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Preview of the Rams' Top 5 FA/Veteran Decisions for 2018

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  • Preview of the Rams' Top 5 FA/Veteran Decisions for 2018

    First, let me address the elephant in the room - why address this now (11 games into the 2017 season in the middle of a playoff hunt)?

    My reason is that I think it could be interesting to see how my views on November 28 compare to those I'll hold when the season ends.

    So, here's the list (in no particular order):

    1. Aaron Donald
    The desire to re-sign Donald is a no-brainer, as is his worth (he's going to get a top $ contract). The only question is timing. The Rams control Donald's fate for two more seasons, but he's already shown the willingness to hold out. I have to believe that he returned because the Rams signaled that they'd take care of him this offseason. Just do it. He's a future Hall of Fame player. You just can't let guys like that go. CONCLUSION: Give him a new contract!

    2. Sammy Watkins
    If you look at his numbers, you might not think he's worth re-signing. My advice: don't look at the numbers. He is drawing top CBs every week, and opens things up for other players. I'd really like to see how he does after a full offseason with the Rams. My biggest concern is, if his contract dwarfs Robert Woods' (5 years, $34M), how will that play given Woods' success this year? CONCLUSION: Re-sign him, but don't break the bank.

    3. Trumaine Johnson
    The problem with TruJo is that he's a B+ CB looking for A CB money. That said, B+ CBs (particularly with his size) are difficult to find. I really would like to see the Rams retain him. If they don't, they may need to spend their first pick to replace him. I'd rather use that pick on an impact pass rusher or, perhaps, a young OT to compete with Rob Havenstein/groom to replace Greg Whitworth when he retires. I think TruJo really wants to be a Ram, so I'm hoping it can be worked out. CONCLUSION: Negotiate with TruJo and hope for the best.

    4. Robert Quinn
    Under Quinn's current contract, the Rams can pay another $12M+ to keep him in 2018, or release him at a dead cap hit of less than $1M. Though I think he's been showing signs of life in recent weeks, Quinn is not playing like a $12M+ player. That said, he's only 27, and he's managed to stay healthy this year. Perhaps a comeback year is in his future? In my mind, the obvious/best choice with Quinn is to restructure his contract. If you can get his number down to $7-8M (maybe adding a year to his deal) or less, I'd keep him for 2018. If not, I think he'll be playing elsewhere. CONCLUSION: Restructure contract, if possible.

    5. Tavon Austin
    Those who called for Austin's release last offseason were kidding themselves. That would have resulted in a dead cap hit of $19M+. This offseason, that number goes to $5M. If the Rams keep Austin on his current contract, his salary for 2018 would be $8M, which is WAY too much for a gimmick/decoy/change-of-pace player (particularly when the Rams need $ for Sammy Watkins). I think that the Rams could find a guy in the mid rounds of the draft who could take on that role (I like Southern Miss RB Ito Smith as a prospect). In my mind, something has to be done. I'd rank my preferences as (1) trade Austin, (2) restructure to a salary of $5M or less with an out in 2019, (3) release him and replace him in the draft, (4) keep him on his current contract. I'm guessing it will be #3. CONCLUSION: Try to trade or restructure, otherwise let him go.

    Let me know your thoughts.

    I'll update this when the season ends.


  • #2
    I'm with you for the most part. As far as Watkins goes, we have some young players with potential that could fill that spot. As we saw with Minnesota, we are not deep in cornerback. Trujo may not be a #1 but unless you draft one, they're hard to find. I would rather have Trujo at this point than Watkins. As you said, time will tell.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by fearsome foursome View Post
      I'm with you for the most part. As far as Watkins goes, we have some young players with potential that could fill that spot. As we saw with Minnesota, we are not deep in cornerback. Trujo may not be a #1 but unless you draft one, they're hard to find. I would rather have Trujo at this point than Watkins. As you said, time will tell.
      One point I didn't make above about Watkins... if the Rams don't re-sign him, they would likely get a 3rd round compensatory pick, so the trade would not be a complete loss.

      Comment


      • #4
        Agreed.

        On Quinn, Rams will try to restructure, but he'd likely make good money in FA, so I think he'll want to test the market.
        My prognostication? He'll be playing in Miami next year. (William Hayes is 32, and backs up a 35 year old starter at DE). They also run a base 4-3 which Quinn excels at. Given he's 27, I think the Dolphins would love to get him in the fold. I think they'd pay 8-10m range for someone like him, which is much more than the Rams would have on the table.
        Alternative destination: Carolina.

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        • #5
          Insightful post and agree with your conclusions for the most part. I'd lose Tavon in a heartbeat. He's not good at much despite having blinding speed. We have Justin Davis as a UDFA who can be the change-of-pace guy if he solves the fumbling issue. Donald is a lock. He deserves the big money he's likely to get.

