The Los Angeles Rams head into the 2023 offseason squeezed on both draft capital and salary cap resources. There are needs to fill on both sides of the football along the offensive line, backup quarterback, tight end, edge rusher, cornerback, safety, and special teams. The Rams need to pinch every penny they can, as they walk a fine line between maximizing their chance to win this season with the long-term prospects of the team.
While Matt Gay has been a stellar kicker over the last several seasons for Los Angeles, ultimately paying him between $5-6M annually is not something the Rams can comfortably do. $5M is certainly not a negligible amount for a kicker, and you can find an important depth player at another position at that price tag.
Perhaps the same $5M that the Rams would spend on Gay could instead be used to sign a complementary tight end to Tyler Higbee - someone like Hayden Hurst from the Cincinnati Bengals. Pro Football Focus (PFF) projects Byron Murphy to command $8.75M per year as an unrestricted free agent, and he’d be an immediate starter in the secondary and upgrade over Troy Hill.
Certainly I understand that the Rams’ most recent kicker search, and failure thereof, makes it hard to move on from a player like Gay that made clutch kicks en route to Super Bowl LVI, but Los Angeles must separate past production from future prospects. The tradeoff of drafting a rookie that is cost-controlled for four seasons versus committing to a large contract to a veteran for the foreseeable future is too great, but more important is getting that pick right this time around.
It’s likely no coincidence that the Rams are also in the market for a new special teams coordinator after moving on from long-time NFL veteran Joe DeCamillis. Could Sean McVay look to the person he chooses for that role to find the team’s next kicker?
The not-too-distant memories of Sam Sloman, Liram Hajrullahu, and Austin MacGinnis, and Kai Forbath make it difficult to move on from Matt Gay, but ultimately it does not change the final outcome: the Rams must let Gay walk in free agency and allocate salary cap resources elsewhere.