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Rams must make decisions on re-signing these Restricted Free Agents

Who will Les Snead and Sean McVay decide to bring back?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

There is much debate over which of the Los Angeles Rams big name free agents will be retained and how large of a salary they will command. But there is another tier of players who can offer value to the team and be re-signed for much less money, Restricted Free Agents (RFA). For 2022, LA has five RFA’s whose return to the team has yet to be decided.

What is an RFA?

A player with an expired contract and three accrued seasons in the NFL is tethered to his team through restricted free agency. If the Rams decide to keep their options open on a player who meets that criteria, they can choose to let him go and become a free agent or they can apply a tender offer. In either case, the player is free to negotiate with any team they choose and accept a deal.

Tender offers are assignments that give the Rams the option to match the offer, re-sign the player at a preset amount, or receive compensation if the let the player go. There are four categories of tenders and the re-signing amounts from are included.

  • First round- The Rams would place a re-sign value of $5.4 mil on the player and would be allowed to match another teams offer to keep him. If the Rams let the player go, they would receive a first round draft pick as compensation for the loss.
  • Second round- The same rules apply, except the re-sign value would be $4 mil or they would receive a second round pick.
  • Original round- Again, the same rules with the re-sign value becoming $2.5 mil or LA would receive a draft pick equal to the player’s draft position.
  • Right of first refusal- The Rams would be able to match an offer, re-sign at $2.4 mil, but would not receive any compensation if they decline to match.

According to overthecap.com, the Rams currently have top 51 offseason salary liabilities of $221.4 mil and have to trim that number down before the NFL’s official start of 2022 league year, March 16. The salary cap for next season has been reportedly set at $208.2 mil.

That $13.2 mil shortfall would disappear if Andrew Whitworth, as he hints, retires. Even if Whit decides to play next season, a few restructures would ensure the Rams have ample money to sign the in-house or outside talent they need to fill out the 2022 roster.

Which RFA’s should LA tender?

  • Matt Gay - A must-sign player. But at what value? Top kickers earn around $5 mil per year and Gay fits into this tier. 64 of 65 extra points and 46 of 50 field goals as a Ram. If LA can’t work out an extension, a second round tender at $4 mil would be a fair consolation.
  • Troy Reeder - He’s had his ups and downs but overall, Reeder has been worth the league minimums he’s been paid. Since he was undrafted, there is no realistic argument for offering a tender. If LA wants to bring him back, let him become a free agent and offer him another league minimum contract.
  • Travin Howard - Howard is in the same boat as Reeder. Although he flashed during the Rams run to Super Bowl LVI, injuries have limited him to 200 defensive snaps in three years. A seventh round draft pick, his potential has still not been fully realized, but the league minimum is the right salary.
  • Coleman Shelton - If the Rams don’t think they can re-sign Brian Allen and Austin Corbett, should they risk letting Shelton slip away? Or start completely over at the pivot? My fall back position has been that LA let Austin Blythe, a serviceable player at two positions, leave for less than $1 mil, so it’s hard to make a case for paying Shelton the minimum tender of $2.4 mil. Unless the Rams braintrust has a plan for him, there are a lot of centers to choose from at that price. He’s been a good backup but most likely wouldn’t have a lot of suitors in free agency. Let him go and try to bring him back around the minimum.
  • Jamil Demby - Not a lot of need for a perennial practice squad player. The big guy, drafted out of Maine in 2018, hasn’t seen a pro snap since 2019. The Rams must like something about him, they keep bringing him back as a camp body.

Go ahead and bring them all back in 2022

As important as continuity is to a football program, money is often the deciding factor on who stays and who goes. Particularly on the bottom half of the roster. Matt Gay is the the lone LA RFA who would leave a major hole in the roster and needs to be protected. Reeder, Howard, and Shelton are all functional rotation/situational/special teams players. Effort should be made to bring them back at a commensurate salary. Demby? If the past four season are of any indication, we’ll see him again when trying camp comes around.