Losing a key player before his second contract is a lot more rare than you think. Teams know that out of their many draft picks, at best only a select few will get second contracts and raises that pay them as veteran players in a league that values getting as many rookie deals on the books as possible.
One such rare example of player who “got away” from the Los Angeles Rams is John Franklin-Myers.
Highest run defense grades on 3rd and short situations last season (ED’s)— PFF NY Jets (@PFF_Jets) July 7, 2022
1️⃣ Dawuane Smoot: 86.2
2️⃣ John Franklin-Myers: 84.8
3️⃣ T.J. Watt: 80.1 pic.twitter.com/MR4D4jP9fp
A fourth round pick by the Rams in 2018, Franklin-Myers appeared in 301 defensive snaps as a rookie, then also posted a strip-sack of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl that year. But Franklin-Myers failed to make the final 53-man roster in 2019 and he was claimed off of waivers by the New York Jets, typically a franchise that is losing good young players.
Now suddenly a team that I personally happen to think will be the surprise of the NFL in 2022 because they have acquired so much talent in such a short period of time. (And because contrary to popular opinion, Zach Wilson is going to be the star of the 2021 draft class.)
Franklin-Myers saw no playing time in 2019 but then became a perfect complement to Quinnen Williams in 2020 and was on the field for 500 snaps. He posted 13 QB hits, played excellent run defense, and was rewarded with a four-year, $55 million contract during the 2021 offseason.
On a defensive line with Williams, Carl Lawson, Jermaine Johnson, Solomon Thomas, Sheldon Rankins, and Jacob Martin for 2022, Franklin-Myers is a key player on a unit that could help propel Robert Saleh’s defense to a much higher ranking than most anticipate. Franklin-Myers posted six sacks, an interception, and 14 QB hits over 716 snaps in 2021, but he could reach career-highs in all categories next season and be close to even getting his third contract and a raise before too long.
Whether or not the Rams were ever going to be the right fit for Franklin-Myers is of no consequence. With the benefit of hindsight, there is no argument for cutting him in 2019. Sean McVay did not have the benefit of hindsight though, so it’s not as though this is a criticism of what he did three years ago, it’s merely an observation.
Observations that can help the L.A. Rams avoid losing the next John Franklin-Myers. But also recognizing that of all the players to line up next to Aaron Donald over the last five years, between Morgan Fox, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Michael Brockers, Dante Fowler, and even Ndamukong Suh, none of those losses sting like Franklin-Myers.
Will Greg Gaines be another exception or another player who is benefiting from playing next to the greatest defensive player of his generation? That’s what makes this ranking a little more difficult than most of the others.
#12 - DT Greg Gaines
On the field or off of it, Greg Gaines is one of my favorite players on the L.A. Rams today. He’s a rarity: A football talent with a bonafide funny personality and a player who seems joyful to be around during those difficult days of practice.
But following a midseason injury to Joseph-Day, Rams fans also became aware of the fact that indeed the 2019 fourth round pick is a productive player on the defense when given the snaps necessary to succeed.
After playing in 183 snaps as a rookie and 201 snaps in year two, Gaines appeared in all 17 games last season and was on the field for 780 defensive snaps. That’s even more than what Franklin-Myers had as a star on the Jets defense in 2021. Gaines posted 4.5 sacks and 13 QB hits during his time on the field, which is as good as the same as Franklin-Myers in New York.
Even if they are playing on different defenses, with different teammates, and in different roles, it is interesting that the two fourth round Rams picks in back-to-back years are also on a similar path for production.
In four playoff games, Gaines also played in over 90-percent of the team’s snaps and record two batted passes, one QB hit, and one tackle for a loss.
Given a full season at nose tackle, Greg Gaines could shoot up into the top-10 of this list and that’s on a very talented L.A. Rams roster. The vote of confidence in Gaines as a full-time player after the injury to SJD, rather than going to a committee, also says a lot about how McVay and Raheem Morris feel about him as a piece alongside Donald.
Can the Rams afford him past 2022?
Joseph-Day got a three-year, $24 million deal with the L.A. Chargers, but I could see Gaines doing much better than that, if not eclipsing the four-year, $55 million deal signed by Franklin-Myers last October. Will teams view him as a player creating his own opportunities or one benefiting from the double and triple-teams faced by Donald?
The fact that L.A. is already paying Donald over $30 million per year is perhaps another reason that the Rams may not extend Gaines, The Rams already spend the most money per year on the defensive tackle position and that’s only because of Donald. Could the Rams attempt to swap out A’Shawn Robinson’s contract for a new one to Gaines?
I’m sure that’s something Les Snead has been working on for months already.
Who should rank higher on a list of the most important players on the 2022 Rams?
This poll is closed
DT Greg Gaines
RB Cam Akers