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Mark Barron Re-Signs with Rams: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2016

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 6: Mark Barron #26 of the St. Louis Rams during a game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome on December 6, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
Michael Thomas/Getty Images

After rejuvenating his career with the then-St. Louis Rams, Mark Barron cashed in this offseason, agreeing to terms on a five-year, $45 million deal to remain with Los Angeles, per Ed Werder of ESPN.

ESPN's Adam Schefter was the first to report the agreement.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Barron seventh overall in 2012. Over the next couple of years, Barron failed to establish himself as one of Tampa Bay's key defenders, which was a disappointment given what the team invested in him.

In the middle of the 2014 season, the Bucs traded Barron to the Rams, where he thrived in 2015 after changing positions. Alec Ogletree's ankle injury opened a spot at linebacker, which head coach Jeff Fisher filled with Barron.

As a result of the switch, the 26-year-old finished with career highs in combined tackles (116) and total tackles (79) while also forcing three fumbles and recording one sack. Fisher credited Barron's intelligence on the field for the success he had at linebacker, per Dani Klupenger of Fox Sports Midwest:

Dani Klupenger @daniklup

Fisher: Mark Barron played every snap. He has "football instincts" which is what makes him transition from safety to linebacker seamlessly

"I'm just playing football," said Barron in October, per ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner. "That’s easy to me. I just line up, and I know my responsibility. And as long as I know my responsibility, I can do that. It’s not a hard adjustment. It’s just football."

Fisher wasn't shy about publicly stating his desire to retain Barron for 2016.

"We desperately want him back, and he wants to come back," he said in January, per Wagoner. "He likes the role. He likes the position. He’s very instinctive around the line of scrimmage."

Money alone wasn't going to be a problem for the Rams when it came to possibly re-signing their safety-linebacker hybrid. They opened up a lot of cap space this offseason when they released veterans James Laurinaitis, Chris Long and Jared Cook.

The question was whether Barron's price tag would reach a point where the cost doesn't justify his actual value. Pro Football Focus' Michael Renner argued in February the Alabama alum was likely to receive a contract higher than what he'll deliver in terms of on-field production:

Barron (74.8 overall grade) is a player that fits in nicely with NFL trends. It seems like every team wants a hybrid linebacker/safety, and Barron was one of those who played the position competently last year. Some team is going to mistake competency for proficiency, though, and give the former top-10 pick a healthy second contract. The problem is that Barron graded out around average in that role last year, and his struggles in coverage over his career weren't alleviated by playing more in the box.

Re-signing with the Rams is the best move for Barron. He's obviously comfortable in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' scheme, and Los Angeles has shown it can use him to good effect.

With a new contract, though, comes a higher level of scrutiny. Barron's 2015 numbers look good relative to the rest of his NFL career, and now he'll have to take another step forward in 2016 in order to justify his increased salary, as he made $2.36 million in 2015.

Fans expecting Barron to make a big jump next season might be disappointed if the same problems that cropped up during his time with the Buccaneers and earlier in his Rams career start becoming bigger issues.

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