As the annual lists of veterans with bloated contracts that could be terminated are compiled, one player presents an intriguing dilemma to his current team.
Rams receiver Tavon Austin, widely regarded as being on the outs, has a contract that already guarantees him $5 million this year, in the form of a roster bonus that will be earned on March 16. If he’s still on the roster that day, his $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed, too.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, both components of Austin’s 2018 pay include offsets, meaning that if, for example, he’d get cut before the salary vests, his $5 million roster bonus would be reduced by what he earns elsewhere.
So what would he earn elsewhere? And what impact could he have on another team? Those are questions the Rams need to ask before making a final decision on his status for 2018. Ultimately, they could end up paying him $4 million to play for a competitor ($5 million minus $1 million he’d get from another team), when they could pay him $8 million and continue to try to find ways to use him.
Last year, a wrist problem caused Austin to miss plenty of time in the offseason, and he never quite found his footing. The possibility that Sean McVay and company could devise ways to use Austin effectively in 2018 (especially with so many other potent weapons on offense) should make the Rams at least consider the wisdom of spending $8 million to keep him versus paying $4 million or so to see him end up playing for a team like the Seahawks, where former Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is now designing the plays.
In the end, it’s still likely that Austin will be gone. But it’s not quite the no-brainer it would seem to be.