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Which Rams are entering a contract year in 2022?

It’s not just free agency that Les Snead and Sean McVay now have to worry about

NFL: Super Bowl LVI-Los Angeles Rams at Cincinnati Bengals Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As of Tuesday morning, Cleveland Browns receiver and longtime Odell Beckham Jr. receiving partner Jarvis Landry set off a flurry of speculative stories based on a social media storm of his own doing. Landry has sent tweets and Instagram posts essentially defending himself against a ghost, presumably with that paranormal figure being messages from his agent that inform Landry that he’s not likely to remain on the Browns with his current contract.

I’m left wondering how often agents tell their players when they sign massive veteran contracts that the likelihood of reaching the end of the deal is much closer to 0 than to 100. Players often beg for the most total money possible so that they can reach new benchmarks for their position, even knowing that in the NFL contracts are not fully guaranteed. Therefore, an agent might inform his client that the number that truly matters is not the total value but the guaranteed value of a contract.

The final year of a contract is often just a symbol. It props up not only total value but annual average salary, another important benchmark to players when they sign veteran deals. “Am I making the most total money? Am I making the most per season of anybody at my position?” An agent hits these marks simply by negotiating years on the deal that are practically fake for all intents and purposes.

In 2018, Jarvis Landry and his agent negotiated a five-year, $75.5 million contract with the Browns, with $34 million guaranteed at signing. He also had $47 million in “total guarantees” but often that means that it is more money guaranteed in case the player suffers an injury and is not the same as a signing bonus or something that is guaranteed no matter what happens.

Most players of a certain caliber are essentially signing three-year contracts, even if it is officially a four-year, five-year, or six-year deal. Teams usually have the ability to cut a player after three years without significant dead money left on the cap, so when a player does get past three years that in itself is a huge accomplishment.

In Landry’s case, he played out all three of his guaranteed years and then even managed to avoid being a cap casualty in 2021, earning another $14.8 million in year four of the contract.

However, year five of Landry’s contract is essentially just a symbolic year and that has always been the case. Either Landry would perform so well that Cleveland would negotiate an extension with him, as the Rams did with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods not long ago, or he would not. And the Browns would assess their options.

Jarvis Landry caught 52 passes for 570 yards over 12 games last season. He’ll be turning 30 in November and he’s coming off of the first significant injury of his career. If the Browns keep him, they’ll have a $16.3 million cap hit for Landry. If the Browns cut him, they’ll save $14.8 million against the 2022 salary cap.

What would you suggest if Landry was on the Rams right now?

In many cases, contract years are as important as when a player is set to hit free agency. The L.A. Rams have a notable list of pending free agents, which you can read here, but they have at least as much work to do with their 2023 free agents.

None of whom will be as important to take care of as quarterback Matthew Stafford, but the offensive line and the interior of the defensive line are also hitting key turning point moments in short order.

Rams 2023 unrestricted free agents

QB Matthew Stafford

RB Darrell Henderson

LT Andrew Whitworth

LG David Edwards

RT Rob Havenstein

OT Bobby Evans

DT Greg Gaines

DT A’Shawn Robinson

LB Justin Hollins

S Taylor Rapp

S Nick Scott

CB David Long, Jr.

Offensive Line

For now, I’m keeping Andrew Whitworth as a member of the Rams on his current deal because officially I haven’t been told by Whit or the Rams not to do that. In any case, we know that L.A. needs to address left tackle. They can either work with an in-house option or explore choices in free agency, the draft, and the trade market.

What’s more pressing is the pending free agency of starters David Edwards and Rob Havenstein. Combined with the 2022 free agency of Brian Allen, Austin Corbett, and Joseph Noteboom, the Rams offensive line is hitting a tipping point right now and McVay must decide who is essential, who is not, and who could be the next Corbett, Allen, or Edwards to step up from the shadows and start.

Defensive Tackle

An afterthought in his first season with the Rams, A’Shawn Robinson was a key part of L.A.’s Super Bowl championship run. Robinson is turning 27 next month, so he’s still quite young and could have at least a few more years left as a starter. Of course, Greg Gaines was integral next to Aaron Donald in Sebastian Joseph-Day’s absence and he’s one of the top extension candidates on the team this year.

The Rams need to know what Donald’s long-term career intentions are, assuming that Donald even knows the answer to that.

Secondary

There’s been a lot of turnover in the secondary recently and that is likely to continue with Darious Williams hitting free agency this year. After losing John Johnson III and Troy Hill in 2021, will the Rams hold onto any outgoing safeties and corners in the next 13 months?

Stafford

There’s no question the Rams will hold onto Matthew Stafford long term. It’s just a matter of how much that will cost.