THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Free agency can be an alluring and often times elusive destination for the NFL's top performers. But Los Angeles Rams defensive back Lamarcus Joyner said he is "at a good place" with the franchise tag in 2018.
"The goal is to get a long-term deal done -- we’re still in the process of that -- but I’m fine with it," Joyner said on a conference call with Los Angeles-based reporters last week. "I have a lot more good years left, I believe. So this deal won’t hurt anything as far as my career and my future."
Joyner's first three seasons were spent as a slot corner who only played in sub packages. He grew to excel in that role, but he played in only 51 percent of the team's defensive snaps from 2014 to 2016. One of Wade Phillips' first tasks as the Rams' defensive coordinator was to figure out a way for Joyner to stay involved. He moved to safety, and Joyner proved worthy, finishing as the NFL's third-highest-graded safety by Pro Football Focus last season.
Having that year under his belt, Joyner said, should make him even better in 2018.
"When I sit back and I think about, I think about the progress I made as a nickelback in the league, coming in from college, just my first year, when I couldn’t cover a cold," Joyner said. "I just got better, and I learned all the things to work on to be successful in this league. I think I started off a little faster at the safety position, which would’ve been my natural position. But now just knowing, just getting more of the knowledge of how to take the right angles, how to read the quarterback and how to see things on the back end. I think the first year really helped me transition into my second year, so I’m expecting a much better season."
Joyner, a standout safety at Florida State, recorded his first three career interceptions in 2017. He allowed a 31.8 passer rating when targeted and 0.36 yards per coverage snap, according to Pro Football Focus. He was also one of just two safeties to not miss a single tackle in the passing game.
The Rams have been trying to lock Joyner up long term dating to last offseason, but never could. They chose to franchise him instead of wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who went on to sign a lucrative contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Rams and Joyner now have until July 16 to figure out a long-term deal. Otherwise, Joyner will play out the 2018 season with an $11.29 million salary.
Joyner, 27, is keeping an open mind.
"I’m an under-the-radar guy," he said. "I believe in letting the chips fall where they may. When I was franchised, it was just like, ‘OK, so, now I have another opportunity to win a Super Bowl with this organization and also continue to see where they see me at as far as their future plans.' That was my whole thought process on it."