A report broke surely after their 2017 season concluded that the Los Angeles Rams were likely going to place the dreaded franchise tag on wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Given that he recorded just 39 receptions for less than 600 yards last season, it didn’t seem to make a ton of sense that the defending NFC West champs would guarantee Watkins north of $16 million under the tag.
Now comes this report from NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo indicating that the Rams might in fact be forced to franchise defensive back Lamarcus Joyner instead of Watkins.
The Rams might be forced to weigh using the franchise tag on either WR Sammy Watkins or S Lamarcus Joyner. In that scenario, I believe they go with Joyner and Watkins hits the market. pic.twitter.com/yDFMLLN1Kx
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 22, 2018
Unlike Watkins, Joyner has been more of a long-term fixture with the Rams. A second-round pick back in 2014, the Florida State product has started 20 games over the past two seasons. This past year saw him play almost exclusively at free safety for the first time in his career. In turn, Joyner recorded 49 tackles, nine passes defended and three interceptions in a Pro Bowl caliber performance. The market for his services in free agency would likely be more robust than an injury-plagued Watkins who has not live up to expectations during his young career.
The issue here is that Los Angeles traded corner E.J. Gaines as well as a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft for Watkins back in August. Does the team really want to give up on that experiment after just one season?
Compared to the north of $16 million a Watkins tag would cost, Joyner’s price would come in a bit more than $11 million. That surely does make a difference here. With fellow defensive back Trumaine Johnson set to hit free agency and unlikely to return, the Rams would like to keep one of their building blocks in the secondary.