Reason 1: He is playing in his contract year
The NFL is a business. As much as fans would love to have it be about the “love of the game”, it’s also about compensation. “Getting paid” is a huge motivator in the NFL to perform well, and the last year of a player’s contract is often when the player puts up career-high numbers. But what about the team? What is their incentive to feature a player whose production in the final year of their contract will only serve to drive up their asking price when everyone sits down to talk numbers?
Well, NFL teams do have incentives after all. Should Cooper Kupp sign a contract with another team as a free agent, the LA Rams would be positioned for an awarded compensatory pick in the next NFL Draft. The value of that pick would be related to the size of the player’s contract. So a productive final season adds some delayed compensation to the team.
Can Rams afford Kupp’s full potential?
The LA Rams ILB Cory Littleton played himself out of the team’s budget by putting up a monster season in 2019. So too did the one-year production of OLB Dante Fowler Jr. put his asking price out of the Rams’ price range. Wouldn’t a monster season by Kupp have a similar effect? Well, it could. After all, the LA Rams presumed top priority is re-signing cornerback Jalen Ramsey. While Kupp is likely to be the next priority, the Rams have options should they fail to get him re-inked to a new contract. The team has wide receiver Josh Reynolds, whose contract also expires in 2021. If the Rams fail to re-sign Kupp, they will likely push hard to retain Reynolds.
The Rams also drafted a very similar player in rookie Van Jefferson. If Cooper Kupp signs on with another NFL team, the Rams will likely turn to Jefferson to take over for him next year. So while a great season out of Kupp could mean a parting of the ways, the Rams will be fully supportive of Kupp’s efforts to reach his full potential this season. The more yards and TDs Kupp puts up in 2020, the more success the Rams have this year. Will that lead to Cooper Kupp signing with another team in 2021? That bridge will be crossed at another time. For now, the Rams will need everything Cooper Kupp has to win in 2020. From how it looks right now? That’s quite a lot!