THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Rams scratched a 6-foot-2, 235-pound item off their to-do list Thursday, signing inside linebacker and defensive captain Alec Ogletree to a four-year, $42 million contract extension. Ogletree was more than a quarter of the way through the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, and the Rams had spent a good chunk of this calendar year trying to figure something out with their 2013 No. 30 overall pick.
That part is done, but more work remains. Even with Ogletree wrapped up, the Rams have seven defensive players who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this coming offseason. That list includes their franchise cornerback. But it doesn't include a man who is destined to become the game's highest-paid defensive player, and it certainly doesn't include one of their primary offensive weapons.
Before Ogletree's deal -- which, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, will pay him $33 million in the first three years -- the Rams were set up to have more than $50 million in salary cap space for next season. There are still players they would like to lock up, either in-season or before the free-agency period.
Below is a look at others of notable importance, listed in alphabetical order.
DT Aaron Donald: This is the elephant in the room. Donald held out until the day before the Rams' season opener and still doesn't have a deal. His rookie contract runs through the 2018 season, but the Rams want their best player happy. Donald -- easily the game's best interior lineman, and quite possibly the game's best defensive player -- clearly isn't happy with his compensation. From Rams coach Sean McVay, three weeks ago: "While he's here, that doesn't mean we're still not trying to proactively pursue a solution so that everybody can feel good about it. That's one of our priorities. That doesn't change."
CB Trumaine Johnson: The Rams can't sign Johnson to an extension in-season. They had until July 17 and they didn't really engage in those talks, prompting Johnson to play out of a second consecutive franchise tag that is paying him $16.7 million in 2017. The Rams weren't comfortable giving Johnson a contract similar to ones signed by the likes of Desmond Trufant ($68.76 million with nearly $42 million guaranteed) or Stephon Gilmore ($65 million with $40 million guaranteed). At the start of training camp, Johnson publicly stated the obvious: "I believe the Rams are going in a different direction at the end of the season." Johnson has since been voted a captain and has played well under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Things can change.
DB Lamarcus Joyner: Joyner, also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at season's end, has been right up there with Ogletree as a priority for the Rams. He won't be nearly as expensive as Johnson. Joyner excelled as a slot corner under former Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams the past two years, but that also meant he only played in 63 percent of the team's defensive snaps. Now he plays in all of them, as both a free safety and a slot corner under Phillips. Joyner has excelled in that role, with Pro Football Focus grading him fifth among 83 qualified safeties so far this season.
WR Sammy Watkins: The Rams gave up a second-round pick in the 2018 draft -- not to mention a starting-level corner in E.J. Gaines -- to pry Watkins away from the Buffalo Bills this summer. So, ideally this would become more than a one-year thing. His situation probably won't get figured out until the offseason. Watkins hasn't been targeted all that much thus far, but he's a valuable weapon as perhaps the only receiver in this offense who can consistently beat defenses over the top. One option for Watkins could be the transition tag, a one-year contract that would pay him an average of the top 10 salaries at his position and give the Rams the ability to match any outside offers.
Others: Outside linebacker Connor Barwin, named a captain in his first year with the Rams, signed only a one-year contract. The same can be said for cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, a player the Rams like in the slot. Veteran center John Sullivan is looking like a solid addition now that he is fully recovered from back surgery. There's also safety Cody Davis, a reliable backup who should expect an uptick in snaps now that Maurice Alexander has been released. Don't forget about Jake McQuaide, the Rams' seventh-year long-snapper who's coming off a Pro Bowl appearance. He can also be a free agent next winter.