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Rams should trade Van Jefferson during contract year

Why keep the young receiver around if he doesn’t factor into plans for 2024 and beyond?

Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams had to clear cap space to make it under the NFL’s salary cap ahead of the new league year on Wednesday. Trading away Jalen Ramsey to the Miami Dolphins got them under that threshold, but more subtractions are needed before the team can start making additions.

Allen Robinson is a household name that the team is hoping to find a new home for just one year after inking him to a sizeable three-year free agent contract. The return of a third round pick and a reserve tight end for Ramsey should give Rams fans pause about teams wanting to give up any meaningful capital for the underperforming veteran receiver. LA would be lucky just to get out from underneath Robinson’s contract—and moving on might cost them a draft pick or cap room in the short-term in order to facilitate a deal.

If the goal is to identify players that might not factor into plans beyond the 2023 season and maximize salary cap and draft resources for the future, then perhaps the receiver they should consider trading is former second round pick Van Jefferson.

Jefferson is entering his fourth season and a contract year. With the roster in a state of flux, it’s difficult to see LA committing to him beyond 2023.

While Jefferson has not been a “draft bust”, certainly there have been more productive receivers drafted in the second round in recent years. That’s not to say that the young pass catcher hasn’t had his moments—he accumulated 800 yards and six touchdowns in Matthew Stafford’s first season in Los Angeles. He also caught the game winning touchdown in Baker Mayfield’s first start as a Ram against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The flashes have been encouraging, but the lack of consistent production would make a long-term contract commitment risky. A weak free agent class at receiver and a draft crop that overall lacks size could make Jefferson seem relatively more appealing to a team with a young quarterback that needs a dependable supporting cast. Jefferson will be 27 for the 2023 season and at 6-1, 200 lbs. he poses a different threat than you might be able to find in the draft this year.

Potential trade destinations for Jefferson:

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers just traded up for the number one overall selection, but moving up also cost them their best receiver in DJ Moore. They need to surround a young QB with weapons, and as of right now their cabinet is fairly bare.

Minnesota Vikings

Adam Thielen was recently released by Minnesota. Could a reunion be in order with former Rams assistant and now head coach Kevin O’Connell? Justin Jefferson commands all the attention, and KJ Osborne, Van Jefferson, and TJ Hockenson could round out a productive passing attack.

New England Patriots

Bill O’Brien was a much-needed addition to the Patriots’ coaching staff this offseason, but Mac Jones needs help on the field as much as off. Jefferson seems like a great fit in New England, where technique is valued more than raw talent.

Kansas City Chiefs

Juju Smith-Schuster is currently an unrestricted free agent and could have a competitive market after a productive playoff run. Kansas City drafted Skyy Moore in the second round a year ago, but he was more productive as a gadget player than true receiver. Marques Valdes-Scantling and Kadarious Toney should perform well in their second seasons with the Chiefs.

You never want to see Patrick Mahomes without reliable weapons, so Jefferson could be a relatively affordable fit here too.