Los Angeles Rams: Placing franchise tag on LaMarcus Joyner was best decision

(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Rams decided to place their franchise tag on free safety LaMarcus Joyner during the 2018 offseason, maintaining an important piece in their secondary.

The Los Angeles Rams used their franchise tag on LaMarcus Joyner this offseason, with the price costing $11.3 million for the 2018 season. The Rams faced a tough decision to make this offseason when it came to using the franchise tag Joyner or tag impending free agent Sammy Watkins.

As everyone knows, Los Angeles decided to let Watkins walk while allowing the Rams back end of the secondary to stay intact with Joyner. Watkins would go on to sign a three-year, $48 million dollar deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, a price Rams were unwilling to pay.

Joyner played an important role in the Rams’ success on defense in 2017. For the first three seasons of his career, Joyner played a majority of his snaps as a cornerback in a nickel or dime package. In 2017, Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips saw the potential Joyner had as a free safety (position he played at Florida State), and he certainly didn’t disappoint.

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Joyner arguably had the best season of his career in his first season as a free safety. Joyner totaled 39 tackles to go along with three interceptions, one forced fumble, and a touchdown. The fact that Joyner came into the 2017 season without an interception or touchdown in the three seasons prior shows how much the switch worked for both parties, and hopefully it’s only going to get better.

In 2016, The Rams were ranked 23rd in the NFL with just 10 interceptions as a team. Los Angeles made a huge improvement in 2017, ranking sixth in interceptions with 18. There’s no doubt Joyner helped make this improvement possible. The Rams also were second in the NFL in pass deflections in 2018 with 112, an improvement from being 19th in the NFL with just 82 deflections.

According to Pro Football Focus, Joyner was their 3rd highest-graded safety in the NFL for 2017.

Joyner was able to accomplish this in his first season as a free safety in the NFL, so his potential is through the roof in his second year at the position. Sean McVay stated it was a “huge priority” bringing back Joyner this upcoming season before the franchise tag was placed on him.

With the Rams’ additions of Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Sam Shields, and Ndamukong Suh in the 2018 offseason while also retaining Joyner, the potential of this Rams defense is scary good. With the losses of Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn through trades, Los Angeles wanted to sure up the interior of their defensive line and the secondary to help make up for the lack of linebacker depth (on paper) so we’ll see how that plays out.

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However, I got a good feeling about this defense, especially with a guy like Joyner at the back end of our secondary who seems poised to make another leap at free-safety. If that does happen, the Rams’ defense will be in great shape once again.