The Los Angeles Rams dealt with the biggest contractual decision on the future books last night by getting a deal done with QB Jared Goff to extend him for four seasons beyond his rookie deal that will keep him with the Rams through the 2024 season.
Now that it’s done, the Rams have the opportunity to look at future windows with more clarity depending on the structure of Goff’s deal. That doesn’t change things for next year, but it certainly does beyond that into the era of the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
Here’s how things are looking now that Goff’s locked up.
The Rams had already locked Goff in on his fifth-year option back in April, so his $22.7m salary for next season was already on the books. And pushing his contract expiration into the 2021 offseason meant that the 2020 offseason picture was pretty clear.
While the play of 2019 will put a determinative gloss on the outlook heading into free agency next year along with the 2020 NFL Draft, the bottom line is pretty clear for the Rams in 2020: The positions of top value outside of QB and WR are all in play.
Here are the Rams’ impending free agents next year:
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|
LT Andrew Whitworth is a near certainty to retire. CB Aqib Talib, DL Michael Brockers and backup QB Blake Bortles are close behind in likelihood to depart.
That opens up key positions for the Rams to address, though there are obvious candidates on the current roster. The question is if the Rams will look to upgrade at those position in free agency or the draft. Goff’s deal likely doesn’t affect the Rams’ salary cap outlook for next offseason that currently has the Rams with more than $55m available.
The real issue is the decisions the Rams have to make on other impending FAs.
CB Marcus Peters, EDGE Dante Fowler, Jr., ILB Cory Littleton, TE Tyler Higbee, RG Austin Blythe and K Greg Zuerlein are all starters playing in their contract year. And depth like DE Morgan Fox, S Marqui Christian and WR Mike Thomas are all looking to earn new deals as reserves.
So you’re talking about left tackle, both cornerback spots, edge rusher, a D-line slot, tight end, right guard and kicker that currently aren’t on the 2021 books. Whether the Rams re-sign some of these candidates or fill them in in free agency, those are just massive decisions.
And that sets us up for 2021.
The current CBA will expire with the 2020 NFL year in mid-March. So we don’t know yet if/how much it will effect the current rules governing free agency and the salary cap, but we can at least work off of the current structure as a baseline.
Here’s the current list of expiring contracts for 2021:
2021 LA Rams Free Agents
|Jared Goff||QB||UFA||Re-signed, 4-yr $134m|
So you’ve got Goff along with the 2017 NFL Draft class still on their initial rookie deals along with a couple Rams on new negotiated deals like RB Malcolm Brown, CB Troy Hill and CB Nickell Robey-Coleman along with the two new end-of-career vets in LB Clay Matthews and S Eric Weddle.
Now that the Rams have Goff (and DL Aaron Donald) locked in, we can at least begin shaping up this offseason a bit more straightforwardly. The unknown of the 2020 offseason means we have too many key positions yet to be addressed, but we can start thinking about the 2017 draft class with more immediacy. Since Executive Vice President of Football Operations/Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff (2009) and Vice President of Football & Business Administration Tony Pastoors (2011) joined the team to assume duties for negotiating contracts, the two have doled out four contracts to former first-round picks after just three seasons: EDGE Robert Quinn, WR Tavon Austin, RB Todd Gurley and now Goff. They haven’t done so for any non-first rounders, so it’d be a bit of a surprise to extend TE Gerald Everett, WR Cooper Kupp or S John Johnson in 2020. That would bring them here into the 2021 season with two football seasons yet to play defining the motivation behind re-signing them. While Kupp and Johnson would seem like locks at this point, the same can’t be said for Everett who was the highest picked among them.
The Goff deal at least helps clear things up even with two seasons and a CBA still to come.
The Rams have just seven players signed on non-rookie deals that expire past 2021: WR Robert Woods (2022), RT Rob Havenstein (2023), P Johnny Hekker (2023), WR Brandin Cooks (2024), Gurley (2024), Donald (2025) and Goff (2025).
While Goff’s deal is probably the last one to get done until next offseason (though a potential Peters deal looms...), we’ve got our core locked up. The push now will be to continue to draft and develop role players around this core while continuing to maintain key talents across the starters on both sides. Tough decisions remain in the balance on both sides, but premium draft picks will come in for the first time in the Sean McVay era. In the last three drafts since hiring McVay, the Rams have used just one pick in the top 60 when they took Everett 44th overall in 2017. So we’re going to see an unusual infusion of premier talents to rely upon in ways we haven’t had to (or haven’t wanted to) in the McVay era. That changes things in terms of free agency, but it also impacts the decision making process.
Ultimately though, signing Goff takes the biggest decision off the table and invites a level of roster stability that few NFL teams have over the next few years.