Los Angeles Rams: Transition Tavon Austin to third-down back

A position change for Tavon Austin to running back could be the Los Angeles Rams’ best move concerning the high-paid wideout

A Tavon Austin position change could be in order. The Los Angeles Rams‘ expensive wide receiver has gone from primary target to No. 4 option in a few short months. The additions of former Buffalo Bills receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, combined with the quick rise of rookie Cooper Kupp, drastically altered Austin’s role in coach Sean McVay’s offense.

RamblinFan.com has suggested an Austin trade to New England, which lost Julian Edelman for the year with a torn ACL. That would be great for the Rams if the Patriots suddenly lost their minds and assumed Austin’s exorbitant salary.

Austin has missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury. But coach Sean McVay said Austin will be ready for the season opener against Indianapolis on Sept. 10, ESPN.com reported. The Rams owe nearly $23 million in guaranteed money to Austin over the next two seasons. No other team will pay Austin that money. Not when his career high in receiving yards is 509. Not when his best season in 2015, consisted of 907 rushing and receiving yards with nine touchdowns.

But Austin’s saving grace — at least for this season — is related to his 434 rushing yards in 2015.

Rams free agent Lance Dunbar will start the season on the physically unable to perform list and miss the first six games. And to help preserve Todd Gurley for 16 games, the Rams certainly could turn to Austin to become a potentially dangerous third-down option.

Lining up in the backfield will help create space for Austin to operate and utilize his speed. He would give quarterback Jared Goff another safety-valve option, aside from Kupp. Los Angeles might be in a better position to determine whether Austin has long-term value in coach Sean McVay’s offense. On paper, Austin is the biggest threat out of the backfield on third down that McVay has had.

His role also would be essential in the Rams’ long-term evaluation of Goff as their franchise quarterback. An Austin position change also would give the Rams multiple threats at multiple positions on offense at Goff’s disposal.

Goff’s progress is vital to the Rams’ future well-being. Moving Austin to running back would help with that evaluation.