          But we need to pay attention to Sammy Watkins immediately. I suspect the ***** will be looking for a #1 WR for Jimmy G and they have substantial cap space as I recall. To them its a win-win as it becomes their plus and our minus. Your post preceded the Alshon Jeffrey extension, which may be a benchmark for us to consider as its only 4 years compared with Woods 5-year deal. Like you I agree Jared needs a full off-season with Sammy to get more in sync and give us the deep threat we should have. The challenge is how much do you pay him when we have so many other receiving options. I also think the TE spot with Everett will increase targets next season.

          Quinn will be a challenge as he has upped his game lately, but I still feel he's more suited to a 4-3, but maybe his time to learn the 3-4 explains why he wasn't much of a factor earlier. If we can renegotiate great, otherwise there may be trade offers and we should listen.

          TruJo is the biggest challenge as we've overpayed him 2 years running, but he is very valuable. I'm not sure the draft is a strong one for CB's but we'll know after the Combine. I like his physical style and he's got good instincts. Part of the negotiation with him should remind him that he's been paid more than he's worth and if he wants to stay with us he's needs to be reasonable going forward. Whether that resonates with him and his agent is a huge question.

          Go Rams!

          Comment


          • #6
            Not too much has changed since I originally posted this, but I would update it as follows:

            The motivation to re-sign Johnson has increased with the injury to Kayvon Webster, who will likely be out at least until training camp.

            Quinn has played much better in recent weeks, but I still would like to get his cap number down.

            Tavon Austin has become more marginalized, making it seem more likely he'll be gone.

            Three guys I didn't mention in my original post who I believe should be re-signed for 2018 are John Sullivan, Nickel Robey-Coleman and Lamarcus Joyner.


            Comment


            • #7
              Some of my thoughts…

              The last time the Rams had a large contingent of their secondary hitting the free agent market, they failed to retain the majority of them. This time around, I hope they find a way to keep some of these guys.

              The writing is on the wall for Trumaine and has been for a while. The Rams essentially priced themselves out of the game with two franchise tags, and I anticipate Johnson – like Jenkins – will sign elsewhere for more than what the Rams are willing to offer. Hopefully not bringing back Johnson will free up room to resign Joyner and Robey-Coleman, who have both been very good contributors on this defense.

              I think you have to find a way to retain Watkins after giving up Gaines and a 2nd rounder for him, and though he hasn’t been as impressive as we all probably hoped for, he is leading the team in touchdown passes and should only get better as he gets more time in this system and with these coaches. The Rams can free up $3 million by getting rid of Austin this offseason, and I anticipate they’ll do so. This year was his shot to show he could make an impact in a more dynamic offense, and he never found his footing. If someone else can get something out of him, good for them. But it’s not working out here, I hate to say.

              For continuity’s sake, I would try to bring Connor Barwin back on a reasonable deal. I don’t think it’ll be tough to resign him for a team-friendly number. As for Robert Quinn, man. Quinn is an interesting situation because the majority of his 2018 cap hit is from a massive salary, but he only has two years left on this deal. The team could save a couple million by converting a large chunk of the salary to a bonus to spread out over the two years, but you'd see more of an impact if you extend him and spread it out over a longer span. But do the Rams really extend him at this point? I’d almost rather see him cut and then bring in someone who Wade thinks is a better fit with better upside at the position.

              With those decisions in mind, it would appear two big offseason needs would be pass rushing OLB and CB1. Offensively, I like where the Rams are almost across the board, especially if Watkins is brought back. Depth w/ upside potential along the offensive line would be handy. Though not an immediate need, I’d strike quickly on someone I thought could take over for Whitworth when he does start to decline or a center I could groom behind Sullivan, who should absolutely be brought back.

              Comment


              • #8
                Some interesting comments there...

                Originally posted by Nick View Post
                The writing is on the wall for Trumaine and has been for a while. The Rams essentially priced themselves out of the game with two franchise tags, and I anticipate Johnson – like Jenkins – will sign elsewhere for more than what the Rams are willing to offer. Hopefully not bringing back Johnson will free up room to resign Joyner and Robey-Coleman, who have both been very good contributors on this defense.
                I believe there is a price at which Trumaine Johnson is worth retaining. The question, of course, is whether he'll be willing to lock himself in, knowing that the open market might pay more. I still have hope there, as TJ is from LA and may be more inclined to take a "hometown discount" now that the team is winning. Still, I've seen this scenario play out before and I won't be shocked if he goes for the cash. If he does leave, I think CB becomes the priority in the draft (unless the Rams want to invest in a FA - could Richard Sherman hit the market and would we be willing to pay him?)

                I think you have to find a way to retain Watkins after giving up Gaines and a 2nd rounder for him, and though he hasn’t been as impressive as we all probably hoped for, he is leading the team in touchdown passes and should only get better as he gets more time in this system and with these coaches. The Rams can free up $3 million by getting rid of Austin this offseason, and I anticipate they’ll do so. This year was his shot to show he could make an impact in a more dynamic offense, and he never found his footing. If someone else can get something out of him, good for them. But it’s not working out here, I hate to say.
                I agree with your conclusion on Watkins, and will add that he does draw the coverage of the #1 CB quite a bit.

