Tyler Higbee eager to show his value at tight end for the Rams

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Gary Klein
·3 min read
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LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 29: Tight end Tyler Higbee #89 of the Los Angeles Rams celebrates.
Rams tight end Tyler Higbee celebrates after catching a touchdown pass against the Arizona Cardinals at the Coliseum in December. Will Higbee have a breakthrough season in 2020? (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs this week rewarded tight ends George Kittle and Travis Kelce with massive contract extensions that could be worth a combined $132 million.

Rams right end Tyler Higbee took notice.

“Anytime you see a guy in the NFL get paid I’m happy for him — especially a fellow tight end,” Higbee said Friday during a videoconference with reporters. “Those guys, they’ve been at the top of the game the last few years. Kelce doing it even longer.

“So, well deserved.”

Last September, on the eve of the 2019 opener, Higbee signed a four-year, $29-million extension that included $15 million in guarantees. It was market rate — or perhaps better — for a player who had yet to prove that he could be a highly productive receiver after the Rams selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft.

But Higbee might now be undervalued.

Last season, he amassed more than 100 yards receiving in four of the final five games, including a streak of four games in a row. He finished with 69 catches, three for touchdowns, and 734 yards.

“Some opportunities were presented to me more and I just tried to take advantage of them,” he said, adding that a coach told him, “‘Prove to be reliable.’ And that’s all I’m trying to do.”

Higbee is the most experienced player in a tight end group that includes Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt and rookie Brycen Hopkins, a fourth-round draft pick from Purdue.

During the offseason, the Rams traded star running back Todd Gurley and receiver Brandin Cooks. So as new players move into those roles, tight ends could shoulder an increased role in an offense shaped by coach Sean McVay and new offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell.

Everett is entering the final year of his contract. The 2017 second-round draft pick has made some big plays, and McVay said it was on him as a coach to give Everett more opportunities.

Mundt is a versatile blocker at the line of scrimmage and out of the backfield.

Hopkins is coming along, Higbee said. “A little quiet at first — that might be part of the rookie coming to a new environment,” Higbee said. “But a good dude, great athlete.

“Already made strides from what I’ve seen.”

The Rams completed the two-week acclimation phase of training camp and will begin practice Tuesday. They open the season Sept. 13 against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium.

Quarterback Jared Goff has indicated that he has confidence in Rams receivers, tight ends and running backs as targets.

Will McVay call on Higbee early to continue last season’s momentum?

“Hopefully,” Higbee said. “we’ll see. Jared spreads the ball around well to all these weapons that he has on offense, and I’m just trying to make the most of mine when I get them.”

Etc.

Outside linebacker Terrell Lewis, a third-round draft pick from Alabama, was activated to the roster from the COVID/IR list, the Rams said. The COVID/IR list is for players who test positive or have been quarantined because they have been in close contact with an infected person. The Rams put Lewis on the list July 31 but did not specify why. This week, during a broadcast of the “Hard Knocks” television show, it was revealed that Lewis had tested positive. In other moves, the Rams cut receiver Brandon Polk and re-signed safety Jake Gervase. ... Higbee donated $5,000 to the “Think Watts” organization and $5,000 to “Communities in Schools Los Angeles” to aid the Watts community with food and technology resources, the Rams said.