The LA Rams can no longer count on their swiss army knife for the 2022 NFL season. Tight end Johnny Mundt became an unrestricted free agent and has since signed on with the Minnesota Vikings. Why the Vikings? Well, that happens to be where former OC Kevin O’Connell was hired as their head coach. Not just that, but they hired the Rams TE coach Wes Phillips to be their offensive coordinator.
It’s the second straight season for a tight-end defection. TE Gerald Everett signed on with the Seattle Seahawks in 2021. In that time frame, the Rams have only drafted TE/WR Jacob Harris. So down two, plus one so far? Well, the Rams did draft TE Brycen Hopkins in 2020, but he had just one reception in his first two seasons with the team in the regular season. Of course, many are oohing and ahhing his four out of four catches for 47 yards in Super Bowl LVI as an indication that ‘he’s arrived.’ Me? I remain a bit skeptical. Hopkins was the player of last resort. He could use that performance to spring back into 2022 playing time.
Or it could be simply a one-hit-wonder.
Rams roster re-added Markway
That’s not to say that the Rams roster is screaming for more tight ends. Not at all. The team has veteran TEs Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Kendall Blanton, Jacob Harris, and the addition of Kyle Markway. Who? Well, you may have forgotten him, as he was added a total of three times to the Rams roster.
And like any champion prizefighter, he gets back up, dusts himself off, and comes right back to the Rams roster. He was initially added to the team in July 2021 as a tight end addition for training camp. Something about the 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end must have caught someone’s attention. When the LA Rams added punter Corey Bojorquez, they released Markway, but only for the first time.
When the LA Rams suffered an outbreak on the roster of positive COVID-19 test results, the team re-signed Markway to the roster. Not only did the roster need to meet the minimum NFL requirement, but Markway knew the Rams’ offensive playbook, and could contribute on either special teams or offense. But as players began to test negatively, Markway was released once more.
The third time’s the charm?
Curiously, the Rams signed Markway to a Reserve/Futures contract earlier this year. That makes this his third go-round with the team. Is the third time a charm? Well, it could be. Here’s why.
While many are already convinced of the post-season performances of both Kendall Blanton and Brycen Hopkins making both players shoo-ins for the 2022 season, neither demonstrated complete command of the TE2 role throughout the 2021 NFL season.
While the Rams are setting up the roster for the new year, Markway does add a bit of intrigue to the tight-end role. He signed in 2020 as an undrafted free agent rookie with the New York Giants out of South Carolina. He was released but signed on with the Cleveland Browns and remained on their practice squad through the 2020 season.
When he was released in 2021, the Rams added him. Of course, his time with South Carolina links him directly to the Rams’ former RB-now-TE coach Thomas Brown. It’s that connection to Coach Brown that may afford him an even playing field when competing for a roster spot in 2022. Will he manage to beat the odds? I think that he has a better shot at doing so than many realize. Why?
In a manner that is quite similar to that of Johnny Mundt, Markway is that tight end who is a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none. He can catch, he most certainly can block, and he likely can contribute on special teams. But because he is not an elite pass-catcher, he was not viewed as anything more than a TE3 option in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Rams could view him in a more favorable light because they already have plenty of experience at using a tight end in unexpected and various ways. Can Markway become the next Johnny Mundt? Well, he knows the tight-end coach, and the third time is the charm, right?