Published on 18 Feb 2022 6:25 pm (UK Time)
The LA Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals put on a nail-biting show during the highly anticipated Super Bowl LVI, with the win-now Rams seeing off the young guns of the Bengals in a 23-20 win.
But what does the future look like for these two teams going into next season?
Sean McVay’s Rams sacrificed their future with trades and big-money free agent signings to win their first ring in 22 years, giving them a huge problem looking to the future of the organisation. They traded away their 2022 and 2023 first-round picks plus multiple later round picks for experienced leaders like Jalen Ramsey, 34-year-old quarterback Matthew Stafford, and Von Miller.
This leaves them in a precarious position as a rebuild is inevitable while at the same time almost impossible with the lack of draft assets and cap space. McVay has one fifth-round pick to work with ahead of the 2022 draft in an underwhelming class where the elite talent will be taken in the first few rounds and will not have a full range of seven picks until the 2024 season.
General manager Les Snead will have to make moves in the trade market to acquire more assets for the upcoming drafts but again will prove to be difficult. As well as limited picks they also have a number of aging players on the last years of their contracts.
Stafford, Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, Cam Akers, Van Jefferson, Darrell Henderson, A’Shawn Robinson, Miller, and Odell Beckham Jr, who tore his ACL during the game, are all key contributors and are out of contract either this offseason or in 2024.Embed from Getty Images
A coaching problem has also risen for the Rams as offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell has been named Minnesota Vikings head coach and could take assistant head coach/running backs coach Thomas Brown with him. The Denver Broncos have dipped their toes into the Rams coaching pool with defensive backs coach Ejiro Evero arranged to take the defensive coordinator job.
We have seen this before with the 2018 Super Bowl LII winners, Philadelphia Eagles. Since their extraordinary comeback win over the New England Patriots, they have fallen into mediocrity with only nine of the 53 players left from their championship roster.
Their quarterback tandem of Carson Wentz and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles have since both moved on with Wentz rumoured to be cut by the Indianapolis Colts and Foles is on the Chicago Bears. Head coach Doug Pederson, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Frank Reich have since moved on to new franchises as well.
McVay will want to avoid the Eagles future as much as possible and may try to put it off another year by resigning as much of the roster as possible, but this will just delay their problems. They are already $14 million over the cap for next season before offering new contracts to free agents. Combine this with the lack of draft capital, it is hard to see how the Rams do not fall into obscurity as the Eagles have.
Whereas the Rams went all-in on a ‘win now’ window with their aging key players, the Bengals are ahead of schedule with their predominantly young and inexperienced team, much like the 2013, Russell Wilson led Seattle Seahawks.
The Bengals have a glaring problem to resolve in the off-season’s to come, they need to find protection for their franchise player, quarterback Joe Burrow. Cincinnati’s offensive line let up the third-most sacks in the regular season with 55, rising to 70 including the offseason, third-most in NFL history.
While Burrow operated at an elite level under pressure, leading the league in yards per attempt on pressured dropbacks with 8.3, it is not sustainable moving forward. Just look at former Colt, Andrew Luck. The highest-rated prospect since Peyton Manning was forced to retire early due to injury problems sustained from poor protection.
For the second season in a row Burrow has entered the offseason with a knee injury caused by the heavy hits to his body. To ensure Cincinnati’s chance at another Super Bowl appearance, President Mike Brown should look at how the Kansas City Chiefs rebuilt their offensive line after their collapse in Super Bowl LV.Embed from Getty Images
After their horrendous performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which saw Patrick Mahomes sacked three times while constantly running for his life for four quarters. General manager Brett Veach completely dismantled the roster, using free agency to pick up experience and the draft for elite, young prospects.
Heading into the offseason the Bengals have a projected $55m in cap space, giving them a lot to work within an offseason that is steaming with O-line talent. A few names to look out for include centre Ryan Jensen previously of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who finished the season in the second ranked O-line according to Pro Football Focus.
Guard Brandon Scherff is due to leave Washington with the number five overall pick in the 2015 draft looking for a new home after playing under his second consecutive franchise tag. Scherff would instantly become Cincinnati’s best guard with his 73.6 PFF grade as current right guard Hakeem Adeniji finished with a 48.4 grade.
Lastly, San Francisco 49ers guard Laken Tomlinson achieved his career best 75.2 pass-blocking grade which could make him a very intriguing prospect for the Ohio team only managed a 14 per cent pass-blocking success rate in Super Bowl LVI. Tomlinson ranked 13th in the league at among guards according to PFF.com while the Bengals highest-ranked is Quinton Spain in 44th.
While these two teams could not be on more different paths, they both have franchise-altering decisions to face this offseason which could impact their futures for years to come. They both proved to be the corps d’elite of the league in 2022 but making it to another Super Bowl is never guaranteed.
But for now, however, the Rams are Super Bowl champions, and the Bengals have their franchise in strong hands with Burrow for at least the next decade.