Grading the Rams' first seven (re-)signings in 2024 free agency

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Rams Sean McVay
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Rams Sean McVay / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages
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Rams sign TE Colby Parkinson

Some fans were completely taken by surprise by the team when they addressed the tight end position early in free agency. But should it have been a surprise? Well, not if you consider the fact that the timeline for starting TE Tyler Higbee is completely up in the air, and he may miss some, if not all, of the 2024 NFL season. We know that backup tight end Hunter Long, who was part of the return on trading Jalen Ramsey to the Miami Dolphins, is too injury-prone to be counted on in 2024.

And despite flashes of brilliance in a very limited role in 2023, the team won't put all of their eggs in the basket of second-year tight end Davis Allen. Allen played 192 offensive snaps last year, catching 10 of 11 passes for 95 yards, seven first downs, and one touchdown. Even if Allen does earn a starting role in 2024, the team needs depth in the tight end room for 12-personnel packages, and for depth through OTAs and Training camp.

We went out on a limb and targeted Seattle Seahawks TE Will Dissly as the best option for the Rams. He was the TE2 in the Seahawks' offense and seemed to be the best value at the position. He is planning to sign with the Los Angeles Chargers on a 3-year $14 million deal, which is tremendous value. While I had the right team and nearly predicted the right player, I was off by one. The Rams opted for the Seahawks TE3, Colby Parkinson.

Colby Parkinson is no slouch. Standing 6-foot-7 and weighing 251-pounds, the guy is just 40 more pounds of muscle from the gym away of becoming a mauling offensive tackle. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in Round 4 of the 2020 NFL Draft with the 133rd overall pick. By all angles, he places the future of TE Hunter Long with the LA Rams very much in danger of ending this season.

Parkinson is a California native, and played for Stanford University. That connects him for three years to Rams RB Coach Ron Gould, who coached at Stanford from 2017 through 2022. Parkinson played through the 2019 football season.

Parkinson's ability to block is elite among tight ends. He is big enough to neutralize defensive linemen, and agile enough to outflank and slam swift edge rushers. He is in his wheelhouse when he leads a run downfield, as he is gifted to pop multiple pursuing defenders.

The instant analysis of this addition is that the Rams believe that HC Sean McVay can amplify Parkinson's offensive production. In four seasons, Parkinson caught 57 of 78 passes (56.4 percent completion rate) for 618 yards and four touchdowns. For a tight end who is among the most expensive signings this year at that position, you could see this as a significant overpay. From his history, you are on the right track.

But veteran Tyler Higbee (6-foot-6, 255 pounds) is 31 years old, is coming off a major injury, and the high-water mark of his career happened in 2019. Higbee's career completion rate is 55.4 percent. And right now, Higbee is in the second year of a three year extension that has not panned out as favorably as the team hoped it might.

Parkinson's current contract makes obscure sense if the team is merely taking a flyer on his competing for a role in 2024. It makes some sense if the team plans to usurp Hunter Long's spot on the roster with Parkinson. But the only way paying an average of $7.5 million over the next three seasons is if he is now the heir apparent for TE Tyler Higbee's starting role, and if Higbee's return to the team in 2024 is indeed in serious question.

There are far too many connect-the-dots on this signing to give a fair and objectiive grade that makes complete sense today. If he is just a TE2 who never sees the football field in 2024? This is a bad overpay. But if he holds down the fort in 2024 until Higbee returns to the lineup, or if he has to cover for the rehabbing Higbee for a majority of the 2024 NFL season, this could be a remarkable deal for the team. For now? I'll just split the difference.

Our Grade: C+