Given the amount of young talent in place, the Rams should enjoy a bright 2018 season, but a few players left the Coliseum on Saturday night uncertain about whether they would return.
Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson has a six-year history with the team, while receiver Sammy Watkins has been around only since August. They represent two of the biggest decisions in the coming months for the Rams, whose season ended with a 26-13 wild-card round playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Watkins is one of eight regular Rams contributors who is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and his situation is the most compelling and perplexing. The Rams traded for Watkins during training camp, ostensibly to be their No. 1 receiver, but then couldn’t seem to figure out how to use him.
Watkins, who had a history of injuries in Buffalo, stayed healthy all season but finished fourth on the Rams in receptions (39) and receiving yards (593). Against the Falcons, Watkins was targeted on only four of Jared Goff’s 45 pass attempts, and caught one pass for 23 yards.
It’s fair to ask if Watkins, who had three or fewer receptions in 12 of his 15 games season, would even want to return to the Rams in 2018.
“You see this team building something, with the coaching staff and the players,” Watkins said. “It would be a pleasure to come back but, you know, it’s a business. I’m looking forward to talking to the coach and seeing where my future is at.”
Watkins might not have a choice. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent, but he’s also the most likely to receive a franchise or transition tag from the Rams. Such a designation, almost certainly, would keep Watkins on the roster for the 2018 season at a fixed, guaranteed salary.
Other players have more options. Among Rams starters, Johnson, center John Sullivan, linebacker Connor Barwin, cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman and safety Lamarcus Joyner all are set to become free agents, as are defensive lineman Dominique Easley and safety Cody Davis.
Joyner and Robey-Coleman would seem to be the most likely to return, particularly if the Rams allow Johnson to walk away.
One of the Rams’ longest-tenured players, Johnson (drafted in 2012) said last month that he would like to return in 2018, but it’s not known how strongly the Rams will pursue him, and whether it makes financial sense to identify Johnson as their No. 1 cornerback.
Complicating matters is the unknown health status of cornerback Kayvon Webster, who…