April 18, 2024

The Rams are flush with salary-cap space and cash to spend on free agents. They hold the No. 19 pick in the NFL draft. And, after a year spent in relative obscurity, they are ready to return as a regular prime-time attraction.

So Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer, will not be repeating the message he sent season-ticket holders before last season, which amounted to an apology in advance.

“Expectations are much higher this year,” Demoff told reporters Monday night before a fan event at the YouTube Theater. “They’re kind of where we’re accustomed to them being, and I think that’s something our group is excited about.”

The Rams are coming off a 10-7 season and a playoff appearance. Those were surprising achievements after the Rams pulled back financially, signed only veteran-minimum free agents and made no blockbuster trades or late-season additions.

Now the Rams have about $40 million in cap space. They could have at least 11 draft picks.

The goal behind last offseason’s philosophy was to amass draft capital and cap space so that coach Sean McVay and general Les Snead could “do what they do best,” Demoff said.

“Which is, you know, dream big, you know, get crazy and have an offseason,” Demoff said. “And so we sit at the precipice of that.

“I have no idea how this offseason will turn out but I know we have the ability to do anything we want, and that’s a position we haven’t been in in a while.”

The Rams have needs at multiple positions, perhaps most notably edge rusher and cornerback. They also could use offensive linemen, a receiver, a tight end and a quarterback to back up Matthew Stafford and perhaps succeed him.

McVay, hired in 2017, has never made a first-round pick. Snead has not done so since 2016, when he traded up a record 14 spots to pick quarterback Jared Goff at No. 1.

Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua carries the football against the Saints.

Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua had a spectacular rookie season.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“Our group has always been great about kind of ignoring the flashing lights and kind of some of the sexier names and prospects to really go find who are really great picks for the Rams,” Demoff said, adding, “I think the one thing our group has proven is that they can find talent anywhere.”

Before last year, Snead and McVay hit big on mid-round picks such as receiver Cooper Kupp, safeties John Johnson and Jordan Fuller, linebacker Ernest Jones and running back Kyren Williams, all of whom were selected in the third round or lower.

Last season they drafted receiver Puka Nacua, offensive lineman Steve Avila, nose tackle Kobie Turner and edge rusher Byron Young. Nacua produced a record-setting season and Avila, Turner and Young started and played significant roles.

But McVay and Snead also have made questionable picks. In 2021 they used a second-round pick to select receiver Tutu Atwell. Last year they chose quarterback Stetson Bennett in the fourth round — the first quarterback selected by the Rams since Goff.

Bennett played well early in the preseason but was placed on the non-football injury/illness list for an undisclosed issue and has not been a part of the team since.

At midseason the Rams parted ways with backup quarterback Brett Rypien and signed veteran Carson Wentz, who led the Rams to a season-ending victory over the San Francisco 49ers as both teams rested starters for the playoffs.

Wentz is a free agent, so the Rams’ search for backup and possible successor to Stafford continues.

Last week McVay said the Rams would “connect” with Bennett “at the appropriate time” to determine his status.

But there are several quarterback prospects in the draft, including USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye.

“The early returns were good on Stetson,” Demoff said. “And it’s unfortunate, kind of, that he missed the season and we’ll see where it goes from here.

“But I don’t think that would discourage us from taking another swing at a quarterback prospect. But I think it has to be the right player at the right time compared to all the other options.”

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