Life happens fast! One minute you’re the franchise offensive tackle of the future, the man responsible for protecting Jared Goff, and the next thing you know you’re benched for crucial games and fans couldn’t care less. That’s the position Rob Havenstein finds himself in. It’s been a brutal year for the left tackle prince that was promised. It’s one of the more stunning developments of a season that’s been nothing short of stunning developments (or lack of developments).
The Rams’ Super Bowl hangover season is one that’s been marred by injury, poor coaching, and underperformance of key players like Havenstein. After last week’s dismantling by the Cowboys, the Rams have a Lloyd Christmas percent chance at making the playoffs and that means they need to begin the soul searching now. Which means, the heir apparent to Andrew Whitworth is suddenly expendable.
Rob Havenstein was one of the many players Les Snead extended prematurely last summer. His four-year $32.5 million extension was seen as a bargain. The Rams get a good young tackle to protect their soon to be crowned franchise QB in Goff. If Havenstein fulfilled that promise, the contract would’ve been an outright steal. The team moved on from Rodger Saffold who took more money to go to Tennessee. All of a sudden the Rams’ line featured a rapidly deteriorating Whitworth and now Havenstein was one of two adults on a very young line. In theory, this could’ve worked. The problem is that Joe Noteboom blew out his knee and Brian Allen would also be lost for the year leaving an already shaky line completely barren. Even before those two injuries, the line played poorly, so poorly in fact that Rob Havenstein was ranked 77th per Pro Football Focus among active linemen.
That’s not what you want out of a franchise offensive tackle. Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer couldn’t pull off another development miracle and the Rams’ once-mighty offense has sputtered at various points of the year. Yes, it isn’t all on Rob Havenstein but his lack of development has had a clear ripple effect. Once he left the Pittsburgh game with an injury he was effectively benched for the rest of the season and replaced by rookie third-rounder Bobby Evans. That’s a crushing blow for a guy like Rob Havenstein especially when it was embraced by the fans. Evans came in and all of a sudden Goff had more time, Gurley had more holes to run through, and Dallas aside, the offense looked more like its old dynamic self.
During the offseason, Les Snead needs to make some harsh choices because they don’t have much flexibility with either cap space or picks. Rob Havenstein could net the Rams not only a $5.6 million savings but depending on the market he could net some nice mid-round picks. Hell, there’s a world where Miami decides to trade one of their firsts for him because they want an adult on a decent contract to protect whomever they select with their fourth overall pick. That scenario is pie in the sky but there is a world where some team has the space to absorb his deal and isn’t in the mood to develop a rookie lineman, which is one of the more difficult positions to draft these days.
It’s an unfortunate fall from grace for the second-round pick out of Wisconsin but that’s life in the NFL. Bobby Evans isn’t a guarantee to make a leap either but he’s a hell of a lot cheaper than Havenstein. Barring a miracle, the Rams can’t trade Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, or Brandin Cooks so they have to make sacrifices elsewhere and Rob Havenstein is sadly the most obvious of sacrificial lambs.