So here we go. Into the depths of the offseason and the lull of activity that comes with it. The Los Angeles Rams are still in Phase II of the offseason program with Phase III set to begin on Monday which at least provides us the reprieve of organized team activities and the optional mandatory minicamp which ends a month from today. And thereafter...welp. We’ll get over the desert as we do every year.
But in today’s Football Morning in America for Pro Football Talk, Peter King lays out the baseline for the conventional wisdom for the Rams headed toward 2019. While he’s bullish on the Rams just as fans are, he dropped some nuggest on contract extensions for Rams CB Marcus Peters and one for Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott that brought to mind the looming extension for QB Jared Goff that offers more importance to the Rams’ future given the scope of those decisions.
King put up a set of power rankings that confirm his backing of the Rams:
4.) Los Angeles Rams
The Rams will be good; we know that. But good enough to stave off the Niners and Seahawks in the West? Good enough to play deep into January? You might wonder about Todd Gurley’s future, because of the weird usage pattern in 2018 (first 12 games: 19.4 carries per game; last five games: 10.6 carries) that hinted at a bum knee. I’m not that concerned about Gurley, or the running game, because Sean McVay will figure it out. I’m more concerned with what the heck happened to Marcus Peters last year, and whether in a pass-happy NFC West the Peters-Aqib Talib combo platter can be the top cornerback group in the division like the Rams planned. Peters, per Pro Football Focus, was the league’s 11th-rated corner in 2016 and 18th-rated corner in 2017 … and in 2018, his first year in L.A., he plummeted to 91st, allowing a garish 118.9 rating in balls that targeted him. Peters did play better after recovering from an early-season calf injury, so there’s hope that, if healthy, he can get back to 2017 form. He’ll need to for the Rams to be as good as fourth in the league.
King’s not off base in shrugging off the Gurley knee saga now that the Rams have Memphis Tigers RB Darrell Henderson in tow with the 70th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. How the Rams reduce Gurley’s output whether it’s significantly more work for Henderson than what was given to RB Malcolm Brown a la what we saw in the playoff with RB C.J. Anderson or using the passing game to limit Gurley’s rushing production a la what we saw in the second half of the regular season, I’m not sure. I’m also not worried, because, as King notes, McBae will figure it out.
No, the bigger issue lies in organizing the issues brought upon by the first wave of attrition from last year’s roster both on the offensive line (which King avoided for some reason) and the defense. And with the next wave coming next year possibly facing both starting cornerbacks, King’s right to point to that as a crucial flashpoint especially given the cost of the position.
Both Talib and Peters are currently set to become free agents next offseason:
2020 LA Rams Free Agents
|Malcolm Brown||RB||UFA||Re-signed, 2-yr $3.25m|
|Tyler Higbee||TE||UFA||Re-signed, 4 yr $31m|
|Troy Hill||CB||UFA||Re-signed, 2-yr $8.25m|
|Dante Fowler, Jr.||EDGE||UFA|
While adding Michigan Wolverines CB David Long at least offsets the potential loss at corner, the decision on whether or not to extend Peters is an incredibly important one given the position value. The Miami Dolphins just pushed the ceiling on the position by extending CB Xavien Howard with a five-year, $75.25m deal with $46m guaranteed, though the Dolphins have a quick out available after 2020 if they so choose. So it’s worth keeping the deals at corner in mind given that the Rams haven’t valued defensive backs as much as the market has with Rams Chief Operating Officer and Vice President Kevin Demoff and his Special Assistant Tony Pastoors overseeing contract negotiations. Rams Head Coach Sean McVay said in March that the Rams “absolutely” want to extend Peters, but I wouldn’t put much weight into comments on contracts from the head coach.
Beyond Peters though, the biggest potential extension looming is one for QB Jared Goff. McVay weighed in on a Goff deal as well back at the NFL annual league meeting in March and was much less direct than he was with Peters saying:
Jared’s obviously extremely important to us. But those are things that, we know we want to get him done at some point. Whether it happens this year, next year, those are things we haven’t really gotten into in depth about yet.
While King didn’t touch on Goff today, he did mention Prescott in his section on 10 things he thinks he thinks:
I think the Dallas Cowboys should take a deep breath and sign Dak Prescott—five years, $150 milion ($90 million guaranteed) sounds about correct—before he plays well enough this year to push him into Russell Wilson land. Prescott’s not a top-five quarterback, but you absolutely can win with him, and he can play well enough in and out of the pocket to be competitive in the biggest games on the schedule. And he is a very good face of the franchise, eminently trustworthy and a good leader. For those who swear he’s not worth it, ask yourself this question: What is the alternative, and are you willing to let Prescott walk away while the Cowboys go the draft-and-develop route in the near future?
I don’t know why you couldn’t literally say those exact same words for Goff. So it’s probably wisest to start thinking of $30m as the operable floor for a Goff deal even though there’s a TON to wade through next offseason on the quarterback market while there wasn’t much this year.
In any case, King’s the ultimate arbiter of conventional wisdom across the NFL and has been for more than a decade. So for him to have the Rams in the top five with some strong inferences on potential extensions for Goff and Peters and a dismissal of the impact of Gurley’s knee injury, we’ve got a good sense of the building narratives around the Rams in 2019.