe the Rams’ situation, one which comes after years of aggressive moves aimed at adding not only Stafford but several other veterans who helped them win Super Bowl LVI. Now, they are destined to move in a different direction as the clearing of expensive contracts has already begun, resulting in the release of edge rusher Leonard Floyd and, once the new league year begins, linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey is also expected to be on the move, and multiple teams have called to gauge the 28-year-old’s market. On the offensive side of the ball, 2022 free agent addition Allen Robinson has been given permission to seek a trade, meaning the wideout’s tenure with the Rams could be cut far shorter than many would have expected one year ago. Not all notable names will be dealt away in the near future, however.

In addition to Stafford, Snead named receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive tackle Aaron Donald as “weight-bearing walls” who will be counted on during this transitional phase for the franchise. All three players were signed to new, lucrative deals last offseason, meaning Los Angeles would incur major dead cap charges in the next few years if they were to trade or release them. Snead acknowledged, though, that he has fielded trade calls on nine different players ahead of an offseason in which more significant roster turnover can be expected.

“We’re trying to assess situations, figure out how to get under the cap [and] what’s the best way to do that,” he added, via ESPN’s Sarah Barshop“We’ve had calls on a lot of our players. Probably other places trying to figure out what are we doing big picture and things like that. It’s been a busy off season discussing players.”

The Rams are currently $9.1MM over the cap, and like all other teams must get under the cap ceiling by Wednesday. Part of the process of putting themselves in a better financial situation could indicate a multi-year rebuild seeing Stafford, Donald and Kupp departing, but such an approach is unlikely at this point.

NFC South Notes: Panthers, Lombardi, Bucs

Drawing a few negative headlines during his five-year run as Panthers owner, David Tepper has seen his team continue a years-long search for a quality quarterback. Carolina will be at it again this offseason. Although Tepper’s multi-offseason push for Deshaun Watson stalled near the end zone, the Panthers came close to acquiring Matthew Stafford in 2021. After negotiations with Lions GM Brad Holmes, team brass left the Senior Bowl convinced it would land the longtime Detroit QB. The Rams subsequently swooped in, and Joe Person of The Athletic notes Tepper mandated his staff slow down on Stafford due to wanting more information on his injury history (subscription required).

At that point, Stafford had only missed games in one of the previous 10 seasons. Though, the rocket-armed QB had played through a host of injuries during his 12-year Lions run. This delay, however, helped allow the Rams time to formulate a trade package that ended up sending the talented QB to Los Angeles and Jared Goff to Detroit. This could have been a moot point, with Stafford indicating he did not want to play for the Panthers, but Carolina did offer its first-round pick (No. 8 overall) and more for a passer without a no-trade clause. The Panthers sent three picks for Sam Darnold soon after. Darnold is a few weeks from free agency.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Frank Reich has praised Tepper for his willingness to spend for assistant coach talent. This included what looks to have become a defensive coordinator bidding war. Shortly after the Broncos let Ejiro Evero out of his contract, the hot HC candidate drew interest from the Panthers and Vikings. Carolina outbid Minnesota to land the defensive coordinator, Person adds. The Panthers have also added ex-HCs Jim Caldwell and Dom Capers, along with Josh McCown, to Reich’s staff.
  • Broncos ownership could also outmuscle teams for assistants. It is not known what kind of interest Joe Lombardi drew, but the new Denver assistant also drew interest from the Saints, Jeff Duncan of tweets. The two-year Chargers OC spent 12 years under Payton in New Orleans. The Saints are keeping Broncos OC candidate Ronald Curry on staff as QBs coach, but they were unable to lure Lombardi back to town. Lombardi is set for a coordinator-type role in Denver.
  • The Buccaneers will fill their quarterbacks coach post by promoting former NFL passer Thad Lewis, in news reported by Seahawks QB Geno Smith (Twitter link). Lewis and Smith played against each other as Miami high schoolers and have remained close; the free agent-to-be clarified (via Twitter) this was the reason — not a sudden interest in joining the Bucs — for his excitement. The Bucs employed Lewis as their assistant wide receivers coach over the past two years, with the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud adding Bruce Arians had visions of Lewis as a future offensive coordinator (Twitter link). Smith and the Seahawks have begun negotiations.
  • Tampa Bay hired Dave Canales as OC, from Seattle’s staff, to help fix its league-worst rushing attack. Leonard Fournette did not make the same impact he had in 2021. While the Bucs signed Fournette to a three-year, $21MM deal in March 2022, the running back has changed agents (Twitter link). The seventh-year running back is now with GSE Worldwide.
  • North Carolina’s tight ends coach, John Lilly will be making an NFL move in the same state. The Panthers will keep Lilly in North Carolina, bringing him in to coach their tight ends, Person tweets. Lilly, who worked on the 2019 Browns’ staff, overlapped at Georgia with new Panthers OC Thomas Brown in 2015. He has 30-plus years’ experience at the college and pro levels.
  • Former Colts staffer Brian Decker will follow Frank Reich to Carolina. The Panthers announced Decker is now the team’s vice president of development, a role Darin Gantt of notes will involve evaluating and developing players and coaches. A 22-year military veteran, Decker joined the Colts in 2017 and was in on the interviews that produced Reich’s hire.

