One of the biggest disappointments of the 2022 season for the Los Angeles Rams has been wide receiver Allen Robinson. After signing Robinson to a three-year, $46.5M contract, the former Chicago Bears wide receiver has just 33 catches for 339 yards and three touchdowns. To say the least, it’s far less what the Rams hoped they were paying for back in March.
Sitting at 3-8, it makes sense for Robinson to put an end to his season with nothing left to play for. However, it certainly puts his future with the team in question. The Allen Robinson experiment hasn’t worked. While the offensive line is partially to blame for not getting to see the offense in its envisioned form, it’s also not the only reason the experiment failed.
Robinson never seemed like a fit in the Rams’ offense. His 2.1 average yards of separation are the third-fewest in the NFL this season ahead of only Alec Pierce and DeVante Parker. With that said, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t gotten open. According to ESPN’s Open Score metric, he’s actually gotten open more often than Cooper Kupp.
Open Score (x) by Catch Score (y), 2022 season.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) November 16, 2022
-Tyler Lockett, permanently underrated (YAC score not shown, though)
-Chris Olave is amazing already, needs a quarterback
-Diontae Johnson is always open
-Donovan Peoples-Jones and George Pickens: not open, still making catches. pic.twitter.com/a61G2B4N2K
It seemed as if Stafford and Robinson couldn’t get on the same page and by the time things started to click, both players were injured. The Rams expected Robinson to come in and take over the role that Odell Beckham Jr. had late in the 2021 season as a more physical compliment to Kupp. However, that never became the case.
The Rams can’t afford to ‘run it back’ again in 2023 with no changes and hope everything just clicks the right way for them next year. Bad luck has certainly played a part, but it takes more than just bad luck to get to 3-8. Everything needs to be evaluated.
While Robinson had just a $4.3M cap-hit this season, next year that jumps all the way up to $18M according to Spotrac. Given Robinson’s production this season, it seems very unlikely that the Rams would bring Robinson back on that number.
That leaves them with only two realistic options. They would either need to cut Robinson or find a trade partner who’s willing to take on that contract. Breaking it down, however, they only have one option for Robinson if they don’t keep him and that’s finding a trade.
According to OverTheCap, the Rams would eat $26M in dead money by cutting Robinson pre-June 1 and $18M if they were to cut him post-June 1. At that point, the Rams would be better off just keeping Robinson until they have an actual “out” in the contract following 2023. Cutting Robinson following the season would cost them the same amount if he were on the roster. After 2023, Robinson would only be owed $8.4M if the Rams were to cut him.
The only realistic option for the Rams this offseason when it comes to moving on from Robinson is to find a trade partner. Given how Robinson has played the last two seasons and his current contract, that will be easier said that done. Teams won’t be rushing to the phone to see if Robinson is available.
If the Rams were to trade Robinson pre-June 1, they would eat just $11.2M in dead money and have a cap savings of $6.8M. However, if they trade him post-June 1, that cap saving increases to $15.2M with a dead money hit of just $2.8M.
With all of this being said, the Rams haven’t been afraid of eating dead money in the past when they’ve had to admit an error in judgement. This didn’t sway them from cutting Todd Gurley or trading Jared Goff following 2020.
Prior to the 2020 season, the Rams traded Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick to the Houston Texans for a second-round pick. In that trade, the Rams incurred $21.8M in dead money.
If the Rams feel like they made a mistake by signing Allen Robinson, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them moving on from him. It’s unlikely that they would get a second-round pick in return for Robinson as they did Cooks. However, a combination of a swap of late picks could potentially happen. It would all depend on what sort of interest Robinson brings. Again, given his production the last two seasons, it might be difficult to off-load him.
The other dilemma in all of this is finding a replacement for Allen Robinson. Despite spending second-round picks on Van Jefferson and TuTu Atwell, neither have shown enough to give confidence that they could take over a WR2 role in the offense.
Ever since Beckham Jr. went down in the Super Bowl, the Rams have struggled to find a second wide receiver to produce outside of Kupp. This offseason isn’t a great wide receiver free agent class either as it’s headlined by Nelson Agholor, DJ Chark, and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
That would leave the Rams with either putting confidence in Jefferson or Atwell to step up into a larger role or once again use one of their high draft picks on a wide receiver in the upcoming NFL Draft.
The Rams are going to have an Allen Robinson problem this offseason. With issues in the secondary and on the offensive line, if they can find a way to move on from Robinson’s contract to use those resources elsewhere, that’s what the Rams should do. However, finding someone to take on that contract won’t be easy.
Following a disappointing 2022 season, the Rams are going to have to look at everywhere on the roster to make improvements. The signing of Allen Robinson might be the biggest free agent bust in the Sean McVay-Les Snead era. Admitting that mistake now could be the only way to move forward.