An interesting first couple of days of Free Agency for the Rams. Drama and mayhem on the first day...and crickets on the second day. How did the Rams fare on the first two days of Free Agency?
I get that the Rams wanted to ensure continuity and a veteran presence in the middle of their young offensive line. Despite being no more than an average center at best, Barnes' re-signing makes at least some sense when put into perspective. Holding down this grade is the money involved. Barnes' base salary was $660,000 in 2015. Did he perform well enough last season to warrant the contract he was signed to on Wednesday? My guess is no.
Tim Barnes' deal w/Rams: 2 years, $5.5 million, w/$3.25 million guaranteed. Contract can max out to $9 million.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) March 9, 2016
With Tre Mason's status in question due to his recent arrest, the Rams were wise to tender RFA Benny Cunningham with an original round designation ($1.671M). Cunningham is one of the best kick returners in the NFL and a fine change of pace/3rd down back in the Rams' offense. Although he has visited the Patriots, I'd expect the Rams to match any offer exceeding that of the tender.
Given the interest from other teams (particularly the Broncos), the Rams made a smart move in tendering RFA Case Keenum with a 1st round designation ($3.635M). The money involved is relatively modest and isn't guaranteed. Keenum's re-signing ensures a healthy competition at the QB position in the coming months.
The mystery re-signing of the day. Most fans don't even know who he is. Folkerts joined the Rams in the middle of last season, when a slew of injuries incurred by the offensive line necessitated bringing in depth off the street. Although figures haven't been released, I'm presuming Folkerts was re-signed for close to the league minimum.
I'm not sure what the Rams were thinking here, re-signing a player who was an obvious bust through his first four years with the team. The Rams managed to re-sign Quick to a relatively cheap one-year prove-it deal which tops out at $1.7 million and includes additional playing time incentives. One last chance for the 33rd overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Easily the Rams' best re-signing of the day. Hayes more than proved his worth last season, starting in place of Chris Long and excelling. To top it off, the new contract is quite reasonable - 3 years/17.5M with $10 million in guaranteed money. Incentives can bring the total of the contract to $19 million.
Davis signed a two-year deal with the Rams with yet undisclosed figures. I imagine the numbers will be in the neighbourhood of $1.25 million per season. Davis is a core special teams player for the Rams and provides depth at the free safety position. He could challenge for a starting role this coming season. A smaller, yet significant re-signing for the Rams.
This appears to be a panic signing on the part of the Rams. It came on the heels of the Rams losing both Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. The Rams could ill-afford to lose another stellar defensive starter and made sure they didn't lose Barron to another team. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact he will remain in a Rams uniform for the foreseeable future. But 5 years at $45 million (with $15M fully guaranteed) is at least $10 million too much. Barron's new deal places him among the top 5 contracts at 4-3 OLB or S, whichever you prefer. The grade would be an "A" if not for the dollars involved.
Then there are the deals the Rams DIDN'T make. I'll give the Rams a grade for how they handled negotiations with CB Janoris Jenkins and S Rodney McLeod.
Well, someone was going to overpay for the services of Janoris Jenkins. I'm just glad it wan't the Rams. Jenkins signed a 5-year/$62.5M contract with the New York Giants on Wednesday. Those numbers place Jenkins in the top 5 cornerbacks in the NFL. Well he isn't one of the top 5 CB's in the NFL. I figured on Jenkins getting at most a 5 year deal with a ceiling of $52.5 million, a fair price for a cornerback with his production and talent (coupled with risks and shortcomings on the field at times). If the Rams refrain from signing Free Agents from other teams this year, it should allow them to receive a 3rd round compensatory pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Make no mistake, the Rams will sorely miss starting FS Rodney McLeod. His departure to the Eagles leaves a gaping hole in the Rams secondary. Nonetheless, the Rams did the right thing in passing on re-signing McLeod once the dollars reached the stratosphere. McLeod landed a 5 year/$37.5M contract with Philadelphia, who overpaid by a substantial margin. For comparative purposes, both George Iloka (5 years/$30M) and Tashaun Gipson (5 years/$35.5M) were signed to much more reasonable contracts on Wednesday by Cincinnati and Jacksonville, respectively. Both are better players than McLeod, in my estimation. If the Rams don't sign any Free Agents from other teams, McLeod should be worth a 4th round compensatory pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Overall Grade: B
The Rams didn't make any big splashes in the first two days of Free Agency. Nor did they wildly overspend to retain the services of Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Just some solid re-signings of their own Free Agents without destroying their salary cap structure.
Kudos to the Rams for navigating through some pretty tough Free Agency waters this year. With close to $1 billion in available salary cap space for teams to spend (plus overall minimum cash amounts to spend before the end of 2016 due to provisions in the CBA) it was definitely a sellers market. The Rams managed to re-sign many of their own Free Agents without breaking the bank or compromising their future salary cap structure, which is an accomplishment in of itself.
I haven't completely deciphered all of the new contracts the Rams signed players to this week. I believe the Rams have approximately $16 million in available salary cap space remaining, with all additional 2016 financial obligations taken into consideration.
The accompanying chart presents the Rams' roster and depth chart as of 11:00 pm, Thursday, March 10:
C Tim Barnes Demetrius Rhaney Eric Kush RG Jamon Brown Cody Wichmann Brian Folkerts LG Rodger Saffold Garrett Reynolds David Arkin RT Rob Havenstein Andrew Donnal LT Greg Robinson Darrell Williams Isaiah Battle TE Lance Kendricks Justice Cunningham WR Tavon Austin Stedman Bailey Kain Colter WR Kenny Britt Nick Toon Isiah Ferguson WR Brian Quick Bradley Marquez Deon Long RB Tre Mason Trey Watts Malcolm Brown RB Todd Gurley Benny Cunningham Zach Laskey QB Case Keenum Nick Foles Sean Mannion PK P John Hekker LS Jake McQuaide DT Aaron Donald Louis Trinca-Pasat DT Michael Brockers Doug Worthington DE William Hayes Ethan Westbrooks DE Robert Quinn Matt Longacre MLB Alec Ogletree Bryce Hager OLB Mark Barron Zack Hodges Matthew Wells OLB Akeem Ayers Cameron Lynch CB E.J. Gaines Marcus Roberson Eric Patterson CB Trumaine Johnson Lamarcus Joyner Troy Hill SS Tim McDonald Jr. Maurice Alexander FS Cody Davis Christian Bryant 61 Players Total