How much can star-studded Rams afford to pay NFL’s best receiver, Cooper Kupp?
He led the NFL in receptions, yards receiving and touchdown catches. And he put an exclamation point on his record-setting season by scoring twice in the Rams’ Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Now, in wake of the recent spike in salaries for players at his position, does Cooper Kupp expect to haul in a new contract that will make him the league’s highest-paid receiver?
“I don’t think that’s really kind of the approach I take,” Kupp said Tuesday during a videoconference with reporters. “I definitely think there’s a place you want to be. ... I’m not trying to beat anybody. I’m not trying to compare myself to anyone else.
“It’s more of just being in a place that is just right for both sides.”
Kupp spoke to reporters after the first workout of the Rams’ voluntary offseason program, which will run through June and conclude with a mandatory minicamp.
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After the Rams’ victory in Super Bowl LVI, coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead said quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive lineman Aaron Donald and Kupp were in line for extensions.
In March, Stafford signed a four-year deal that could be worth as much as $160 million.
Finding “that happy medium” that worked for him financially, while enabling the Rams to continue to attract talented players, was a priority, Stafford said.
“I wanted it to be collaborative,” he continued, “and I feel like it worked out that way.”
New contracts for Donald and Kupp were “still at the forefront of our thoughts,” McVay said Tuesday.
Donald, as per his recent custom, is expected to remain and train in his hometown of Pittsburgh for most of the offseason. Donald has three years left in the then-record six-year, $135-million deal he signed in 2018. The Rams have had conversations with Donald and his agent about a new deal, McVay said.
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Before the 2020 season, Kupp signed a three-year, $48-million extension. He is due to carry a salary-cap number of $18.7 million in the upcoming season, according to overthecap.com.
But Kupp’s impending payday has been bolstered by a surge in big contracts signed by wide receivers such as Tyreek Hill.
In March, the Miami Dolphins traded for Hill and gave him a four-year extension that reportedly includes a record $72.2 million in guarantees — and could be worth as much as $120 million. Davante Adams of the Las Vegas Raiders, Brandin Cooks of the Houston Texans and Stefon Diggs of the Buffalo Bills also have cashed in.
“Excited for those guys and the opportunities that they’re getting,” Kupp said. “Certainly, you’ve got to be excited about just the markets, and how they change and what they did for a position group that I think has kind of been stale for a little bit.
“But seeing guys kind of push the market up has been pretty cool.”
Last season, Kupp put himself in prime position for a new deal by winning the so-called triple crown of receiving, catching 145 passes for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was voted the NFL offensive player of the year.
About a month later, the receiver market accelerated.
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“We all know what a special player he is, and it definitely has an impact,” McVay said when asked how the market will affect the Rams’ negotiations with Kupp. “In a lot of instances, there are comp-related things, and when you look at the production and what he means to our football team, it is so vital.
“So, it has a factor. ... That only benefits him, and we’ll be able to try to figure out what is a good way to accommodate both sides.”
Kupp and Stafford aim to improve their connection during the offseason program while welcoming and teaching new players such as wide receiver Allen Robinson.
Kupp cited basketball great Michael Jordan, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice as athletes who never settled for a previous season’s performance.
“No one has ever arrived,” Kupp said.
How can Kupp improve?
“You’ve got to find ways to do it better,” he said, “and do it quicker.”
McVay said he is energized to start the offseason program, but, as he noted in March, the situation in Ukraine has changed his perspective. McVay’s fiancée, Veronika Khomyn, is from Ukraine and has family in the war-torn country. “Some of the things that I used to get upset about, you realize those are so small in the big picture of what’s going on with my fiancée and her family,” McVay said. ... Per the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, Phase One of NFL offseason programs consists of two weeks of “activities limited to meetings, strength and conditioning, and physical rehabilitation only.” Phase Two lasts three weeks and consists of on-field workouts that “may include individual or group instruction and drills” at a “walk-through pace.” During the final four weeks of the program, teams can conduct 10 days of “organized team practice activity,” but no live contact is permitted. … The Rams are putting the Lombardi Trophy on tour, enabling fans to take photos with the team’s prize for winning Super Bowl LVI. Date and locations per the Rams’ release: April 23, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza; April 24, Inglewood Citizen Center; April 30, Santa Monica Pier; May 13, L.A. County Fair; May 14, Riverside Convention Center; May 15, Ontario Town Square; June 4-5, SoFi Stadium (invite only for season-ticket holders); June 11, Nike Store in East Los Angeles; June 12, Paseo Nuevo in Santa Barbara; June 18, Fashion Island Mall in Newport Beach. A stop in San Diego also is planned with a date to be announced. Information: www.therams.com/trophytour.
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