LA Rams small ERFA moves mark huge first step into free agency

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams have many players who are projected to test the 2021 NFL Free Agency market, but two such players whose contracts expired were almost certain to return to the team. Those players are inside linebacker Travin Howard and interior offensive lineman Coleman Shelton. Why were they certain to return? Well, they both fell into the category of Exclusive Rights Free Agents, a.k.a. ERFAs.

Now, you are probably asking: So what?

Well, this may mark a very small move towards the LA Rams Free Agency puzzle, but they are two key offers that are critical to the overall strategy of reassembling a roster capable of winning in the 2021 NFL season.

Exclusive Rights Free Agents are players whose contracts expire and who have not yet accrued three seasons.

"‘A player falls into this category if they have fewer than three accrued seasons. If his original team offers him a one-year contract at the league minimum (based on his credited seasons), the player cannot negotiate with other teams. The minimum salary was established at $610,000 for the 2020 season in the latest CBA.  That amount increases to $660,000 for 2021.’ – Per How should LA Rams handle their RFA and ERFA players this offseason? article"

The LA Rams needed to tender offers to both Travin Howard and Coleman Shelton for three very important reasons. And they did today.

Why was it important for the Rams to do so? First and foremost, both players are very familiar with the LA Rams organization, and the Rams are very familiar with them.  In fact, Howard was in the queue to start at the inside linebacker position in 2020 alongside teammate Micah Kiser before an untimely injury ended his season.

Must Read. How should LA Rams handle their RFA and ERFA players this offseason?. light

Shelton is just as critical, as he is one of the players who will likely compete for the LA Rams offensive center position if the team does not re-sign veteran Austin Blythe.

Secondly, both players return at the bargain-basement price of $660,000 for the 2021 NFL season.  Since only the top 51 players count against the annual NFL salary cap, neither player will have any adverse effects on the team’s 2021 salary cap status.

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Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, both players fill huge voids in the team’s roster depth. Howard at inside linebacker and Shelton at the offensive center immediately add competition and depth at very shallow and vulnerable positions for the Rams.  A minor matter? Perhaps. A trivial decision? Well, sure. But the Rams, even in making the obvious decision here, stand upon much firmer ground roster-wise as a result.