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Two reasons why the Los Angeles Rams are hesitant to extend QB Jared Goff in 2019

There’s a good chance that the two things delaying a deal have nothing to do with Goff’s performance.

Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff gets some guidance from Head Coach Sean McVay at minicamp, Jun. 11, 2019.
Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff gets some guidance from Head Coach Sean McVay at minicamp, Jun. 11, 2019.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a wild couple of weeks for the potential upcoming extension for Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff.

Things kicked off about three weeks ago when Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio suggested Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott was more certain to get an extension and that Florio “would not be surprised if Goff doesn’t get a second contract with the Rams.”

That speculation floated around for about a week until the Philadelphia Eagles extended QB Carson Wentz at the end of organized team activities before the optional mandatory minicamp. While Wentz and Goff were under contract through 2020 as first-round picks from the 2016 NFL Draft, Prescott is heading into a contract year this season. The timing doesn’t necessarily sync up between the three.

And that’s what makes a deal for Goff this offseason so precarious. There’s obviously no real pressure to do a deal now on its own merits, but the Wentz extension and a potential Prescott deal in the next few months, along with Florio’s continued sniping, pushed McVay to make his most emphatic comments on the matter this week. That motivated me to ask a simple question: Why wait beyond 2019 to get the extension done as the Rams are reportedly going to do?

I think there are likely two major factors here that lend toward Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Kevin Demoff and his Special Assistant Tony Pastoors preferring to wait things out at least one season that have nothing to do with Goff’s on-field performance.

Contract structure

This one’s a bit more finicky.

Part of the motivation to get a deal done earlier than later is the concept that it’s going to save millions the sooner you do it. As the cap expands, teams get more money to allocate toward their roster priorities. None stands higher than the quarterback position. So every year we see the bar for paying starting talent at the quarterback position rise higher and higher. So the idea stands that an extension for Goff this year might cost $35m per year while one next year might hit closer to $40m and a deal after his rookie deal ends in 2020 as the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expires would head north of $40m. So the point of extending Goff now is that you might be saving something toward $10m per year on the extension beyond 2020 while keeping the 2019 and 2020 rates locked in.

The thing is anything that the Rams “save” is something that “costs” Goff. And his representatives obviously know that.

So if you’re talking about saving millions of dollars by doing something early, Goff’s going to be looking for some kind of additional security in his deal whether it be to spread things out instead of having a heavily front-loaded deal or more guaranteed money at signing or roster bonuses that would lock him in year-to-year.

The Rams could certainly get a deal done with Goff now, but it would likely bend toward favorable contract conditions on his part whereas waiting might still deliver a major payday that gives the Rams some flexibility near the deal’s end.

Competition for the Rams’ free agent money

This is where things become less knowable largely because it’s going to come down to two factors: the performance of various Rams whose deals expire soon and the potential to fill key roster priorities on the market instead of through the draft.

Let’s take the former first.

The list of Rams on deals that expire after this season is rather long:

2020 LA Rams Free Agents

Player POS Type Outcome
Player POS Type Outcome
Malcolm Brown RB UFA Re-signed, 2-yr $3.25m
Blake Countess DB UFA Waived
Jared Goff QB UFA Optioned
Tyler Higbee TE UFA Re-signed, 4 yr $31m
Troy Hill CB UFA Re-signed, 2-yr $8.25m
Marcus Peters CB UFA Traded
Aqib Talib CB UFA Traded
Austin Blythe OL UFA
Blake Bortles QB UFA
Michael Brockers DL UFA
Marqui Christian DB UFA
Dante Fowler, Jr. EDGE UFA
Bryce Hager ILB UFA
Cory Littleton LB UFA
Mike Thomas WR UFA
Andrew Whitworth LT UFA
Greg Zuerlein K UFA
Morgan Fox DE RFA
Jojo Natson KR/PR RFA
Adonis Alexander CB ERFA
Josh Carraway OLB ERFA
Kendall Blanton TE ERFA
Chandler Brewer OL ERFA
Josh Carraway LB ERFA
Marquise Copeland DL ERFA
Donte Deayon CB ERFA
Greg Dortch WR ERFA
Landis Durham LB ERFA
Dominique Hatfield CB ERFA
Jeff Holland OLB ERFA
Jeremiah Kolone OL ERFA
Johnny Mundt TE ERFA
Jachai Polite EDGE ERFA
Coleman Shelton OL ERFA
Nate Trewyn OL ERFA
Nsimba Webster WR ERFA
Ethan Wolf TE ERFA
John Wolford QB ERFA

Plenty of those Rams have a ton to prove in 2019. Take CB Marcus Peters . Or TE Tyler Higbee . Or EDGE Dante Fowler, Jr. All three could enjoy a positive 2019 season that sees their market value increase. Or, well, the opposite could happen. The difference between those two polar opposites is essentially millions of dollars.

The Rams have to build those projections into their plans and especially their plans for the biggest contract of all: Goff’s extension.

Let’s say the Rams are looking at the landscape beyond the current CBA into the era of a second Goff deal. And let’s say they’re pegging Goff to a deal at $38m per year while keeping Peters around on a deal at $15m per and moving on from Fowler and Higbee. But let’s say Peters balls out this year and ends up creating a market for his services that nears $17.5m per. The Rams have to account for that $2.5m in their plans while remaining inflexible regarding the Goff deal. Now imagine that instead of just Peters, there are dozens of deals that could affect the Rams’ cap situation by a million here and a million there.

Because that’s exactly the outlook.

Knowing that they can’t (or perhaps better said shouldn’t) budge on a Goff deal, they have to maintain roster flexibility elsewhere. And without knowing how certain current Rams will play as they head toward free agency, that flexibility doesn’t come with the certainty of that the timeline of contracts does. We know when these players’ deals end; we don’t know what kind of play they’ll provide as they head toward those markers.

And that’s just considering this next offseason. If you look toward the 2021 offseason when Goff’s deal ends, you have a whole other cast of Rams to consider as they head toward free agency including WR Cooper Kupp, S John Johnson III and TE Gerald Everett.

So there’s the relationship between Goff’s deal and other major deals on the Rams roster remains one in flux that would make it tough to do a deal now.

The other side of that is that the other major deals might not be for Rams that are currently on the roster.

The Rams’ second-highest paid player in 2019 is LT Andrew Whitworth who the Rams signed to a three-year deal in 2017. The fourth-highest paid is Fowler. Somewhat obviously, those two positions are extremely expensive to fill on the market. With both playing out the final year of their contracts, the Rams could be set to replace them in 2020 by signing a veteran free agent. The difference between filling those positions on the market and filling them through the draft is tens of millions of dollars over the course of a deal.

What if Peters and CB Aqib Talib are no longer Rams in 2020? What if the Rams move on from both Higbee and Everett? Will the Rams dip back into free agency in 2020 in a way that makes a significant impact on their cap situation?

It’s entirely possible. And that possibility lends itself towards major ramifications regarding Goff’s deal.

There’s nothing untoward here. The Rams are in fine cap position to sign Goff to a deal. They have tons of talent around him locked in for years to come. And they have plenty of flexibility to continue to pump up the roster both through the draft and free agency.

But the sheer scope of the unknown around Goff over the next two seasons is likely what is promoting Demoff’s hesitancy to get a deal done now.