Rams Expected To Pick Up Matthew Stafford’s Options

Matthew Stafford already made it clear that he’d be returning for the 2023 season, and the Rams are prepared to make it official. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Rams are expected to pick up Stafford’s 2023 option bonus and 2024 salary by the third day of the league year.

[RELATED: Latest On Rams QB Matthew Stafford’s Future]

The two-year commitment will cost the organization more than $50MM. Stafford’s $1.5MM 2023 base salary and prorated $12MM signing bonus were already fully guaranteed at signing. With this latest move, the Rams are locking themselves into a 2023 option bonus worth $26MM and a 2024 guaranteed salary of $31MM.

This always seemed like the expected route, but considering the uncertainty in Los Angeles surrounding Sean McVay‘s future, it was fair to wonder if the Rams could look towards a complete rebuild. In such a scenario, the Rams could have designated Stafford as a post-June 1 cap casualty, a move that still would have let them with $13.5MM dead cap in 2023 and a whopping $36MM in 2024.

Stafford was sidelined for much of the summer with an elbow issue. After struggling during the regular season and dealing with a pair of concussions, he ultimately landed on injured reserve in early December with a spinal cord contusion. The 34-year-old was limited to only nine games, with his 10 touchdowns being his lowest mark since a three-game appearance with Detroit in 2010.

Despite the growing list of ailments, Stafford rejected the retirement rumors last month. He doubled down during his end-of-season press conference, telling reporters that he never considered hanging up his cleats and is feeling “really comfortable and confident in moving forward” (per ESPN’s Sarah Barshop).

Latest On Rams QB Matthew Stafford’s Future

Matthew Stafford‘s Super Bowl defense didn’t get off to the best start when the QB was sidelined for much of the summer with an elbow issue. The veteran struggled for much of the regular season before ultimately landing on injured reserve in early December. With Stafford set to turn 35 years old in February while collecting a growing list of ailments, there have been some pundits questioning whether he could hang up his cleats following the 2022 campaign.

During an appearance on his wife’s podcast earlier this week, Stafford rejected the notion that he’d retire following the season. When asked by Kelly Stafford if he was planning on calling it a career, the QB quickly responded “oh no,” per Larry Holder of The Athletic.

Both Stafford and the Rams have generally downplayed his injuries. The quarterback’s elbow injury wasn’t expected to impact his throwing ability, and while his numbers were generally down across the board, the organization generally attributed the struggles to Stafford’s inability to develop a rapport with his offense prior to the regular season.

Stafford’s latest injury, a spinal cord contusion, isn’t expected to be a long-term issue and should still allow the veteran to enjoy a “healthy offseason.” Stafford also missed a pair of games this season while in concussion protocol. The former first-overall pick has generally been healthy throughout his career; after missing 19 games through his first two seasons in the NFL, Stafford only missed eight games over the following 11 years, with all of those games missed coming during the 2019 campaign.

Stafford also has plenty of financial incentive to stick around the NFL. The QB inked a four-year, $160MM deal with the Rams back in March, with the organization giving their Super Bowl-winning signal-caller $135MM in guaranteed money.

Sean McVay On Matthew Stafford’s Preseason Injury, 2023 Outlook

The Rams have little to play for in the remaining weeks of the 2022 season, one in which the team has fallen well short of expectations. They will all-but assuredly not have their starting quarterback available again this year due to his most recent injury, but one dating back to the summer was named as part of the reason for the defending champions’ struggles.

When speaking to the media, head coach Seam McVay was asked about Stafford’s preseason elbow injury. That ailment left him sidelined for much of the summer, and limited his ability to work with the rest of the team during training camp; both he and the team, however, repeatedly played down the significance of the injury with respect to his ability to perform during the regular season. McVay struck a markedly different tone when reflecting on the issue, though.

