The Los Angeles Rams offseason preparation for the 2018 NFL Combine and the 2018 NFL Draft will need to be given some thorough decision making. But most importantly, they’ll also need to address their internal issues of the 14 free agent players soon to hit the free market.
On March 14, 2018, at 4:00 pm EST, the 2017 players contract will have expired and players are free to sign with any other team. The Rams currently have five key unrestricted free agents they'll need to bring back under new contracts, and one veteran that's on the bubble, Sammy Watkins (receiver), LaMarcus Joyner (safety), John Sullivan (center), Nickell Robey-Coleman (defensive back), Jake McQuaide (long-snapper), and Trumaine Johnson (corner).
They will need a strategic plan in order to get numbers crunched to get these players resigned and now have another priority to get a new deal in place with defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Earlier in the week, Donald was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and his continued great play demands for a new extension.
This offseason, there is no need for the Rams to search for a number one wide-receiver, as they already have receiver Sammy Watkins. It is important that they focus on getting Watkins resigned, as they lacked a number one receiver for years. Last season, the Rams acquired Watkins through a trade from the Buffalo Bills, sending cornerback E.J. Gaines and their 2018 second round draft pick. So it will not make much sense for the Rams to give up such a high draft pick, and not resigning Watkins.
According to NFL player rankings, Watkins is the 254th ranked player in the league and ranked as the 24th overall receiver. Despite being the team's leader in touchdown receptions, Watkins wasn't very active in the offense, as rookie Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods had more targets. Just imagine that from Watkins lack of productivity, the Rams have bargaining leverage with Watkins future. Perhaps it was in Les Snead mind all along this season, to minimize Watkins play, to sandbag him one season with a tag, to get other players extended.
Watkins currently has a projected market value that's listed for three years $17.9 million, with a $5.9 annual salary, to say the least. Perhaps the Rams front office may have dodged a bullet by Watkins lack of productivity even though he did lead the team in touchdown receptions. If both sides can come to an agreement, the team can concentrate on getting the other unrestricted players resigned.
On another note, the Rams are expecting to release receiver Tavon Austin, who is due to earn $8 million this season, and if they release them he will have $5 million of a cap hit.
Unrestricted Free Agent Wide Receivers
If the Rams are able to get Watkins extended at his projected market value or within that scope of salary, they potentially can get him at a steal. The reasoning of it being a steal is because there are several other UFA receivers projected market values, that are listed higher than Watkins. Below, you are able to read the few that top the list of those free agent receivers.
Jarvis Landry, the talented receiver of the Miami Dolphins, played his college ball at LSU, played opposite of New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham. Landry is probably one of the hottest commodity at the receiver position, in which many teams would be excited to sign. Landry ranked the 46th overall player and ranked the seventh overall receiver, has a projected market value of five years $69 million, with a $13.8 million annual salary.
Marqise Lee, a teammate of Rams receiver Robert Woods, both in high school and at USC, career has taken an interesting spin. Lee’s career hasn’t been what many expected, as he has displayed some promise as a Jacksonville Jaguars, but injuries have hurt his play. Lee ranked the 182nd overall player in the league, and 22nd at the receiver, the projected market value is of four years $30 million and earning him about $7.5 million per year.
Allen Robinson, the former Penn State product, is entering his fifth season, currently is ranked the 49th overall player in the league and the seventh overall ranked receiver. The six-foot-three Robinson tore his ACL while catching his first reception in 2017, and was lost for the remainder of the season. Robinson’s put up great numbers in his second year, with 80 receptions for 1,400 yards, and 14 touchdowns. Robinson’s projected market value is for five years $68 million, with an annual salary of $13.6 million per year.
Paul Richardson, the speedy receiver from the University of Colorado, will enter his fourth season as a UFA with Seattle Seahawks. Interesting enough, Richardson were teammates with Marqise Lee and Robert Woods in high school, all to go on to have NFL careers. Richardson put up his best numbers in 2017, where he had 44 receptions for 703 yards and six touchdowns. According to his projected market value, it is estimated at four years $25 million with an annual salary of $6.3 million per year. Richardson is currently ranked as the 234th overall player and the 25th ranked receiver.
Watkins career began very promisingly his rookie season, however, it took a slight turn to the worst as he had to overcome injury issues that landed him on the injury reserved the 2016 season. It has been rumored that Watkins was healthy, but desperately wanted out of Buffalo. The Bills organization fulfilled his wishes by trading him to the Rams last season.
Overall, the Rams are optimistic of getting him signed to an extension, if not they still have the option of tagging Watkins for the 2018 year. It will be interesting to see how this plays out during the bargaining period, but the Rams should aggressively get Watkins signed to a new deal if those numbers hold up.
Free Agent Running Backs
It’s uncertain whether or not the Rams are resigning veteran running back Lance Dunbar, whom never seemed to shake injuries, as it was disappointing, to say the least. However, if head coach Sean McVay is seeking for another veteran running back, that has speed, is shifty, and can catch the ball out of the backfield and provide a spark, two players he can lure into a Rams uniforms.
First, we have Dion Lewis, the very talented running back from the University of Pitt, now plays for the New England Patriots, can provide plays in various ways. Not only will Lewis provide speed to the outside, the to but he’s also a threat out of the backfield as well as lining up as a receiver. Lewis originally drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, however, he was in the backfield but used as a kickoff returner. He was traded to the Cleveland Browns, broke his leg and was released. Indianapolis Colts picked him up but released him in 2014, the Patriots signed him and he will win a Super Bowl with the Colts in 2016. Lewis’s current projected market value is at three years, $15 million annual salary of $5 million.
Lastly, we have Jerick McKinnon the multi-talented running back of the Minnesota Vikings. McKinnon was the Vikings loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2017 NFC Championship game. McKinnon was quoted, "I want to be the guy," "I don't put in all the work in the offseason to come back and be in this role. I appreciate the role. It worked out well, but I want bigger and better things for myself." Perhaps Coach McVay can convince him that Los Angeles is the place for him, and can certainly use his versatility. His project value is slightly less than Lewis but is for one year longer. Projection is at four years $16 million per years, with an annual salary of four million per year.