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Rams sign WR Tavon Austin to mega-extension, Patriots WR Chris Hogan looking like a nice bargain

The Patriots wide receiver has fit into the offense and is playing for relatively cheap.

The Los Angeles Rams have signed wide receiver Tavon Austin to a 4-year extension that will keep him on the team through the year 2021. Austin is the 8th overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, ending the Patriots chances for collecting the whole set, after acquiring 6th overall pick Barkevious Mingo, and 7th overall pick Jonathan Cooper this offseason.

Austin is now going to be making a lot of money.

The 5’8, 174 pound receiver will receive a $25 million roster bonus next March, so 2016 is likely a test drive to see whether or not the receiver can continue to develop. Austin has three years of experience and was set to earn roughly $14.3 million over the next two seasons of his rookie contract.

Austin has recorded 1,133 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns, so a deal worth up to $11 million per year makes a lot of sense after Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin signed a contract for $11.5 million after a 1,069 yard, 14 touchdown seaso-- wait, hold on.

Let me double check.

Austin has recorded 1,133 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns over his entire career. He has added an addition 809 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns as an offensive option. That brings his total production to 1,942 yards and 16 touchdowns over three seasons, including a 907 yard, 9 touchdown 2015 season.

Is that worth the big contract? The Rams are certainly banking on some serious growth because the $10 million+ receivers are expected to pick up 1,000 yards on an annual basis. I guess that’s why 2015 will be the test-run.

On average, receivers earning between $10 and $12 million per year collected 82 touches for 1,040 yards, and 9 touchdowns over a 16-game season in 2015. The two players that did not crack 1,000 yards from scrimmage were the Packers Randall Cobb and the Buccaneers Vincent Jackson, both players that are just one year removed from surpassing the mark.

Now Austin seems to be close to that level when you combine his total offensive production. He clearly seemed limited by former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, so 2015 was his first season playing without restraints. This is also the franchise considering an extension for head coach Jeff Fisher, so they are very open with their wallet.

But I think this feeds into the greater wide receiver market that is paying players a lot more than what the Patriots are willing to spend.

Dating back to the start of 2015 free agency, 11 receivers have received extensions with their prior team valued at $10 million or more per season; this group includes the likes of A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and Dez Bryant, and they are all very deserving.

Of course, I wouldn’t group Austin in with those players. I’d categorize him with the handful of players that have signed big deals with new teams like Mohamed Sanu, Rishard Matthews, Travis Benjamin, and Marvin Jones. These players have hovered around the 900 yard mark that Austin reached last season, and they signed deals that average out to $6.6 million per season.

And I think these deals put the Patriots signing of restricted free agent Chris Hogan into perspective. The Patriots signed the former Bills restricted free agent to a 3-year, $12 million contract. He will earn less than half of what Austin makes each year; I would be shocked if Hogan creates less than half of Austin’s production.

While we keep in mind that Hogan’s best season yielded 454 yards, and that we, too, are making the same projection about future contributions that the Rams are making with Austin, there’s something very comforting knowing that if the Patriots are wrong in their evaluation of Hogan, the consequences will be far less reaching.

Also, there’s a clear lane for Hogan to increase production with the Patriots, after toiling as a pure slot receiver for the Bills. Hogan can play in the slot opposite Julian Edelman in base sets and can align outside in three-receiver sets with Danny Amendola in the slot. Hogan can replicate and exceed the production of Brandon LaFell, and he looks like a great fit after this preseason.

Austin, on the other hand, is already an entrenched starter with the Rams. He could very well continue to ascend as a player, but unless Austin becomes the centerpiece of the offensive attack it will feel like the Rams overpaid.