After owning one mistake, will Rams admit another in free agency?

The offseason fun typically doesn’t start until free agency begins, but apparently, the Los Angeles Rams didn’t get that memo. In the past two weeks, they’ve agreed to make four blockbuster trades – more than most teams make in a span of two years.

While the Rams believe each move will make them better on the field, one trade in particular sticks out like a sore thumb.

Alec Ogletree, less than five months removed from signing a four-year, $42.75 million extension, is headed to the Big Apple. The Rams are trading him to the Giants for a fourth- and sixth-round pick, which seems like minimal return for a player making that amount of money.

Don’t be fooled. It’s not.

By trading Ogletree, the Rams are simply admitting a mistake and showing some self-awareness. He was one of the worst linebackers in the NFL this past season, ranking 76th by Pro Football Focus’ measures. Needless to say, he wasn’t worth the $10.7 million Los Angeles was gearing up to pay him for the next four years.

Had the Rams let his contract expire, there wouldn’t be $6.4 million in dead money on the salary cap right now. Had they let him hit free agency, they would have received a third- or fourth-round compensatory pick in 2019.

Everything about this trade screams, “We made a mistake. Let’s limit the damage.” The question now becomes exactly this: Will the Rams admit another error in judgment in trading for Sammy Watkins? Or do they still believe it was the right move?

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Les Snead and Sean McVay didn’t seem overly excited about pursuing Watkins in free agency and making a concerted effort to bring him back. They certainly didn’t say he was a “huge priority” the way they did with Lamarcus Joyner.

McVay’s exact words were this: “If we can make it work, that’s definitely something we want to do.”

That’s not to say the Rams don’t want Watkins back. They do. But at what price? With the legal tampering period beginning on March 12, Watkins will be able to negotiate with the other 31 teams. That gives him all the leverage in the world over the Rams, especially considering how much money he’s going to be offered on the open market.

Had the Rams not traded a second-round pick and E.J. Gaines to the Bills, they’d probably be much more willing to let Watkins walk. It’s the fact that they gave up so much to acquire a player who caught 39 passes for 593 yards and eight touchdowns. Those aren’t exactly numbers you expect to see from a perceived No. 1 receiver.

The Rams can simply let Watkins walk and admit that the experiment didn’t work out. Almost no one will remember five years from now that they gave up a draft pick and starting cornerback to acquire him. Sure, there will be some initial frustration from fans that they only afforded Watkins one year in L.A. after that trade, but with the offensive firepower they already have, it’s highly unlikely they drop from first to 20th in scoring without him.

On the flipside, they could try to give it another go. It’ll be difficult to sign him to a one-year deal worth less than $10 million once he hits the open market, but if they can get that done before March 12, it’ll be viewed as a win.

It will give the Rams one more year to experiment with Watkins, allowing him to go through an entire offseason in Los Angeles, working on his connection with Jared Goff. Who knows, maybe he goes off in 2018 and catches 75 passes for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.

With the Rams’ offense, that’s absolutely possible.

In the end, the Rams will probably wind up letting Watkins sign elsewhere for a deal worth more than $14 million per year. That’s a steep price to pay for a team that will have to sign Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald, Marcus Peters and Goff in the next couple of years.

If Watkins does leave, it’ll show that Snead and McVay aren’t afraid to admit a mistake was made, showing a great deal of accountability – something the 32-year-old coach has preached during his time in L.A.

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