The Allen Robinson signing in 2022 was met with excitement and applause, followed by eager anticipation for his L.A. Rams debut thanks to his reported “perfect fit” in the offense during training camp. But the seventh months since the season started have been anything other than ideal for Robinson and his fit with the Rams.
Or Robinson and his fit anywhere, apparently.
As they did with Cam Akers during the season, L.A. is telling anyone who will listen that Robinson is completely available for trade. Just give up ANYTHING. And as with Akers, the NFL has said, “We’re good”. Head coach Sean McVay met with the media at the owners meeting on Tuesday and reiterated that Robinson is up for grabs, also hedging that the Rams won’t be able to complete a trade by claiming that the team will be “excited” to have him if Robinson returns.
Sean McVay: We'll be excited if Allen Robinson is here, but if not, we'll wish him the best. https://t.co/BGzbytMNox— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 28, 2023
Ah yes, that excitement that comes with being forced to keep players you openly say you don’t want because their contract makes it difficult to move in any other direction.
Robinson, who turns 30 in August, is due a $10 million fully guaranteed salary in 2023. He was already paid a $5.25 million roster bonus two weeks ago, money that was also guaranteed to him. L.A. paid that, knowing they had no other choice, but it has yet to clear a hurdle that will send Robinson to another team for basically any draft pick or draft pick swap or towel rack.
At this point, trading Robinson would save the Rams $6.85 million against the 2023 salary cap. However, it is apparent that dealing Robinson must come with an agreement for L.A. to pay a large chunk of that salary, so we don’t know yet what the real savings could be. The hard truth to swallow is that the NFL may not even see Robinson as being a $3 million receiver, let alone a $10 million one.
Consider the 2023 salary cap hits around the NFL for receivers and you’ll see that not only are teams getting valuable discounts on rookie contracts (Justin Jefferson makes $4.1 million, Tee Higgins and Brandon Aiyuk are just under $4 million, reported trade candidate Gabe Davis makes only $2.9 million), but there’s also newly-signed Adam Thielen for only $3.3 million to the Carolina Panthers.
Should a team trade a draft pick for Robinson and agree to pay half of his salary at $5 million or would they rather take the chance at trading for someone like Arizona’s Rondale Moore, who only makes $1.3 million and is barely 22-years-old? Sure, Robinson has a good career resume compared to Moore, but Moore had 414 yards in eight games last season.
Robinson had 339 yards in 10 games.
You can say it’s comparing apples to oranges, it’s a $5 million apple to a $1.3 million orange. It’s a 30-year-old apple to a 22-year-old orange.
As I’ve been writing for several years, the NFL is less and less interested in over-30 receivers with each passing offseason. Thielen made out like a bandit just to get a $14 million guarantee from the Panthers (three years, $25 million) at age 33, but he’s at least coming off of a fully-healthy season with 70 catches and 716 yards. Former Rams receiver Robert Woods, nearly 31, had a fully healthy season too and got $10 million guaranteed over two years from the Houston Texans. They’re exceptional blockers and route runners too, they will bring more to the table than receiving yards, and they’re healthy.
They found desperate teams and got a pretty decent final career payday, but surely this could be the last season for both given what we’ve seen in recent years.
Do other NFL teams feel any confidence at this point in his career that Allen Robinson, who has 749 yards with four touchdowns and 13 games missed over the last two seasons with questions of where he fits in any scheme, do any of them actually believe he’s worth $2 million? Let alone $5-$10 million?
Even consider the case of DeAndre Hopkins.
As I said for months with Jalen Ramsey, there are players in the NFL who sign contracts with the intention of getting as much money guaranteed upfront as they can get and then leveraging their situations into new deals (or trades that will necessitate new deals) in order to guarantee more guaranteed money once they stop getting those assurances. Ramsey’s trade to the Dolphins could be seen from miles away and he was guaranteed two more years on his contract once dealt to Miami.
Hopkins, 30, is suddenly starting at a non-guaranteed $19.45 million base salary in 2023 and a $14.9 million non-guaranteed salary in 2024. Arizona is once again a rebuilding team and there’s no future with Hopkins, so he knows that he wants to go to a team that needs him badly enough to guarantee his salary. Very few teams can afford to take on a $19.45 million base salary, so it virtually assures that when traded, Hopkins will have to re-do his deal.
He won’t re-do his deal without upfront cash and guarantees. But is there a hesitancy to trade for a receiver who wants that much money and who will turn 31 in June? Hopkins was kind of productive when he returned from suspension last year. The numbers trailed off without Kyler Murray and he probably had more bad games (with inflated stats) than great games.
Well, what if teams are like, “Yeah, we’ll take DeAndre Hopkins! Awesome!” and then they talk to his agent and he says, “Okay, he wants you to guarantee him his next two years at $40 million and he wants a third year at $30 million with $5 million of that guaranteed”? That could explain why Hopkins hasn’t been traded.
Especially because they suspect that under no circumstances are the Cardinals going to keep Hopkins. At least let him be released (because remember: no guaranteed money) without giving up a draft pick. I just don’t think the NFL is “excited” to throw around that kind of guaranteed money to receivers over 30 and the evidence is all over the leaderboards from the last five seasons. It also helps explain why OBJ, 30, has suddenly said, “Who wants $20 million? Me? Haha, no I never said that. I’ll take...$9???”
A special visitor to the Annual League Meetings: Free agent WR Odell Beckham Jr has arrived, presumably to meet with teams while decision makers are here in Arizona (where Beckham lives and trains). pic.twitter.com/u7V6RmnRFZ— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 28, 2023
McVay is as “excited” to have Allen Robinson on the roster now as he would be if Robinson was a free agent this year and the Rams signed him for $15.25 million to play next season with the exact same resume that he has... He wouldn’t be excited!
He’s excited because he has no other choice. The NFL has made that clear and I have no idea why they would suddenly change their minds about Robinson at this point, knowing that L.A. has officially paid his roster bonus and may have no other choice but to cut him this summer.
The Rams save no money by cutting Robinson, it’s $18 million in dead money. But when it comes time to assess the receivers who they want on the roster, it’s hard to see how Robinson will fit in there or why they would take those snaps or targets away from other receivers and tight ends who could get them instead. Tutu Atwell, Van Jefferson, Lance McCutcheon, and Ben Skowronek may not have futures as bright as Robinson’s past...but it is no less in the past.