One of the best moves that the Los Angeles Rams made this season was trading for offensive guard Kevin Dotson from the Pittsburgh Steelers. In what was a low-risk move at the time for a swap of day-3 draft picks, it ended up completely shifting the projection of the Rams offensive line.
Since taking over in Week 4, Dotson has been the 10th best overall offensive lineman via Pro Football Focus and graded as the sixth-best offensive lineman in the run game. The Rams run game has taken off not only because of the new gap scheme and Kyren Williams, but Dotson has also played a huge role in the resurgence.
However, while Dotson has played extremely well, he is also a free agent this offseason. The Rams will need to make a decision on Dotson with just one year of production in the offense.
Pro Football Focus released their top-50 players set to hit free agency. Coming in at number 23 was Dotson. Here’s what PFF’s Brad Spielberger had to say,
“Dotson was traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Los Angeles Rams this offseason, and what first appeared like an odd fit should have instead been a signal that head coach Sean McVay was reinventing his offense to much success in 2023. McVay has pivoted from a wide-zone rushing attack to a heavy gap scheme, and Dotson has been a picture-perfect fit. He has always been a strong pass protector, which has carried over, as well.”
The complication with Dotson becomes his contract. Spielberger projected a contract of four years, $69 million ($17.25 million per year), $41.25 million total guaranteed for Dotson. That's a lot of money for a player with just one-year of production. It’s worth noting that the Rams opted not to bring back Austin Corbett when he signed a three year, $26.25 million contract with the Carolina Panthers with $19.6 million guaranteed prior to the 2022 season.
This isn’t to say that the Rams shouldn’t re-sign Dotson as they will certainly have the money. OverTheCap currently projects the Rams to have $43 million in cap space this offseason. With potential restructures and cuts, that could move up around the $70M range which is only an approximation.
If the Rams were to pay Dotson an average of $17.25 million per year, it would make him the third-highest paid guard in the NFL. That’s still cheaper than the projected franchise tag which would be around $21.72 million fully guaranteed.
While the Rams could have around $70 million in cap space, they will need to leave around $15 million at least for their draft class, if not more. That leaves them with about $50 million to spend. In the case that $17 million of that goes to Dotson, they would be left with just $30 million for an edge rusher, cornerback, etc.
PFF projects Josh Allen, Brian Burns, and Jaylon Johnson to be hit with the franchise tag. However, they project L’Jarius Sneed to receive a three year, $52.5 million ($17.5 million per year) contract with $30 million total guaranteed. If the Rams were to have interest in edge rusher Danielle Hunter, he’s projected to get a three year, $65 million ($21.67 million per year) contract with $40 million total guaranteed. Chase Young was projected to get a one year, $15 million fully guaranteed contract.
Yes, the Rams have money. However, the blue chip players that Los Angeles needs to add are going to be expensive. Are they better off trying to draft a guard in the first few rounds to replace Dotson and prioritize value or keeping him for what could be a lot of money and make sacrifices elsewhere? These are the types of decisions that the Rams will have to make. Is Dotson worth a contract that would pay him as a top-5 player at his position?
Snead has handed out bad contracts in the past and opted not to re-sign players that he should have. Extending Joe Noteboom and allowing Corbett to hit free agency is a prime example. It’s fair to wonder with just one year of production if the Rams would be overcorrecting a problem by signing Dotson to a long-term deal.
Again, this isn’t to say that the Rams shouldn’t re-sign Dotson. He will be one of the team’s top priorities this offseason. The projected contract, however, should give them a lot to think about when it comes to offering Dotson an extension.