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Should the Los Angeles Rams use the franchise tag in 2018?

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The Rams have a ton of decisions to make in free agency this year. The TST Staff weighs in on if the Rams should use a tag and on whom.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams have a lot interesting decisions to make after their surprise 2017 season as they head into free agency.

One of the most pressing decisions will be if the team should apply a franchise or transition tag this offseason. The decision is tougher than it appears on Madden. Even though the team can easily franchise a player, it could easily end up being a situation where the tag ultimately delays signing a player to a long-term contract to the point it never gets done (see: CB Trumaine Johnson).

So with today being the first day teams can use a tag with the deadline coming on March 6 just more than a week before free agency opens on March 14, I asked the TST Staff if they would tag a player and if so who would be the prime candidates.

3k (@3k_)

I’m on board with using a non-exclusive franchise tag on WR Sammy Watkins. What it really comes down to for me is the need to find a replacement for his slot on the depth chart if he leaves and the timing of that effort.

Given that we’re without a second-round pick, we’re a bit short on capital in the 2018 NFL Draft. Were we in a position to take on the replacement search a year from now without as many competing efforts? Sure, I’d be fine to draft that replacement. That we’d likely have to do so this offseason while seeking a CB1 (and perhaps more cornerback depth in the same offseason) while looking for edge rushing talent, inside linebacking help, a backup QB, and offensive line depth to boot? It’s potentially asking too much. Nailing those other efforts on their own is difficult enough. To come in with, “Oh, and we need a top-of-the-depth-chart WR too. K thx bye” on top is almost rude to the front office to handle.

I’d tag Watkins. If the additional year of work in the offense sees greater production and the Rams are interesting in matching market offers? Pay the man. If not, we’ll have a full complement of draft picks and a free agency period that can focus on bringing in a WR1 without as many competing efforts for the front office to handle.

Brandon Bate (@NoPlanB_)

It seems the likely candidates are Sammy Watkins and S Lamarcus Joyner. If that’s the case, I think they tag Sammy and (hopefully) sign Joyner to a multi-year deal. The Rams coughed up quite a bit to obtain Watkins, so I don’t see them letting him walk in free agency after one season. It’ll come with a healthy $16m contract for 2018, but I think he’s worth it, regardless of the unspectacular numbers he put up last year.

RamBuck (@lannyosu)

I’m on board with tagging Watkins, because I want the Rams to return as much of the 2017 starting offense as possible. I do think the Rams can come to terms on a long-term deal with Joyner, but would still like to see Watkins elevate his play in 2018 in McVay’s system.

EddieP (@iAmEddieP_)

I do not believe the Rams have any candidate worthy of a tag. Sammy Watkins’ value/fit can be assessed through a 1-year incentive laden deal. Lamarcus Joyner should be tied up to a multi-year pact. Outside of those two, no Ram free agent should be in the tag picture.

If forced to, I’d tag Watkins with a transitional tag.

Elijah Kim (@Football_EZK)

The Rams should use their tag on Lamarcus Joyner, the better player. Joyner was instrumental for the Rams defense and while potentially losing Sammy Watkins to free agency could be hard, there are solid wide receivers like Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp that could lessen the blow while the Rams do not currently have a strong third safety right now.

Sosa Kremenjas (@SosaKre)

I’m torn here, but the way I look at it goes like this. Lamarcus Joyner is a stud. His first season at Safety and he turned in a truly elite season. He can’t be let go. He’s a young, homegrown talent with no red flags and a guy who’s earned every penny. I think the ideal situation is to lock in Joyner long-term, and ensure he’s a Ram for at least a handful of years. That leaves Sammy Watkins. I think when the Rams eye’d him as a potential trade target, they had the intention to extend/franchise tag him. When you’re coming off of a 4-win season, you don’t trade for guys to be 1-year rentals. I think the Rams identified Watkins as a young franchise cornerstone on offense. Though things didn’t really work out that way in his first season, it wasn’t fair to Watkins to expect a pro bowl season with all things considered. I’m not sure anyone really know’s “what’s there” yet, so why not franchise tag him, have another year (albeit a full year) to evaluate the situation, and revisit in one years time when Watkins will still only be 26 years old.

Outcome: franchise tag WR Sammy Watkins.

Eric Nagel (@Eric_nagel)

If I’m tagging anyone, it’s Sammy Watkins. I agree that LaMarcus Joyner is fantastic. One of the best in the league. But once upon a time, Maurice Alexander was the heir apparent. That of course happened after Rodney McLeod left.

The point is, the Rams drafted John Johnson in the third round. He played pretty well. Can you replace Joyner easily? Maybe not. But finding a third round safety is probably easier than finding someone like Sammy Watkins.

Last year, after the bye, Watkins put up 6 TDs in 8 games. Almost a third of his catches resulted in points.

If you think it’s easier to replace that then Joyner, tag Joyner and roll the dice with Sammy. If not...see above.

Tevin Broner (@T_Bron)

I would tag Sammy Watkins. It would be pretty expensive but after trading a second round pick for him and him play pretty solid it would be tough to just let him walk. Especially with him being such a big part of the offense, the numbers might have been mediocre compared to the other number one wide receivers in the league. But like a couple of people have mentioned his presence has been big for the Rams passing game.

If he plays well next season the Rams could ink him to a longer deal or if he gets injured they could let him walk. This is going to be risky of course, but more than likely this was going to happen after the trade regardless.