“I definitely think it had an impact because you talk about rapport, establishing a rapport, a rhythm, a comfort not only with, everybody wants to talk about he and [wide receiver] Cooper [Kupp], but even just some of the newer pieces,” McVay said, via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk“I think it definitely had an impact without a doubt.”

Stafford played through the lingering effects of the elbow injury throughout the year, as the Rams’ offense was decimated by injuries up front and struggled to establish any consistency amongst its playmakers aside from Kupp. He missed Weeks 10 and 12 while in the league’s concussion protocol, and has ultimately been placed on IR. That leaves him eligible to return no sooner than Week 17, making it quite possible the former Lion joins Kupp and Aaron Donald in being shut down until 2023.

On that point, McVay further pointed to Stafford’s campaign being over. He said the expectation is that his latest injury – a spinal cord contusion – will not be long-term, and should allow for a “healthy offseason” (Twitter link via Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic). With Stafford sidelined, Los Angeles will likely rely on John Wolford as their starter, barring the acquisition of a veteran like the recently-waived Baker Mayfield.

Given the substantial investment the Rams made in Stafford this past offseason, approaching the coming months with caution would come as little surprise. A return to health would bode well for the team in 2023, and allow them to avoid a repeat of this summer’s issues which played out over the course of a lost season.

NFL Injury Rumors: Donald, Stafford, Walker, Queen

Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald reportedly has no intentions of joining star teammates quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp on injured reserve this season, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Donald suffered a high ankle sprain last week in the team’s loss to the Chiefs, but the belief is that the injury is mild and Donald will be able to return this season.

Specifically, Donald has intentions of returning by Week 15 for a Sunday night matchup against the Packers. Donald has his ankle immobilized to promote its healing and is determined to make a comeback this season. Rapoport posits that “the way Donald is wired, he has no plans to shut it down regardless of the team’s record.”

Here are a couple of other injury rumors, starting with another one of the Rams injured stars:

  • Although it remains undetermined whether or not the Rams have any plans of bringing back their star quarterback, the newest updates indicate that Stafford’s recent placement on IR marks the end of his season, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Head coach Sean McVay explained Stafford’s injury as a spinal cord contusion. With the team sitting at 3-9, good for last place in the NFC West, Los Angeles probably doesn’t think it’s worth the risk to trot the 34-year-old quarterback out on the field with so little on the line.
  • The Seahawks took some real lumps in their win over the Rams today, sustaining a litany of injuries to their running backs room. Already short primary backup Travis Homer, who was downgraded to out prior to kickoff after dealing with illness and a knee injury all week, both starter Kenneth Walker III and third-string DeeJay Dallas exited the game with ankle injuries. Walker was quickly ruled out for the rest of the game while Dallas was designated as doubtful to return, leaving the team with only fourth-string running back Tony Jones. Minutes later, Jones would take a big hit that would put him in the medical tent, forcing the previously doubtful Dallas to return to the game. Seattle has dealt with injuries in the position room all year. Aside from losing Rashaad Penny for the season, Walker joined the team late after a hernia surgery and Homer previously spent four weeks on IR. With all those absences, it’s no surprise the Seahawks picked Jones up off of waivers in October and are now carrying four running backs on the active roster. Nobody could’ve guessed that four wouldn’t be enough.
  • Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson wasn’t the only Baltimore player to leave the game with an injury earlier today. Starting linebacker Patrick Queen was carted off the field with a thigh injury and was ruled out for the remainder of what was a defensive slug fest against the Broncos. Head coach John Harbaugh was able to tell the media that x-rays were negative for the third-year linebacker and that Queen had been diagnosed with a thigh bruise. If the injury is serious, Queen could miss his first game since being drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. With veteran inside linebacker Josh Bynes also dealing with an injury, this would leave the Ravens fairly thin with newly acquired Roquan Smith and Malik Harrison to start and only special teamer Kristian Welch to relieve them, as another special teamer, Del’Shawn Phillips, also deals with an injury.

Matthew Stafford Placed On IR; Rams To Start John Wolford

DECEMBER 3: Casting further doubt on Stafford’s 2022 return, the Rams announced on Saturday that their starter has been placed on IR. That will leave him sidelined until at least Week 17, by which point the defending champions will likely have been eliminated from postseason contention. With the open roster spot, the Rams have activated rookie linebacker Daniel Hardy from IR.

