A'Shawn Robinson, Rams Get Creative to Bend COVID-19 Opt-Out, Keep Door Open for 2020

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This most unusual year has called for some most unusual arrangements, and here’s another one—a team and player creating their version of the COVID-19 opt-out.

Here’s the background: ex-Lions defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson signed with the Rams back in March, doing a two-year deal worth a total of $17 million. And some four months later, he’d come to the conclusion he’d be opting out of the first year of that deal. But deep down, while he knew what he had to do, he didn’t want to give up on the 2020 campaign .

So last month, before the opt-out deadline, Robinson’s agent Sean Kiernan pitched a solution that would bridge the gaps to Rams COO Kevin Demoff, GM Les Snead and lead negotiator Tony Pastoors. Robinson qualified for the NFL’s medical opt-out—which meant he’d get $350,000 to sit out the season, and his contract would toll (he’d keep his $6 million signing bonus, but his $3 million base for this year, and $8 million for next year would push to 2021 and ’22).

Kiernan’s idea was to create a virtual opt-out, which the agent and Pastoors then worked on just ahead of the opt-out deadline of Aug. 6. Over about a day, they crafted a solution.

• Robinson agreed to go on the non-football injury list, and lower his base salary to $500,000, which represented a $150,000 uptick on what he would’ve made as an opt-out.

• Being on NFI meant the earliest Robinson could come back would be Week 7. And with the Rams’ bye in Week 9, realistically, Week 10 would likely be the earliest he’d return.

• If Robinson were to come off NFI, and make it on to the 53-man roster, his base would increase to $1 million, and that would be paid out on a prorated basis (meaning his game checks would reflect a $1 million base, starting with his activation, rather than a $500,000 base).

• Robinson would also get $125,000 roster bonuses for every game he was on the 48-man gameday roster. Over a 16-game schedule (which is obviously off the table, because he’s on NFI), the $125,000 roster bonuses, plus $1 million base add to $3 million, the original total.

• The Rams also guaranteed Robinson’s $3 million salary for 2021 for injury, and it vests and becomes fully guaranteed next March, meaning the team will have to make a decision early on whether it’s keeping him or not in 2021.

Ultimately, the Rams are paying an extra $150,000 to give Robinson a chance to play, and they get the contract they agreed to in March over the two years to follow this one. Robinson, in turn, gets the extra money and a shot to play this year (with a bump in pay if he can), but knows he’s protected beyond this year if things don’t work out between now and the end of the season—he’d still, obviously, need medical clearance to play.

The last piece was deciding when to execute the contract adjustment. That happened this week, with the sides waiting to push the button in case anything unforeseen happened in America that would change circumstances on them.

And now, it’s done—a creative solution found in, again, a most unusual time.