Rams place franchise tag on Joyner, not Watkins
The Los Angeles Rams have placed their franchise tag on safety Lamarcus Joyner, meaning wide receiver Sammy Watkins is likely to hit free agency.
Los Angeles had to decide between the defensive back, who intercepted three passes last season, or Watkins after their failure to agree a long-term deal with either player ahead of Tuesday's franchise tag deadline.
The Rams chose Joyner, who will make $11.29 million if he plays under the tag next season without a contract extension being agreed.
This is the third year in a row - and ninth time in team history - the Rams have elected to use the franchise tag.
While the Rams can still try to keep Watkins – and NFL.com report they will be "aggressive" in trying to do so - they will have to sign him before the new league year begins on March 14 to prevent him becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Joyner developed impressively after changing positions last season. After failing to intercept a pass during his first three seasons in the league, he displayed better ball-hawking skills in 2017, finishing with three interceptions and nine passes deflected under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
"I think some of the things he can do in Wade's system makes him a huge priority," head coach Sean McVay told the Rams' website after the decision was announced.
"He's a great person as well. He kind of represents a lot of the things that are right about your locker room and kind of what you want guys to embody from a football character standpoint, the way they attack every single day.
"And Lamarcus is somebody that's very important and we'd like to get him re-signed for sure."
With Joyner under team control, they have until July 16 to negotiate a new long-term deal.
The Rams traded for Watkins last season and he caught eight touchdown passes after arriving from the Buffalo Bills, though he only totalled 593 yards in 15 games.