I will say this about the Los Angeles Rams and the lack of a clear number two tight end behind Tyler Higbee: It’s not quite for a lack of trying.
After using their first pick in the 2017 draft on Gerald Everett, the Rams have since used a fourth round pick on Brycen Hopkins and another fourth on Jacob Harris, although that was a little rich as a complete projection. Despite Hopkins and former undrafted free agent Kendall Blanton flashing some productivity in the 2021 playoffs, it is becoming more clear that the Rams continue to be a one-tight end team since Everett left in free agency two years ago.
And that one tight end is Higbee.
A fourth round pick the year before Sean McVay arrived—and taken not long before another tight end in Temarrick Hemingway—Higbee has consistently been the Rams’ best tight end. He was rarely challenged by Everett over four seasons, then additional competition in the form of Hopkins has yet to come to fruition.
Hopkins played in 61 offensive snaps over his first two seasons and was recently suspended for three games by the league. Since L.A. had cut Blanton (and moved on from Johnny Mundt one year earlier), there was no other choice but to go back to Blanton, who was still available. Despite making a nice 28-yard play in Week 3’s win over the Arizona Cardinals, it would be hopeful to expect a long career as a starter at this point.
Right now the only tight end who is all but guaranteed to be with the Rams in 2023 is Higbee and that is also the final year of his contract. For now.
Les Snead prefers to get players signed to new extensions well before their free agency period begins, so it would make sense for the L.A. Rams to reach an agreement with Higbee by next year. It could also come sooner, as the Rams start to move around the chess pieces necessary to get under the 2023 salary cap.
Higbee, 29, has a $6.25 million base salary and a $8.6 million cap hit in 2023. A new contract would lower that base salary considerably—probably down to the $1 million range—and therefore bring down his cap hit. More importantly, it secures L.A.’s tight end position beyond 2023 and likely makes Higbee a lifelong or near-lifelong Ram.
He has caught 16 of 24 targets for 171 yards this season. All of those numbers rank second on the team behind Cooper Kupp. Higbee was second in catches and third in receiving yards on the Rams in 2021.
Given that Hopkins does not appear to be the heir apparent fourth round tight end that L.A. expected him to become, Higbee once again seems like the succession plan for Higbee.