A year ago during the Rams’ fourth preseason game in New Orleans, team executives painstakingly negotiated final details of a massive extension for star defensive tackle Aaron Donald, a deal that was announced the day after the game.
The urgency might not be quite the same, but a clock of sorts is ticking as the Rams try to work out an extension for quarterback Jared Goff.
After the Rams defeated the Houston Texans 22-10 on Thursday night at NRG Stadium, Coach Sean McVay was asked if he would like to see a deal done before the Rams begin game-week preparations for their Sept. 8 opener against the Carolina Panthers.
“If all things come together,” McVay said. “We’ll get a chance to look at that, but we that know Jared is very important. We feel great about him as our quarterback.”
McVay did not play starters and other key rotational players during the preseason. Goff and other starters who made the trip to Houston went through a midday workout at the University of Houston on Thursday, and then watched the game from the NRG Stadium sideline as John Wolford passed for two touchdowns.
Goff is not the only player the Rams might be working to extend before the season begins. Tight end Tyler Higbee, linebacker Cory Littleton and cornerback Marcus Peters will be unrestricted free agents after this season.
For McVay and his staff, the most immediate order of business will be trimming the roster from 90 to 53 players by Saturday afternoon. But for general manager Les Snead and team executives Tony Pastoors and Kevin Demoff, Goff’s situation remains a focal point.
Goff has maintained that he was not concerned about the situation, that it will work itself out as long as he continues to play well.
But do the Rams want their 24-year-old quarterback, a two-time Pro Bowl selection who led the Rams to the Super Bowl last season, to be any way unnerved about his future during the season?
McVay said he would not be concerned about an adverse effect on Goff if a deal was not complete by the opener.
“If anything, we’ve talked about what a great mental toughness and fortitude he has,” McVay said. “And I think Jared’s singular focus truly is on getting ready for the Carolina Panthers and having an outstanding 2019 season leading us.”
The Rams have a case study in how peace of mind can spur outstanding performance.
The morning after last year’s preseason finale at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, news broke that the Rams and Donald had agreed on a six-year, $135-million deal. A pleased and financially secure Donald went out and produced 201/2 sacks — the most by an interior lineman in NFL history — and for the second consecutive year was the league’s defensive player of the year.
Goff is scheduled to earn $4.3 million this season and carried a salary-cap number of $8.9 million. He will earn more than $22 million next season playing on a fifth-year option if the Rams do not extend him before then.
Goff’s contract status would not be an issue if not for the megadeal the Philadelphia Eagles gave quarterback Carson Wentz in June.
The signing broke with what had become the recent NFL practice of waiting until the end of a quarterback’s fourth season before offering an extension. It also immediately moved up the timeline for a possible extension for Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft.
Wentz, the No. 2 pick in that draft, received a four-year, $128-million deal, with $107 million guaranteed.
Goff and Wentz are represented by the same firm, REP 1 Sports. The firm also represents Rams receivers Brandin Cooks, the recipient of an $81-million extension before last season, and Cooper Kupp, who is entering the third year of his rookie contract.
Snead has been fielding questions about a possible Goff deal ever since the Rams finalized Donald’s deal.
At the start of training camp, after Snead and McVay received new contracts, Snead said signing Goff to an extension was “not a matter of if, it’s just when.”
The season begins in 10 days.
Running back Todd Gurley, offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Peters did not make the trip to Houston…. Wolford completed eight of 15 passes for 105 yards and connected with tight end Kendall Blanton and receiver Nsimba Webster for touchdowns. Brandon Allen completed 12 of 17 passes for 120 yards, with two interceptions. … Running back Justin Davis rushed for 78 yards in 16 carries and a touchdown. He also ran for a two-point conversion.