Will The Los Angeles Rams Pay Ernest Jones Like The Elite Linebacker He Is?

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The 2021 Los Angeles Rams draft is among the worst of the Les Snead era with one glaring exception; Ernest Jones. The team drafted him in the third round out of South Carolina not expecting him to step into a starting role in his first season on the team, but eight weeks into it, there he was.

That is the tale of the tape for Jones’ career thus far. Everything the Rams have thrown at him, he has risen to the challenge. He finished his rookie season as one of the best first-year inside linebackers according to PFF. In his second season, they brought in Bobby Wagner, who plays in the same position.

Last year, Jones stepped up as a pass rusher when they were struggling to get consistent pressure on quarterbacks, a major departure from his role on the defense in the past. Jones has been used as a blitzed 91 times in his career, 58 came just last year. Unsurprisingly, he excelled in that as well. Of his 19 career QB pressures, 13 of them came in 2023.

Will The Los Angeles Rams Break From Tradition And Re-Sign A Draft Pick?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens
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Now, he has reached the last year of his rookie contract, and Les Snead has said they won’t extend him now, but rather have him play out the final year of his contract.

Contract negotiating 101 dictates that the party with more leverage gets what it wants. The Rams don’t have much leverage considering they have no depth at the position other than Jones. Making matters worse for the team, Jones is finally getting the recognition he deserves as a top inside linebacker in the league. He led linebackers in QB pressures, missed just two tackles all season, and was excellent in coverage.

The Rams have not re-signed many draft picks after they surpassed their first four-year contract. Only Cooper Kupp, Joseph Noteboom, and Brian Allen have been extended in the Sean McVay era.

But if they allow Jones to walk in free agency, they will find themselves in the position they were in in 2021. A slapdashed group of mediocre talent, hoping a draft pick will work out. It worked out for them then, but hope isn’t a good strategy.

Ernest Jones Contract Expectations

NFL: Washington Commanders at Los Angeles Rams
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There are only nine linebackers in the NFL that average $10 million or more. That is the range Jones should fetch, whether it is from the Rams or another team. The Rams currently have $34.2 million in salary cap space in 2025 and no priority-free agents on the docket.

Jones should be the team’s top free agent priority for next season. They could look to the Houston Texan’s new contract with Azeez Al-Shaair for inspiration. He received a four-year $34 million deal this year. His cap hit in year one is just $4.2 million and tops off at $13.7 million in 2026.

NFL: Washington Commanders at Los Angeles Rams
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