Yesterday the Rams made a big splash in free agency by resigning linebacker Leonard Floyd to a four-year $64 million extension (as of now the guaranteed amount has not been disclosed). It was a bit of a surprise considering fans already said good-bye to him during the season since it seemed to be inevitable that someone would drop the bag for a guy who registered 10.5 sacks.
Now there were other suitors, allegedly Denver and the Giants were inches away from getting him so the Rams had to pay a little extra. This came of course at the cost of John Johnson who signed a three-year $33.8 deal with Cleveland which the Rams, in theory, could’ve done instead but it was more imperative to keep Floyd.
Before getting into why, it’s customary to mention that if Tony Pastoors hadn’t gone HAM on extensions in 2018 and 2019 they could’ve done both and not had to do cap Kama Sutra to get under the cap, but the Rams don’t have a Delorean so unfortunately they can’t go back and fix it. So with that out of the way, let’s get into why the Rams resigning Leonard Floyd wasn’t an ill-conceived overpay.
Prior to signing with the Rams, the perception of Leonard Floyd was that he was an underachieving linebacker that the Bears gave up on after refusing to pick up his fifth-year option. The Rams took a one-year $10 million flyer on him and he flourished.
The 10.5 sacks were great but he also recorded 55 total tackles and became a flexible piece in both run and pass coverage. He was by far their best linebacker and his absence would’ve left a chasm that some of the other vets would’ve struggled to fill (more on them later) and simply drafting his replacement wouldn’t have been enough.
It’s easy to lean on the idea that Leonard Floyd simply benefited as Dante Fowler had done before him from the ‘Aaron Donald‘ effect. With Donald getting double or triple-teamed over 70% of the time of course Floyd would fourish. Who wouldn’t? But it isn’t entirely the reason he succeeded. Floyd grew in Brandon Staley’s system and while Staley is gone, Raheem Morris likes a rusher with Floyd’s length, coupled with his familiarity with the system the Rams like to run. This allows the team to have a little bit more peace of mind.
Yes, there are cheaper options available such as Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney, K.J. Wright, Justin Houston, etc. They could all be signed to short “prove it” deals as Floyd had done last season, but it isn’t clear they would easily replicate Floyd’s production. The Rams can’t gamble on “prove it” guys year after year, it isn’t sustainable and having continuity matters.
Furthermore, Ingram is 32 and while he could be productive, Floyd is 28 so he’s more in his prime. Clowney was a massive disappointment in Tennessee so he’s even more of a gamble even on a one-year deal. Houston likely would command too much money given he already did a “prove it” deal in Indy, and given his age, would want something more long-term. There were some also condemning the deal based on the Bucs keeping Shaq Barrett for less but that has more to do with Barrett taking a discount to stay on the TB 12 plan.
The $16 million a year figure sounds like a lot, and this year it will keep them from adding a Marvin Jones type player as a 50-50 WR for Matthew Stafford, or another corner to replace Troy Hill, or even retaining Austin Blythe, but in the long-term, it’s not that big of a deal.
2021 will require a lot of austerity measures but 2022 will have a lot more flexibility. The Rams have $22 million in dead cap coming off the books and the impending TV deal/stadiums operating at full capacity will cause a jump in the cap. Sure, the amount of money they’ll have to spend will depend on how the Donald, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Andrew Whitworth, Matthew Stafford, and Jalen Ramsey restructures pan out, but they’ll definitely have a lot more money to spend next year.
They’ll be spending a pick or two at linebacker and with Floyd locked in they can allocate those resources towards making the massive upgrades they haven’t been able to before. They’ll also have more draft resources as well, especially with the comp picks coming their way.
It’s still a risk to bring back Leonard Floyd given what happened when Dante Fowler flailed in Atlanta, but history shouldn’t repeat itself. He’s staying with Donald so their dynamic should only get better. He gives the Rams a consistent weapon on defense while they figure out the rest of their linebacker corps for the umpteenth year.
Yes, perhaps they overspent a little to make it happen but it’s an investment that will pay dividends in the future. Yes, losing Johnson stings, but given their depth in the secondary that loss will sting a lot less than if the Rams had to completely rebuild their linebacker corps again especially after losing Samson Ebukam to the Niners.
Unlike the Patriots, the Rams don’t have like Buck Strickland at Jugstore Cowboys, but they’re still able to do what they need to enhance their championship window. Leonard Floyd was their best option and if it keeps them from adding a marquee name so be it.