By Nick Shook
Read full post on NFL.com
It seemed after a year in which Los Angeles turned to other options to stock its receiving corps, Austin was on his way out. He was making far too much money ($14.97 million cap hit in 2017) to justify his marginal usage (13 catches, 47 yards; 59 rushes, 270 yards, one touchdown in 2017).
Thanks in part to Sammy Watkins‘ somewhat surprising departure, Austin is instead sticking around. The wideout has agreed to restructure his contract with the Rams, which has four years remaining on it, according to the Los Angeles Daily News’ Vincent Bonsignore.
Austin was set to carry a cap number of $8 million into 2018 — more than $6 million less than last season’s figure, per Over The Cap — but will instead redo his deal to preserve his standing with the Rams after his worst statistical season of his career.
The 2017 dropoff wasn’t all Austin’s doing. Rams GM Les Snead went out in the 2017 offseason and signed Robert Woods, drafted Cooper Kuppand then made an August trade for Watkins, creating a rather crowded position group that was incredibly thin just a year prior with Austin, Kenny Britt and Brian Quick. As a result, Austin’s chances were dramatically reduced as Sean McVay tried to find other ways to use his elite-level speed, evidenced by his spike in rushing attempts.
Furthermore, $9 million (or $14.9 million last season) is far too much money for a receiver who’s gained just 1,689 yards on 194 catches over five NFL seasons. The gamebreaking threat the Rams envisioned they were getting when they selected him eighth-overall in the 2013 draft still shows up occasionally, but isn’t worth close to $10 million annually when it’s only on display a handful of times per season.
Los Angeles has realized this and adjusted compensation accordingly, keeping alive Austin’s chance to significantly impact the team while also costing them much less in the long run. It will be interesting to see how much less (especially in terms of cap space) it will be.