Rams quarterback Case Keenum signs first-round tender

With suspense building about their anticipated choice of North Dakota State's Carson Wentz or California's Jared Goff in next week's NFL draft, the Rams checked another important quarterback-related box Monday.

Case Keenum, a restricted free agent and the Rams' presumptive starter going into the start of the off-season program, signed a first-round tender that will pay him about $3.6 million this season.

The question: Will the Rams — or another team — be paying him?

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The Rams' trade to the top of the draft muddled the status of Keenum and fellow Rams quarterbacks Nick Foles and Sean Mannion. The bold move made each an asset the Rams could trade to gain draft picks.

Foles, acquired before last season in a trade with Philadelphia for Sam Bradford, signed a $24.5-million extension and opened last season as the starter. But he was benched after nine games and replaced by Keenum.

The Houston Texans originally signed Keenum as an undrafted free agent in 2012. The Rams put the first-round tender on him, successfully deterring other teams from giving Keenum an offer sheet. Had he received one, and the Rams chose not to match it, the Rams would have received a first-round draft pick as compensation.

Now Keenum's salary could make him the most attractive trade bait to net draft picks.

But Keenum also offers the Rams reasonably priced insurance while Wentz or Goff develops, and Mannion is regarded as a prospect the Rams can continue to develop. Foles' future remains the most uncertain.

With the quarterback situation an ongoing backdrop, the Rams began off-season workouts in Oxnard, where they will train through mid-June.

Several players said afterward that they welcomed the warm and sunny weather. They also said they did not know whom the Rams would draft No. 1, but they were confident that Coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Les Snead would make a good decision.

"That first pick is going to come in and help us win games," said cornerback Trumaine Johnson, one of four players made available for a news conference.

The spotlight also will be on Johnson. The Rams, with four unrestricted free agents in the secondary, put the franchise tag on Johnson, who will earn nearly $14 million this season.

"No pressure," Johnson said. "I'm still going to go out there and play my game."

Johnson is part of a secondary that must replace cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Rodney McLeod, who signed with the New York Giants and Philadelphia, respectively.

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"I wish the best of luck to them," Johnson said. "I'm a little mad they left, to be honest with you, but it's a business at the end of the day."

The Rams' main order of business will come April 28 when they reveal the No. 1 draft pick.

"We're waiting for him, whoever it's going to be," receiver Tavon Austin said. "We're ready for him so we can get it going."

Austin said he was excited to work with "whoever it might be."

If the quarterback is a rookie, Austin said he was prepared to help him adjust.

"I've just got to do my job," he said. "Make it easy on him, be in the right spot and catch all the balls he throws."


- The Rams re-signed kicker Greg Zuerlein and running back Chase Reynolds.

- Safety T.J. McDonald, who had season-ending shoulder surgery in December, said he has been medically cleared to participate in workouts. As he did in January after the Rams' move from St. Louis was announced, McDonald said he never thought he would play again in the Coliseum after leaving USC.

- A warrant for running back Tre Mason, who was arrested last month in Florida on misdemeanor charges and did not appear for a scheduled court date, was removed Monday by a Florida judge, according to the Broward County Clerk of Courts website. Mason's attorney filed a written plea of not guilty last week. In a motion to quash the warrant, attorney H.T. Smith wrote that Mason was unaware of his court date because a notice of arraignment was mailed to an address where he no longer resides and was returned to the clerk's office. Mason and offensive lineman Rodger Saffold were the only players who did not attend the first day of workouts, a team spokesman said. Saffold, who had been working out at the Rams' facility the last few weeks, was delayed in his return because of storms in Texas.

Twitter: @latimesklein

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