For better or for worse, the Los Angeles Rams are one of the least patient franchises in all the NFL.
The team is very quick to pivot if something isn’t working as intended, such as quarterback Jared Goff curling into a shell during the 2020 season and shipping him out of town for Matthew Stafford. LA didn’t waste time releasing running back Todd Gurley when they knew his best days were behind him—despite Gurley being a former Offensive Player of the Year and face of the franchise.
Without putting words in their mouth, it would probably be the Rams’ initial tendency to want to move on from veteran receiver Allen Robinson after a lackluster season that did not remotely justify the three-year $46.5M contract he signed during last year’s free agency period. LA’s usual answer is to cut their losses and find a replacement, but salary cap constraints of the free agency deal makes the calculus more complicated.
It’s easy to understand what the Rams thought they were getting when they signed Robinson. Coming off of a Super Bowl victory where their only true offensive weapon was Cooper Kupp, LA was in the market for a number two receiver that would keep defenses from allocating too many resources to stopping a single receiver—it was a great idea with poor execution.
Robinson finished his first season in Los Angeles with just 33 receptions for 339 yards and three touchdowns. He played in 10 games before being shut down for the season with a foot injury.
Giving Robinson the benefit of the doubt, a limited offseason and training camp participation by Matthew Stafford—who was nursing a lingering elbow injury—could reasonably explain his slow start to the season. By the time the receiver was ruled out for the remainder of the season due to injury, the Rams had also shut down Stafford with multiple stints in the NFL’s concussion protocol and a spinal cord contusion. LA’s offense was out of sync even with Stafford under center, and Robinson’s lack of success was both a contributor to the dysfunction and a byproduct.
Can the Rams talk themselves into feeling confident that their high-priced receiver can bounce back in a big way for the 2023 season?
Well, that might be easier than talking themselves into moving on from the veteran, as cutting him before June 1 would result in a dead cap number of nearly $26.5M. His current cap hit is $18.1M already, so LA almost has to pay to get rid of him.
The only financially viable way to move on is via a trade, and moving the receiver pre-June 1 would net the Rams $6.9M in salary cap space for this season. Trading Robinson would be more about getting out of his contract than clearing space for another move, though it’s also fair to question who would be willing to take on his deal and bail the Rams out of their position between a rock and a hard place. Robinson is now two years removed from his last season with 1,000 receiving yards. He’s currently 29 but soon to cross the dreaded age 30 mark for receivers.
Even if a team is willing to take on Robinson’s contract, what sort of compensation would they send LA in return? Perhaps just a late round draft pick. At that point, it may just be worth holding onto Robinson and hoping that he proves you wise for investing in him a year ago—that the lack of chemistry with Stafford was truly to blame for his poor production in 2022.
At the minimum Robinson showed he can be a formidable threat on the goal line in his first 10 games in royal and sol, but for $18M you’d expect more meaningful contributions. Can the Rams form a plan to better leverage Robinson’s talents and target him in the intermediate and deep areas of the field, or has the receiver’s skillset diminished to the point where he’s no longer a difference maker in the same ways.
There are still reasons to be optimistic about a receiving corps headlined by Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, Tyler Higbee, Ben Skowronek, and whoever the Rams may add along the way this offseason. It may be uncomfortable for the Rams and a departure from their normal way of conducting business, but the best path forward is to stay the course and hope for better outcomes from the group in 2022.