LA Rams CB Darious Williams may be tough RFA to re-sign

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

LA Rams CB Darious Williams is one of the best in the NFL. That creates a host of problems to re-sign him in the 2021 NFL Free Agency market.

The LA Rams hit a homer when they picked up defensive back Darious Williams on October 8, 2018, off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens.  After signing with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent, Williams was released on October 6, 2018.  The Rams moved quickly to scoop him up, and history was made.

How many have graded the LA Rams as the loser in a trade that sent CB Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for ILB Kenny Young and a 2020 fifth-round draft pick? But nobody looks at the big picture, where the Rams helped themselves to a star 2020 defensive back from the Ravens’ waiver wire for nothing.

The proof is in the pudding

DB Darious Williams is one of the huge success stories of the Rams defense and is only now beginning to get the recognition that he truly deserves. He is a perfect teammate to line up opposite from All-Pro DB Jalen Ramsey. As Ramsey shuts down the opponent’s best receiver, Williams has a field day picking off passes.  But what about when he doesn’t come down with an interception? Well, we’ll just leave this Pro Football Focus cornerback ranking right here.

That’s how good he is playing this season. Top of the list good.

But what about 2021?

Well, the great season from Darious Williams is going to create a host of challenges for the LA Rams in the 2021 NFL Free Agency market. Let me explain. Williams is a restricted free agent in 2021. That means that the Rams can semi-protect him in terms of re-signing him, but that protection will come at a price.

The NFL has constructed the RFA designation to afford teams a chance to retain young players at a semi-economic price but still allowing competing teams to poach the player if the value is misaligned.  Darious Williams is the type of player who could push the boundaries. The Rams can value Williams at a specific tender offer.  The offers can be a first-round or second-round tender. Or the Rams could offer a right-of-first-refusal tender.

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Tender offers strategy

In either of the first two situations, the Rams place a fixed amount contract for the player. If another team wishes to sign Williams away from the Rams, they would forfeit a draft pick in the upcoming NFL Draft of that year. But the cost of the tender offers at the early rounds is cost-prohibitive to the Rams, and so the chess match comes into play

A first-round tender comes at a projected cost of $4.873 million. A second-round tender comes at a projected cost of $3.422 million. While the pressure to manage the salary cap gives an incentive to offer the minimal tender offer, the team needs defensive backs in 2021, and cannot afford to lose a player like Williams to free agency.  So there is the rub.

That’s the problem. Williams is too good

So far, Darious Williams is easily worth a cost of a single first-round pick to play for a team. That means that even if the Rams extend a first-round tender to Williams, there are no guarantees that he stays.  A team with a strong need at the position could easily take a hit in the 2021 NFL Draft to land one of the best and proven defensive back stars of the NFL.

A team like the New York Jets or Jacksonville Jaguars, with multiple first-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, can make the decision to sign Williams and still have a top pick in round one. Or a team with a late pick in round one of the NFL draft would happily surrender that draft pick to land a top-notch defensive back. And that’s the challenge. A cash-laden team can offer a significant contract, factor in the loss of a draft pick, and still walk away with a prized signing of the 2021 NFL Free Agency market.

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The NFL Pro Bowl voting roster may have excluded Rams Darious Williams, but you can bet that he is already on the shopping list of about ten NFL teams for the 2021 NFL Free Agency market.  And he is so good, that not even a first-round tender offer is a guarantee that he will re-sign with the Rams.