Tavon Austin’s talent never left the ground in Los Angeles. It fluttered and smoked down a long stretch of runway.
It was a terrible miscalculation for the Los Angeles Rams to spend the eighth pick of the 2013 NFL Draft on the 5-foot-8, 179-pound receiver out of West Virginia. It was an even bigger mistake to hand him a four-year, $42 million extension in 2016.
But under the more grounded guidance of head coach Sean McVay, the Rams are cutting their losses and moving on from the disappointing wideout. According to NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo, the organization will either trade or release him before the start of the league year.
Rams will either trade or release WR Tavon Austin before the start of the league year, source says. He’s due $8m, so his time with the team is done.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 1, 2018
Good luck finding any trade partner willing to pick up the tab on that contract.
Austin’s promise of being an elite gadget player lured the Rams into drafting him ahead of DeAndre Hopkins and Xavier Rhodes. He was heavily utilized as a receiver, running back and return specialist, but never stood out as a difference-maker on the field, despite a plethora of opportunities.
His best season came in 2015, when he caught 58 receptions for 473 yards and five touchdowns while running for 434 yards and four touchdowns. Last season, his production fell off a cliff after the Rams overhauled the receiver corps and made Pharoh Cooper their new return man.
Austin had only nine starts in 2017, finishing with 47 receiving yards, 27 rushing yards and only one touchdown. The writing was on the wall all season for the 27-year-old receiver as others around him elevated their levels of play. It was obvious he didn’t belong on a crowded receiver chart with Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and rookie Cooper Kupp.
He also struggled to run the football effectively behind All-Pro ground demon Todd Gurley, despite being given a career-high 59 rushes. McVay did try to get him more involved in the offense, but the overall talent never lived up to the first-round draft grade.
Perhaps another team might see things differently when he hits free agency. No one will see it as such to purposely inherit his bad contract by agreeing to a trade. He would at best be a complementary piece to a roster that is already talented.
As for the Rams, they can move peacefully after a successful season, hoping to avoid similar mistakes in the future.