The 49ers haven’t been the most active team so far in free agency, and some fans are not happy about it. The most common refrain points to the fact that the Rams have continued to add elite names to the roster over multiple seasons. On today’s Oh, Hey There! podcast, Javier Vega explained the difference between LA and San Francisco.
Ever since Sean McVay arrived in the City of Angels, the Rams have not been afraid to make gigantic roster moves. They didn’t hesitate to acquire and pay Jalen Ramsey. They didn’t hesitate to pick up Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller last year, and they were downright giddy when they traded Jared Goff, and multiple draft picks to take on Matt Stafford and (at the time) the largest single-season dead cap charge in NFL history.
The 49ers, on the other hand, don’t quite play things that fast and loose. They’ve chosen to build their roster mostly through the draft while targeting specific areas via trade. Even the big trade up to third in the draft didn’t impact the salary cap because it only cost them draft picks.
“Essentially, the Rams have gotten rid of their middle class, and the Niners have not,” Vega said. “It’s just two ways to skin a cat. So for all the fans out there, ‘Oh, why can’t the Niners do this,’ or, ‘Why don’t they sign that?’ It’s just the way they build their roster.”
As broken down on the podcast, the Rams have chosen to bank on truly elite talent to put them over the top. They have seven players making at least $15 million per year on the team, with only three players making $8-$9.5 million. The other 41 players make $3 million or less.
The 49ers have chosen to build a deeper roster with talent more spread out across salary levels. San Francisco has three players making at least $15 million per year, four players making $10-12 million, six players making $5-8 million, and 40 players making $4.5 million or less.
The unspoken part of the Rams’ plan, of course, is that you need all that top-end talent to stay healthy because the rest of the roster just isn’t strong enough to carry the team through any kind of extended absence. Fortunately for Los Angeles, the injury bug has largely passed them over during this championship window. That doesn’t mean everyone was healthy all the time, but they haven’t had the devastating injuries to key players for much of Sean McVay’s tenure.
As for the 49ers, well, you know. Despite all of those injuries, however, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch’s roster has been able to at least get to the NFC Championship game in two out of the last three seasons. Depth at multiple positions is one of the primary reasons for that success.
So while it may be frustrating to see players flying off the board and heading to other teams, just take a deep breath. The 49ers favor a more conservative approach that leads to a deeper, more talented roster capable of sustaining injuries over a 17 game season.