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Rams

Jared Goff’s new contract puts financial pressure on Rams to keep talent on roster

Rams quarterback Jared Goff warms up before a preseason game against the Houston Texans on Aug. 29 in Houston.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff warms up before a preseason game against the Houston Texans on Aug. 29 in Houston.
(Kevin M. Cox / Associated Press)

The Rams built a Super Bowl team with Jared Goff playing on a rookie contract, a luxury that enabled them to surround the then-fledgling quarterback with high-priced stars.

What happens now that Goff, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, agreed to an extension that includes a record $110 million in guarantees?

On Wednesday, Goff, coach Sean McVay and chief operating officer Kevin Demoff indicated that the window of opportunity for the Rams remains open.

“You have to plan for that evolution,” Demoff said. “It’s something we’ve been looking at for a while.”

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That timetable, however, got pushed up by a year after the Philadelphia Eagles signed quarterback Carson Wentz to an extension in June. That deal changed the NFL paradigm of waiting until after a quarterback’s fourth season to offer an extension, and put pressure on the Rams to get a deal done before the opener Sunday against the Carolina Panthers at Charlotte, N.C.

Goff was happy, grateful and relieved to be on the receiving end of a four-year, $134-million extension, which is expected to be signed in the next few days.

“I do understand the responsibility of it,” he said, “and all that stuff that goes with it.”

Goff’s task is to lead the Rams back to the Super Bowl, where they played their worst offensive game of the season in a 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots.

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It will be left to McVay, Demoff, general manager Les Snead and vice president Tony Pastoors to continue building a perennial championship contender now that Goff’s compensation will be among that of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.

“The fact that you did Goff two years early should allow you better [salary] cap planning in the future,” said Joel Corry, a former agent who writes about NFL contracts and the salary cap for CBS Sports.com.

When a franchise transitions from paying a quarterback rookie wages to a much larger second contract, “it’s going to hurt your ability to pay other players,” Demoff acknowledged.

But the Rams, he said, can still make it work.

“You want a quarterback to make that jump and to get paid, just like you want all of your players to go off rookie contracts and get paid,” Demoff said. “These are good problems to have.”

The Rams could only dream of their current situation when they moved up 14 spots in the draft and selected Goff ahead of Wentz.

The last time the Rams chose a quarterback with the top pick it was a different era. In 2010 — the final year before the NFL and NFL Players Assn. agreed to a rookie wage scale — the Rams, then in St. Louis, gave quarterback Sam Bradford a then-gigantic $50-million guaranteed contract.

With the wage scale in place, spending to build around a young quarterback became a viable option.

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In 2017, the Rams hired McVay and spent heavily on free-agent left tackle Andrew Whitworth and modestly on free-agent receiver Robert Woods and free-agent center John Sullivan. The Rams won the NFC West and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Then the Rams, sensing a Super Bowl opportunity, went all in.

They traded for cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, signed defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, and traded for receiver Brandin Cooks. Without a first-round draft pick in 2017 or 2018 — the cost of trading up to select Goff — they deftly drafted players such as tight end Gerald Everett, receivers Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds, safety John Johnson and offensive linemen Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen.

A summer spending spree followed, ensuring that a talented nucleus would be in place to surround Goff.

In July 2018, Cooks and running back Todd Gurley signed big extensions. The next month, defensive tackle Aaron Donald did the same. The Rams went 13-3, repeated as NFC West champs and won two playoff games en route to the Super Bowl.

But with Goff heading into his fourth season, the Rams appeared to take steps to reduce costs.

They released high-priced inside linebacker Mark Barron and let Suh, safety Lamarcus Joyner and offensive lineman Rodger Saffold leave as free agents. They signed veteran safety Eric Weddle and linebacker Clay Matthews at relative bargain rates, wooing the six-time Pro Bowl players with an opportunity to play for a Super Bowl contender in a region where they grew up.

Then the Eagles gave Wentz a four-year $128-million extension, with $107 million guaranteed.

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Wentz, the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft, and Goff are represented by the same firm, REP 1 Sports. Goff said he was entertained by the “media circus” surrounding other contract situations around the NFL as the Rams and agent Ryan Tollner worked quietly behind the scenes to get a deal done.

Goff was scheduled to carry a salary-cap number of $8.9 million this season with a fifth-year option of nearly $23 million. The new deal will make it a “blended contract” that will not dramatically spike this season or next, Demoff said.

“We had some challenges in the short term that had to be worked through to get to a contract like this,” Demoff said. “They were willing to work through that with us, which I think was a great credit to what Jared believed in.

“So now that we have those done, you can say, OK, how do we go start to address the pending free agency class of 2020 now that you have some fixed numbers?”

Tight end Tyler Higbee, linebacker Cory Littleton, cornerback Marcus Peters and edge rusher Dante Fowler are among the players who will be free agents after this season. And new deals for Kupp and Woods could be on the horizon.

Goff’s extension reflects the “big picture perspective,” of a franchise that would not be hindered from surrounding Goff with talented players, McVay said. Corry said the Rams must continue to draft successfully to offset the money they are paying Goff and other players such as Donald and Gurley.

“When you have draft picks that can come in and play like the John Johnsons of the world, that’s the cheapest labor you’re ever going to get,” Corry said. “So that’s going to help determine how this thing moves forward.”


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