There’s something to be said about earning a new contract, but that something can’t be said about Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin. The now Hollywood franchise severely overpaid the diminutive wideout to stay put with a four-year deal worth up to $52 million. When looking at other contracts around the NFL, Tavon Austin is making an obscene amount of money compared to what he’s actually worth.
Austin's deal now binds him to Rams thru 2021. And it's $28.55M guar for inj and $25.55M payable by March. Hot damn. Jackpot— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) August 27, 2016
In just looking at a deal signed earlier this offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Allen Hurns inked a four-year, $40 million pact after a big season in 2015. He’s one year younger than Austin, and despite having a year less in the league, Hurns already has better career production than Austin in every category.
Tavon Austin’s career-best season in 2015 yielded just 54 catches for a meager 473 yards and five touchdowns; and that’s in his third NFL season. Meanwhile, Hurns had a breakout 2015 campaign with 64 grabs for 1,031 yards and 10 scores.
And if the production difference isn’t enough, Tavon Austin stands just 5-foot-8, 176 pounds, which limits his repertoire in terms of how he can impact the game as a receiver. Hurns is an imposing 6-foot-3, 205 pounds with the ability to go up for jump balls, make himself effective over the middle and still run the short routes with the speed to break the game open.
These elements only reinforce the fact that the Rams guaranteeing $25.5 million to Tavon Austin after Hurns got just $20 million in guaranteed money is an egregious error in judgement. This move seems more like a desperate attempt by general manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher to keep their jobs and justify their draft choices than a decision based in sound financial logic. After trading up to take Austin at No. 8 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Rams have been waiting to see the game-breaking potential they believed he had on a regular basis. This new deal for Austin reeks of hopeless optimism rather than true belief in the speedy wideout’s ability.
“Tavon has been an integral part of our offense and special teams since we drafted him in 2013,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said according to NFL.com. “It is important to our organization to retain players we’ve drafted and invested in, and Tavon is an example of that. We’re excited for him to continue his career with the Rams.”
It’s hard to fault Fisher for his belief in Austin’s ability, but he’s clearly overstating the receiver’s importance to the Rams as a team. Austin has displayed no diversity in terms of his skill-set and lacks the physical tools to ever truly become a breakout star in the league. A player of similar stature to Austin is Steve Smith Sr. of the Baltimore Ravens, but he’s always been a much more physical player than Austin throughout his career. And at 20 pounds heavier, it’s easy to see why.
Though Tavon Austin’s numbers do go beyond just receiving, with his rushing totals (52 attempts for 434 yards and four touchdowns) being formidable and his return game prowess (one punt return touchdown in each of the last three seasons) being commendable as well, it’s still difficult to justify that money that Austin’s being paid. The NFL is a changing league with styles needing to adapt to the times, but it’s hard to see how a player with the size of Tavon Austin has any staying power.
“Awesome. It feels good that I’m still calling this place home – and that’s the main thing,” Austin said in a statement according to the LA Times. “I’m happy to be back with (Head) Coach (Jeff) Fisher and the family. I thank everybody. I’m still here, and I’m still going to be giving them 100 percent, day-in and day-out. I always do.”
It might be a bit premature to call this a bad move on the Rams’ part, with some team likely to overpay Austin in a similar manner once he hit free agency had they not signed him, but it’s also difficult to say this was the right choice at the right time. Rookie quarterback Jared Goff needs a consistent wide receiver to build his confidence over the coming years in the organization. Though it may seem as if the Rams have provided him with this in Tavon Austin, it’s just as likely that the organization has handicapped itself with an albatross contract for the foreseeable future.
[Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images]