While Los Angeles Rams fans are rightly focused on the looming game on Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons in the wild card round of the playoffs, many teams around the NFL have begun their offseason processes. There are coaching and front office vacancies. There’s the matter of the 2018 NFL Draft. But in front of that is the matter of expiring contracts and free agency.
For the Rams, they have 13 players headed toward unrestricted free agency in just more than three months time when the NFL new year opens on March 14 (the list in the story linked has 14, but DL Ethan Westbrooks has since extended through next season). One of those soon-to-be UFAs, WR Sammy Watkins, was the focus of a profile by Gary Klein at the LA Times in which he offered a feeble bit of reporting on Watkins’ contractual status.
While most of the piece was boilerplate quotes and filler, there was one bit on Watkins’ future that picked up some interest today:
Watkins is earning $3.1 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract. The Rams are expected to consider putting either the transition tag or franchise tag on Watkins for 2018, and then make a long-term decision about him before the 2019 season.
So the Rams aren’t expected to apply a tag. And they’re not considering it. They’re expected to consider it...
It’s an interesting option given that the Rams have so much to work on contract-wise this offseason. Six of those 13 UFAs are starters: OLB Connor Barwin, CB Trumaine Johnson, DB Lamarcus Joyner, CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, C John Sullivan and Watkins. Should the Rams suffer major attrition among that group let alone the rest of the depth among the UFAs and restricted free agents, it could completely change the roster needs. So it might be the best option to tag Watkins to ensure the Rams have a suitable WR1 on the roster for 2018. Without a second-round pick, the Rams have limited premium draft capital with which to bring in a potential replacement at wideout; the Rams added theirs to CB E.J. Gaines in the trade for Watkins and sixth-round pick.
What could be interesting about the tag is the player the Rams have used it on for the last two seasons: Trumaine Johnson.
Tru was part of a potent duo at cornerback in the Jeff Fisher along with now New York Giants CB Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins left in free agency in 2016 leaving the Rams to work out a long-term deal. Two years later, and that deal has never arrived. He has certainly earned a major forthcoming deal whether it’s with the Rams or with another team. But would Sammy Watkins be able to earn a major deal coming out of this offense?
Whereas Tru shined in the post-Janoris landscape, Sammy was the main man upon arrival and never quite produced the numbers to match. In fact, he’s having his least productive season by far on a per game average. Would another year impact his market value negatively to the point that he’d consider pushing back against a tag?
At least for his part, it doesn’t sound like it.
I love it here. I don’t want to change teams. That’s not what a guy of my stature wants to do, bounce around.
I’ve got a family so I’m looking forward to staying. But you know it’s a business.
If I go, I’ll be hurt. … I just want to stay here and ball, that’s what any player wants to do. You don’t want to hop from team to team, quarterback to quarterback.
Let’s hope Sammy can stay here and ball this weekend and maybe put a nice finishing touch on 2017 before the Rams begin meeting expectations to consider his contractual future.