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Rams 2022 free agent grades: One year later

A mixed bag of results includes a leader on defense and an anchor at wide receiver

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The story of the 2022 L.A. Rams offseason will be one of missed opportunities, bonus payments, process vs. results, and Bobby Wagner. The end result no matter how you look at it is the Rams went from Super Bowl champions to 5-12, but was there anything that Les Snead could have really done to change L.A.’s fate short of bargaining with the devil for continued health?

Without solid reinforcements for Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald, something no NFL team would have, the Rams were doomed. But we could still grade their free agency decisions one year later as a chance to re-evaluate how Snead could potentially act differently in 2023.

Re-sign Joseph Noteboom to 3-year, $40 million contract

Grade: C

Or in the words of ESPN, Joseph Motebloom.

Noteboom’s 2022 cap hit was only $3.5 million, but that number jumps up to $15.5 million in 2023 with a $5 million roster bonus and $5 million in guaranteed salary. It’s a reasonable contract for somebody who could have been the left tackle but who had little proof on his four-year resume of being a full-time starter. The Rams could still cut Noteboom for savings or potentially trade him to a team willing to take a chance on a left tackle who only has an $8.5 million base salary.

Noteboom played in 325 snaps and suffered another notable injury. I won’t go “F” or “D” because I don’t think the decision was bad, but it looks worse because L.A. must decide if they’d rather just keep him ($13 million in dead money if released) or go another direction. As you’ll see, there are worse decisions.

Re-sign Brian Allen to 3-year, $18 million contract

Grade: C+

Again, Allen’s contract terms don’t quite paint the picture of what he cost: $1.8 million against the 2022 salary cap. That’s really cheap. But Allen has a $6.2 million cap hit in 2023 and $7.8 million in 2024. Not bad, but for a team that has often gone cheap on the interior offensive line, why stress bringing back Allen?

The Rams save $2 million if Allen is released, but carry $4 million in dead money. Brian Allen was serviceable, not great, and he missed 10 games.

Sign Allen Robinson to 3-year, $46.5 million contract

Grade: F

Yeah, it’s as bad as it seems. Like Noteboom and Allen, this contract allowed the Rams to sneak him under the 2022 salary cap ($4.3 million cap hit) but unlike those two, there’s no out for L.A. this year. He carries an $18 million cap hit with $26.4 million in dead money if released or traded. Essentially, Allen Robinson is on the 2023 Rams or the Rams are paying him a lot of money to not be on the team.

It was a curious signing at the time too, as he was going into his age-29 season and had suffered serious injuries in three of the past five seasons. Robinson had 410 yards and one touchdown in 12 games with the Bears in 2021 and the Rams decided to show no confidence in either of their previous second round picks at the time of free agency, Van Jefferson or Tutu Atwell.

Can Robinson rebound in 2023 to at least ease the need for L.A. to add a dynamic second receiver? He might have to or the Rams will simply release him and eat the cost just to open the door for someone else to be on the field. It’s remarkable how many reporters called Robinson the “star” of training camp last year, but he needs to be playing in preseason games this year.

Sign Bobby Wagner to 5-year, $50 million contract

Grade: A

There’s little to not like about the deal. The Rams paid a $2.5 million cap hit for Wagner in 2022 and he was the team’s best player. His cap hit goes up to $12.5 million this year and basically stays there through 2026 with little dead money.

Yeah, pretty much ideal.

Extend Matthew Stafford to 4-year, $160 million contract

Grade: B

Yeah, he missed eight games and couldn’t throw as many touchdowns this past season, but Stafford is still in line to be a top-three quarterback in the NFC in 2023 and gives L.A. a shot to rebound. He played well. He needs more help. And he only carries a $20 million cap hit in 2023. If Stafford had not signed this extension, the Rams would definitely have to franchise him and that would cost them $32.4 million. If not, he would sign a contract worth more than $40 million per year because teams are desperate for help; he’s proven much more than Derek Carr or Geno Smith.

The only downside is of course the health concerns and the $49.5 million price tag in 2024, but that’s rather standard these days.

Upgrade Aaron Donald’s contract to 3-years, $95 million

Grade: C

I guess do what you gotta do when the player is Aaron Donald, but the Rams had him under contract already and then still paid him on a new deal that carries a $26 million cap hit in 2023 and $34 million in 2024.

It was a hell of a lot of money for a player who is turning 32 and doesn’t play quarterback.

It also means that the Rams will pay Donald $29 million against the cap in 2025 even though his contract expires in 2024. Yes, he might have retired. This just makes it seem like Donald is in control of the Rams.

Extend Cooper Kupp to 3-year, $80 million contract

Grade: C

Same feelings. Kupp now makes $27.8 million in 2023 and $26.3 million in 2024. He turns 30 this year. And just judging the return on investment for Donald and Kupp in 2022, they are still premier players but missing time with injury is far more common for players after they hit 29 and 30, so you could argue L.A. could have seen it coming.

Kupp is the third-highest paid WR in 2023 and will need to shoulder the burden again as a dominant number one weapon.

Signed P Riley Dixon

Grade: D

We don’t have to make a lot of out it because we’re talking about the punter position for a bad team, but was Johnny Hekker much better in 2022 than Riley Dixon? He was. The Rams will be on the look again for a punter in 2023.

Did not get upgrade backup QB to John Wolford, Bryce Perkins

Grade: F

I had argued for the Rams to knock on the door for Baker Mayfield if he had become a free agent (moot point, he was traded and cost too much) but ultimately what matters is that L.A. needed to do better than two undrafted free agents as insurance for Stafford. They were not able to do that and it’s something that Snead will need to correct in 2023.