EARTH CITY, Mo. -- They were selected three spots apart in the 2011 NFL draft. In the time since, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn have developed into two of the league's most dominant defensive players, regardless of position.
Watt, who checked in at No. 1 amongst defenders in our most recent #NFLRank project, was rewarded for his outstanding body of work early Tuesday morning. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Watt agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract extension with the Texans. Mortensen reports the deal includes $51.8 million guaranteed, the most for a defensive player in the history of the NFL.
Soon after that news broke, Quinn offered his congratulations to his fellow 2011 draftee via Twitter.
— Robert Quinn (@RQuinn94) September 2, 2014
It's left unsaid here but Quinn also might as well have tossed in a hashtag with the words "thank you" after it. That's because with Watt now officially setting the bar in uncharted territory for a defensive player, Quinn has a pretty good idea of what his next contract is going to look like. Luxurious, indeed.
Clearly, Watt's value to the Texans makes him a player they know they can't replace. He's a dominant run-stuffer and an incredibly productive pass-rusher while playing a position where it's hard to get sacks.
The Rams should view Quinn the same way after his breakthrough 2013 season. In posting 19 sacks and seven forced fumbles, Quinn proved beyond a doubt that he's the Rams' best and most valuable player. Beyond his pass-rush production, Quinn also made great strides as a run defender and, for whatever it's worth, earned record-high grades for a 4-3 defensive end from Pro Football Focus.
The scary thing about Quinn is that he's only 24 years old and just scratching the surface of what he can do in the NFL. Working with defensive line coach Mike Waufle, one of the best in the league at his craft, there's almost no ceiling to what Quinn could become.
The Rams have Quinn under control for the next two years at the reasonable cap charge of a combined $9,971,381, which includes the bargain rate of just over $3 million this season. In theory, they could wait it out and use the franchise tag if they wanted but it seems unlikely they'd go that route since there's no reason to potentially anger the easy going Quinn.
Instead, my expectation is the Rams will wait until after this season to begin talks on extending Quinn. After the year, the Rams will free plenty of cap space (a number which could be even bigger if they part ways with quarterback Sam Bradford) and Quinn will have a chance to add another dominant year to his overall body of work.
There's little doubt the Rams will work to ensure Quinn remains a franchise fixture well into the future. Now that the bar has been set, it's not really a matter of if but when.