Probably the most important year of a player’s contract is his final year. Hence, why we call it a “contract year”. It’s when the player most tries to prove his worth and earn as big of a contract as he can in free agency – which, for a lot of players in the NFL, does not happen often. Sometimes, a player only gets one shot at a big contract in free agency so they have to make it count.
For this piece, we’ll take a look at some of the players on the Rams who have expiring contracts and what they’re future might hold this season and going forward. After all, the Rams have the upcoming contracts of John Johnson III, Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp and others to look forward to. Who the Rams keep now and how much they are willing to spend, will directly impact who they are able to keep later.
It’s hard to believe Peters is in the final year of his deal, already. This is the end of his rookie deal he had signed when he was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and had his fifth-year option picked up by the Rams. His cap hit of $9.069M is tied for 22nd with Minnesota’s Trae Waynes among cornerbacks. Peters will undoubtedly command a higher average annual value in free agency unless the Rams lock him up before the season.
Peters certainly was up and down during his first season with the Rams, but head coach Sean McVay believed he got better as the season wore on, adding he felt Peters’ best game came in the Super Bowl. If Peters keeps his play up, he could be eyeing a contract in the $13M-$15M per year range.
Being only 26 years really helps. The highest cap hit for cornerbacks is Darius Slay of the Detroit Lions at $15,934,375. Peters may not top that, especially with Jalen Ramsey set to become a free agent as well, but he should be at least top ten, if not top five at the position.
Dante Fowler, Jr.
After being a midseason trade acquisition by the Rams from the Jacksonville Jaguars, Fowler came in and provided a bit of a spark for the Rams, despite recording just two sacks in eight games. But it was highly unlikely the Rams were going to simply let Fowler walk after just half a season with the team. It was clear he was a top priority to keep in tow and that’s exactly what the Rams did, giving Fowler a one-year deal for $12M. That cap hit is good for fourth on the Rams and 15th in the league.
That’s likely a solid spot for Fowler, as he has become a decent edge defender, but the torn ACL suffered during his rookie season has so far prevented him from living up to the expectations he received after being the No. 3 overall pick in 2015. But in this age of rising salary cap (especially with how players will likely fight for a bigger piece of the pie during the next CBA discussions), a premium position such as edge defender is going to continue to command big money. As long as Fowler keeps chugging along as he has been, expect his average annual value to hover around where he is at now, if not more, be it from the Rams or someone else.
Just a tad behind Fowler in both the defensive end pecking order and in the salary cap department is Michael Brockers – who had somewhat of a quiet year in 2018. He did record 54 tackles, but he only posted one sack and four tackles for loss. His 2019 cap hit of $10.75M is fifth-highest on the Rams and 18th in the league. Cutting Brockers would save almost $8 million in cap space, but it’s unlikely the Rams let him go.
That said, with the emergence of 2018 rookie John Franklin-Myers, Brockers enters a very decisive 2019 season and it will be very interesting to watch what the Rams do with the strong defensive end after the season.
Even at 37 years old, Whitworth has continually been one of the most consistent tackles in the NFL and a key reason for the Rams’ run to Super Bowl LIII. This is the final year of his three-year deal with the Rams, so we’re giving him his well-earned respect by talking about him here and perhaps laying out the possibility of one more contract with the team – likely a one-year deal. But it’s also likely, if not more likely, that this could be it for the longtime veteran, who will be entering his 14th NFL season.