Injuries, draft position, and money often come into play
By Venie Randy Soares | Turf Show Times | Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
NFL training camps are a cold, winner-take-all competition, even for the Los Angeles Rams and Head Coach Sean McVay, with their “WE, NOT ME” mantra. Certainly, many players are locked in to the roster, but according to overthecap.com from 2013 through 2020 only an average of 56% of players return from one year to the next.
The maximum retention rate over that same period was 71.5%.
According to these numbers, the Rams would need to replace from 16 to 23 players from last year’s opening roster. McVay has leaned towards year-to-year continuity since taking over in 2017 and bringing in his preferred type of players.
Only Aaron Donald, Rob Havenstein, Tyler Higbee, and to a lesser extent Troy Hill, remain from the previous regime. So it is safe to say that 10 to 15 new players could make the final 53.
Factors in deciding the final 53
Of course, play on the field should be the final arbitration of roster building, but there is so much more to it. Draft position has been, and will always be, a high priority. Contract status, and more appropriately, how each team deals with the salary cap can play a large role. Injuries, both minor and major, play the biggest role of all.
In 2021, draftees in the first three rounds made up 42% of NFL opening rosters, so high draft picks are getting a long look. Unsurprisingly, almost 25% of rosters were stocked by undrafted free agents. Skyrocketing salaries at the top end of rosters can explain a lot of this, but honestly, the difference between talent and athleticism in the last two rounds and players who go unchosen is nil.
Contracts, except for a few superstars, can be easily gotten out of or traded off with a little negotiation. Keeping a player who doesn’t fit an individual teams program, for whatever reason, can be offset with some transactional sleight-of-hand. Fully guaranteed, long term contracts have been “hands off” with most NFL owners for a number of reasons, some good and some bad. But mostly, because players, except for those said superstars, are so easily replaced.
Talk about burying the lede, this article is about injuries
Finally, injuries. And more to the point, the LA Rams’ preseason injuries. Training camp injuries can not only stifle an individual’s progress, but the avalanche effect of having players missing reps can affect the whole team. After the longest NFL season on record. McVay called off OTAs early, giving the team extra time to heal up and recharge their batteries, One of the main reasons being the injury attrition rate.
It’s not only broken bones, torn cartilages and ligaments, concussions, or other serious ailments. Soft tissue injuries are now the norm in the NFL and the league is looking at these types of injury and how to help prevent them.