                For continuity’s sake, I would try to bring Connor Barwin back on a reasonable deal. I don’t think it’ll be tough to resign him for a team-friendly number. As for Robert Quinn, man. Quinn is an interesting situation because the majority of his 2018 cap hit is from a massive salary, but he only has two years left on this deal. The team could save a couple million by converting a large chunk of the salary to a bonus to spread out over the two years, but you'd see more of an impact if you extend him and spread it out over a longer span. But do the Rams really extend him at this point? I’d almost rather see him cut and then bring in someone who Wade thinks is a better fit with better upside at the position.
                I have to disagree on the notion of brining back Barwin and letting Quinn go. Now that he's finally healthy and seems to be adjusting to the 3-4, Quinn is producing. I would be okay to adding a year to his contract to spread out his money. He's only 27. As for Barwin, I'd be fine brining him back for another year, but he's not a core piece in my opinion.

                With those decisions in mind, it would appear two big offseason needs would be pass rushing OLB and CB1. Offensively, I like where the Rams are almost across the board, especially if Watkins is brought back. Depth w/ upside potential along the offensive line would be handy. Though not an immediate need, I’d strike quickly on someone I thought could take over for Whitworth when he does start to decline or a center I could groom behind Sullivan, who should absolutely be brought back.
                We're entirely on the same page here. CB, edge rusher and OL depth are the priorities in my mind as well. Lesser needs which I'd like to see addressed are NT and possibly a "change of pace" RB.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Here is my end of the year update:

                  Originally posted by AvengerRam View Post
                  1. Aaron Donald
                  The desire to re-sign Donald is a no-brainer, as is his worth (he's going to get a top $ contract). The only question is timing. The Rams control Donald's fate for two more seasons, but he's already shown the willingness to hold out. I have to believe that he returned because the Rams signaled that they'd take care of him this offseason. Just do it. He's a future Hall of Fame player. You just can't let guys like that go. CONCLUSION: Give him a new contract!
                  Nothing has changed here. The Rams need to lock Donald in for the long haul. He's a future HOFer.

                  2. Sammy Watkins
                  If you look at his numbers, you might not think he's worth re-signing. My advice: don't look at the numbers. He is drawing top CBs every week, and opens things up for other players. I'd really like to see how he does after a full offseason with the Rams. My biggest concern is, if his contract dwarfs Robert Woods' (5 years, $34M), how will that play given Woods' success this year? CONCLUSION: Re-sign him, but don't break the bank.
                  There's risk no matter what we do here. Given Watkins' age (24), I think there is still a lot of potential upside if he stays. I go back and fourth, but I think the best compromise would be to give him a contract that pays him a fairly big number, but gives the team an "out" after two years if he does not live up to expectations. As I've noted elsewhere, I really think this MUST be done before the FA period starts on March 12. If it becomes a bidding war, I doubt he'll be back.

                  3. Trumaine Johnson
                  The problem with TruJo is that he's a B+ CB looking for A CB money. That said, B+ CBs (particularly with his size) are difficult to find. I really would like to see the Rams retain him. If they don't, they may need to spend their first pick to replace him. I'd rather use that pick on an impact pass rusher or, perhaps, a young OT to compete with Rob Havenstein/groom to replace Greg Whitworth when he retires. I think TruJo really wants to be a Ram, so I'm hoping it can be worked out. CONCLUSION: Negotiate with TruJo and hope for the best.
                  I want TruJ back. The defense is better when he plays.

                  4. Robert Quinn
                  Under Quinn's current contract, the Rams can pay another $12M+ to keep him in 2018, or release him at a dead cap hit of less than $1M. Though I think he's been showing signs of life in recent weeks, Quinn is not playing like a $12M+ player. That said, he's only 27, and he's managed to stay healthy this year. Perhaps a comeback year is in his future? In my mind, the obvious/best choice with Quinn is to restructure his contract. If you can get his number down to $7-8M (maybe adding a year to his deal) or less, I'd keep him for 2018. If not, I think he'll be playing elsewhere. CONCLUSION: Restructure contract, if possible.
                  Quinn's late season performance (6 sacks, 2 FF in a 6 game stretch) makes him a more viable candidate for the status quo. I still prefer extending his deal in exchange for a reduction in his cap number, though.

                  5. Tavon Austin
                  Those who called for Austin's release last offseason were kidding themselves. That would have resulted in a dead cap hit of $19M+. This offseason, that number goes to $5M. If the Rams keep Austin on his current contract, his salary for 2018 would be $8M, which is WAY too much for a gimmick/decoy/change-of-pace player (particularly when the Rams need $ for Sammy Watkins). I think that the Rams could find a guy in the mid rounds of the draft who could take on that role (I like Southern Miss RB Ito Smith as a prospect). In my mind, something has to be done. I'd rank my preferences as (1) trade Austin, (2) restructure to a salary of $5M or less with an out in 2019, (3) release him and replace him in the draft, (4) keep him on his current contract. I'm guessing it will be #3. CONCLUSION: Try to trade or restructure, otherwise let him go.
                  Austin is gone. I can't imagine any other outcome. I think the best we can hope for is a trade for a Day 3 draft pick.

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