LA Rams release Johnny Hekker opening door for 2022 punter competition
Would things be different for the LA Rams if they had chosen to retain punter Corey Bojorquez, and released Johnny Hekker, a year ago? After Hekker agreed to surrender $1 million per year off his contracted salary, the writing for Bojorquez was on the wall. The Rams traded Bojorquez to the Green Bay Packers for next to nothing, and he proceeded to have an outstanding season for them. Hekker’s was statistically less impressive, but he was a member of the Super Bowl LVI winning roster.
Still, Hekker was a highly compensated player, one of the most expensive punters in the NFL. He averaged nearly $3.8 million per season. In the NFL, one of the nicknames is Not For Long, and this is a clear example. The Rams could not afford to sustain Hekker at his current level of compensation. With his current contract expiring in one year, the team had just one option:
The Rams released Hekker.
While this will save the LA Rams a tidy $2.05 million, it will open the door once more to the pain-staking task of trying out and deciding on a new punter for the future. We know how much entertainment was had by all when the LA Rams auditioned Sam Sloan, Lirim Hajrullahu, and Austin MacGinnis to become the Rams starting placekicker.
To be honest, the outright release of Hekker does not mean that the team will not bring him back at a much more team-friendly contract. Emerging from salary cap hell, the Rams are still in need of freeing up each and every penny to renegotiate big-ticket contracts for QB Matthew Stafford, DL Aaron Donald, and to re-sign OLB Von Miller and WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Meanwhile, this somewhat surprising vacancy means open competition among new faces in 2022. Hopefully, the team will focus on veterans and will sign rookies after the 2022 NFL Draft. But there is now a distinct possibility that the team will draft a punter to ensure that the team ends up with the player that they want.
Parting ways with a long-term player is never easy. But on the bright side, Johny Hekker earned his Super Bowl LVI ring with the team before it happened.