DECEMBER 2: Matthew Stafford is out of concussion protocol, but the Super Bowl-winning quarterback is not returning to the Rams’ lineup just yet. After Sean McVay said earlier this week it was unlikely Stafford played in Week 13, the Rams are sticking to those guns.

Stafford will sit for a second straight week and third time in four games. Rather than Bryce Perkins, who started in Week 12 against the Chiefs, the Rams will go with John Wolford against the Seahawks. Neck pain and leg numbness led Stafford into the protocol for the second time this season.

Rams caution with Stafford does not surprise. The sides agreed to a four-year, $160MM extension this offseason, and a shell of an offensive line has contributed to the defending Super Bowl champions’ slide. The Rams are 3-8 and making a run at finishing with the worst record by a defending Super Bowl champion — in a non-strike season — in NFL history. The prospect of Stafford, Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp being shut down for the season remains in play.

Stafford, 34, has taken almost as many sacks in nine games this season (29) as he did during 17 games last year (30). A Rams line that has seen first- and second-stringers go down, with injuries ransacking the unit at every position save for right tackle, has contributed to a few of the team’s problems. L.A. ranks 31st in rushing yards, and were Stafford to come back, he would also be without his two highest-profile receivers. It does not look like Kupp will return from ankle surgery this season, and Allen Robinson‘s disappointing Rams debut is already over due to a foot injury.

Thus, a backup-laden offense will be in the hands of a backup quarterback. It is uncertain if it will stay that way through January, but Wolford is back in the mix for now. A one-time unlikely playoff starter, Wolford has two career regular-season starts. The Rams lost his 2022 start — in Week 10 against the Cardinals — but saw their longtime backup suffer a neck injury as well, leading to Perkins. A 2020 UDFA, Perkins finished with 100 passing yards and two interceptions in the Rams’ loss in Kansas City.

Coming into this season, Stafford had only missed time in one of his previous 12 campaigns. A back injury shut him down in 2019. The former No. 1 overall pick has played through numerous issues during his career, but the Rams have him in limbo for the time being.

Rams Considering Shutting Down Aaron Donald, Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp

NOVEMBER 30: Week 13 will double as Donald’s first missed NFL game due to injury. The Rams ruled out the seven-time All-Pro defensive tackle for their Seahawks matchup. McVay also confirmed Stafford remains in concussion protocol and is unlikely to play against Seattle.

NOVEMBER 29: Aaron Donald can now be added to the list of high-profile Rams to have suffered significant injuries this season. Sean McVay said the team’s medical staff communicated to him the perennial All-Pro defensive lineman likely sustained a high ankle sprain against the Chiefs, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic tweets.

Considering this immense letdown of a season, Donald is not a lock to return this year. McVay said the team has not ruled out shutting down Donald, Cooper Kupp or Matthew Stafford. The defending Super Bowl champions gave new deals to all three players this offseason, and while the team will not exactly be obtaining value from those lucrative accords by sidelining the cornerstone performers, ensuring these health issues do not bleed into the offseason would stand to be important.

Although Kupp and Stafford have missed stretches of seasons before, Donald has been one of the league’s most durable players. The seven-time All-Pro has never missed a game due to injury; his only absences (two) came because of a 2017 holdout. Over the course of his second Rams contract, Donald became one of the greatest defenders in NFL history. He derailed the Bengals’ final drive in Super Bowl LVI and may well have won MVP acclaim were ballots not required to be turned in before that drive.

Donald, 31, threatened retirement and sent the Rams a letter — amid contract negotiations — informing them of his intentions to walk away. The Rams came back to the table with an unprecedented offer — a straight raise with no new years added, making Donald the NFL’s highest-paid defender again. Donald’s $31.6MM-per-year average dwarfs the rest of the D-tackle market; no other interior D-lineman makes more than $21MM per annum. That deal has not started off well for the Rams, who have seen their run of good health in recent years deteriorate into a mess that has this team on course to be the worst defending Super Bowl champion in league history.

Donald’s third Rams pact runs through 2024; he is set to count $26MM against Los Angeles’ cap next year. That money is guaranteed, though Donald’s 2024 cash is not. This season, Donald’s production has dipped a bit. The ninth-year defender has five sacks and 11 quarterback hits. While he still would have had time to move toward his seventh double-digit sack season, this injury will probably nix such an effort.

