THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Three times in just over a year, the Los Angeles Rams have agreed to pay the most guaranteed money ever given to a running back, a defensive lineman and a quarterback.
The records set by Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald didn't stand for long. Jared Goff's new deal guarantees him a whopping $110 million, the most in NFL history for any player — and even that record certainly won't last much longer.
But a franchise that went through 13 consecutive non-winning seasons and a 12-year playoff drought has richly rewarded the franchise cornerstones who lifted them to a Super Bowl berth last year and are trying to force their way back through their wide-open championship window.
"They're always taking care of guys," said receiver Robert Woods, who got a significant pay bump himself in the offseason. "They're keeping their team intact, keeping the family intact. You're allowed to grow as a team and really bond and play for each other when you're keeping the core guys around."
And that's the logic behind these lavish moves, according to the players benefiting from them and the bosses agreeing to them.
The Rams want a harmonious, motivated group of key players as they chase a title in their collective primes. While others speculate on whether the 24-year-old Goff is a true franchise quarterback, or whether Gurley will end up looking overpaid a half-decade from now, the Rams say they're focused on making sure the pillars of their recent success are in optimal conditions for winning.
"When you see that, you're looking at someone that really cares and takes care of their guys," receiver Brandin Cooks said. "They're keeping that camaraderie and that family atmosphere. You come here and do your job and fit right in, and sooner or later, you're going to get taken care of."
Cooks got a five-year, $81 million deal from the Rams last year before he had even played a down for his new team. Cooks, Goff, Gurley and Donald are all tied to the Rams through at least the 2023 season, cementing the foundation of a team that has won 24 regular-season games and two NFC West titles since coach Sean McVay took over two seasons ago.
McVay praised Rams owner Stan Kroenke's willingness to write one big check after another — including an improved deal for McVay a few months ago.
"It makes you want to work that much harder for him and for this organization when you can do the things that we believe in," McVay said. "That helps us take steps in the right direction, when we make commitments to the people we want to do this with for a while."
Los Angeles' largesse has prompted criticism and encouraged widespread speculation on future salary cap troubles with all of those massive contracts on the books. The Rams' front office isn't about to lay out its multiyear budget plan for those contingencies, but the executives are confident in their ability to manage the books into the future.
"This was something that not only took into consideration taking care of Jared the way that we felt like he deserved to be taken care of," McVay said. "But also what's in our best interest, and how that might potentially affect our ability to re-sign other guys, as crazy as that sounds. Every decision we make is always in the best interest of the team."
The Rams could have stretched out the process of signing Goff for another year, perhaps waiting to see how he performed this season. But McVay firmly believes Goff has shown him more than enough over the previous two seasons to justify a deal of this magnitude and length.
"It's something that demonstrates a commitment that we've always felt to him," McVay said. "To know that he's going to be able to take care of his family for a long time and maybe take me to dinner is a good thing."
There's another reason for getting done early: Goff's huge new contract is structured to help the Rams mitigate its impact, team president Kevin Demoff said. For instance, Goff will make more money in the upcoming season than he would have under his rookie contract.
"That is part of the reason why getting it done earlier is beneficial," Goff said. "I'm not the type of guy that ever wants to do that to a team, and I think that's definitely calculated by them. I don't think it's something that will hinder us tremendously."
Goff confessed his relief at being finished with months of negotiations. He admits the talks were spurred forward by Philadelphia's deal in June with Carson Wentz, the No. 2 pick behind Goff in 2016.
"It's something you think about your whole life," Goff said. "Like getting drafted and getting to the Super Bowl, this is one of those moments, for sure. Obviously, the numbers you never dream about, but getting a contract that establishes you as somebody that is a franchise quarterback in this league and is going to play for a long time is something you dream about."