As the Rams prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 6 of 10: Tight ends.
The buzz sparked by the $134-million extension the Rams gave quarterback Jared Goff last September still resonated when, two days later, the team rewarded tight end Tyler Higbee with a four-year, $29-million deal.
Did the Rams overpay a tight end who had never caught more than 25 passes or eclipsed 300 yards receiving in his first three seasons?
Higbee eased doubts with a strong 2019, especially down the stretch. He caught at least seven passes in each of the final five games and amassed more than 100 yards receiving four games in a row. The 6-foot-6 Higbee finished with 69 receptions for 734 yards and three touchdowns.
With the Rams cutting star running back Todd Gurley and trading speedy receiver Brandin Cooks in the last four weeks, coach Sean McVay is expected to put more emphasis on Higbee and tight end Gerald Everett during the upcoming season.
Everett, a second-round draft pick in 2017, caught a career-best 37 passes for 408 yards and two touchdowns last year. McVay would like to make Everett a larger part of the offense as the Rams attempt to rebound from a 9-7 season.
“Tyler Higbee did a phenomenal job, but I think Gerald Everett is a guy that I’ve got to do a better job of really utilizing his skill set,” McVay said recently, “because he’s a difference-maker, but he’s got to get the opportunity.
“I think that starts with some of the things I know I can do a better job of.”
McVay has a history of effectively utilizing multiple tight ends. In 2016, he was the Washington Redskins’ offensive coordinator. Tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis had a combined 110 catches in 148 targets.
Last season, Higbee and Everett had a combined 149 targets.
Johnny Mundt is a solid blocker at the line of scrimmage and also proved valuable lining up as a fullback. Kendall Blanton was on the practice squad.
Under contract for 2020: Higbee ($9.1 million), Everett ($1.9 million), Mundt ($750,000), Blanton ($675,000), Ethan Wolf ($610,000).
Free agents: The Rams did not pursue any free-agent tight ends. They could sign undrafted players to add depth for training camp.
Draft: The Rams’ draft strategy regarding tight ends will be influenced by how they project Everett’s future. He is in the final year of his contract, and the Rams have grouped him with receiver Cooper Kupp and safety John Johnson as candidates for extensions.
Roster decisions: Higbee is under contract through 2023. So the big question centers on Everett. Mundt is a solid performer at a reasonable price on a one-year contract.
NEXT: Offensive line.