Kupp underwent ankle surgery and is expected to miss at least the next four games. Considering that timetable and the Rams’ 3-8 record, it seems unlikely the All-Pro wideout will play again this year. Stafford has spent the past two weeks in concussion protocol, with a neck issue leading him back there after he left the Rams’ Week 11 loss to the Saints early. Conflicting reports surfaced about Stafford returning this season, but the Rams are unsurprisingly considering punting on the rest of the veteran quarterback’s 14th season and regrouping in 2023. Stafford’s new deal runs through 2026.

The Rams squandered key seasons from their well-paid trio. Donald will turn 32 in May; Stafford will be 35 in February. Kupp is younger, but he will hit 30 in June. The team, which also placed Allen Robinson on IR on Tuesday because of a season-ending foot injury, may see its skeleton crew thin further in the weeks ahead. Although the 1982 49ers finished 3-6, a strike-shortened season impacted their first title defense. No defending Super Bowl champion has finished with fewer than six wins in a non-strike-shortened campaign; if the Rams are to be without Donald and Stafford the rest of the way, they might have a hard time making it to 6-11. The Lions hold the Rams’ 2023 first-round pick.

Latest On Rams QB Matthew Stafford

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is missing his second game of the season today in concussion protocol. With the Rams at 3-7 coming into today with seven games left in the season, there are some questions on how to handle the 34-year-old’s health for the rest of the year.

Stafford’s first missed game due to a concussion a couple weeks ago was the result of Stafford self-reporting symptoms following the team’s Week 9 loss to the Buccaneers. He was placed in concussion protocols and sat out the division contest against the Cardinals the next week.

This time, Stafford was experiencing what are called crossover symptoms that could seem like a concussion but may not be. In the team’s recent loss to the Saints last weekend, Stafford was pulled from the game when he experienced a stinger to his neck. He began to feel numbness in his legs, which can be a sign of head or neck injury, and since the Rams were not able to rule out a concussion during the game, Stafford was held out and placed in concussion protocol.

Looking at the Rams’ plans for the remainder of the season, we begin to get conflicting reports. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network claims that multiple sources have said “there are no current plans to shut down Stafford for the remainder of the season.” In another report, the Rams reportedly “are uncertain when or if (Stafford) will return this season,” according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Rapoport claims that, despite the team’s record, Los Angeles hopes to return Stafford to the field when he’s cleared in order to perhaps make a push for a wild card spot down the final stretch of the season. Schefter doesn’t rule out that possibility but emphasizes that, similar to the injury to wide receiver Cooper Kupp, the Rams “feel there is no need to rush back an injured player,” after losing four straight games and six of their last seven.

In the meantime, while they determine how to proceed, they are getting a look at their backup options. After John Wolford started during Stafford’s first absence, Bryce Perkins, who went undrafted out of Virginia in 2020, is currently playing in his first career start against the Chiefs today.

Rams Rule Out Matthew Stafford For Week 12

After being placed in the concussion protocol once again, it comes as little surprise that the Rams will be without their starting quarterback for the second time in three weeks. The team has ruled out Matthew Stafford for their Week 12 matchup against the Chiefs, though the reason being cited could be cause for additional concern.

Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic tweets that, in addition to being in concussion protocol, Stafford has undergone neck and spine testing. The Rams believe that he is currently dealing with a neck strain, ESPN’s Adam Schefter adds (Twitter link). That would add further to Stafford’s injury problems which have been ever-present this campaign.

The 34-year-old faced concerns over his throwing elbow in the lead-in to the season, his second with the Rams. The ailment has been understood as something to simply be dealt with throughout the campaign, rather than one requiring surgery and an extended absence. Then, in Week 10, Stafford was sidelined by a concussion.

Coming off a massive extension signed this offseason, the former Lion has struggled considerably this year relative to his Super-Bowl winning campaign of 2021. The same is true as a whole for the Rams’ offense, which ranks 29th in the league in both yards and points per game. Injuries suffered along the offensive line, and by wideout Cooper Kupp, leave the unit with a much more bleak outlook for the remainder of the season than their performance last season and summer expectations would have suggested.

In the immediate future, attention will turn not to John Wolford – who filled in for Stafford in Week 10 – but rather rookie Bryce Perkins. With the former also banged up, the latter is expected to receive first-team reps in practice this week (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). Perkins, a UDFA out of Virginia, saw the field for five snaps during the Rams’ loss to the Cardinals 10 days ago, but he will now be in line for his first career start.

The undermanned Rams will face a tough challenge in attempting to snap their four-game losing streak when they visit Kansas City on Sunday. The intermediate- and long-term health of their starting quarterback will remain a more important situation to monitor regardless of the outcome of the game, however.