After the Rams were eliminated from playoff contention their Week 16 loss to the 49ers, safety Eric Weddle's eyes began to well up as he spoke with reporters the next day, becoming emotional as thought of retirement crossed his mind during that conversation.
The 13-year veteran understands his future his uncertain, and he understands the rise of rookie Taylor Rapp and return of John Johnson III from injury could make him expendable. It's a possibility not only for those reasons, but because he has a team option in his contract for 2020.
If the Rams decline to pick it up prior to March 17 – the end of the current league year – he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
"I know how teams go, and organizations, and to go in that direction like that makes sense to not keep the old guy around," Weddle said on Dec. 22. "Like that's the reality. If I'm the GM, I'm smart. I know how those things work, so I'm just enjoying this week and whatever the decision, whether it's me or them, it's all good."
When Weddle spoke to reporters after the season finale against the Cardinals, he said he had not made an official decision yet on retiring. The decision on the Rams moving forward with Rapp and Johnson wasn't, and still isn't, set in stone either.
Johnson started all 16 regular season games and three postseason contests in 2018, including Super Bowl LIII, posting a career-high 119 tackles, 11 pass breakups, four interceptions and one forced fumble. His 119 tackles were the second-most by a non-linebacker in the NFL that season. Rapp, meanwhile, earned a starting role after Johnson was placed on injured reserve with a season-ending shoulder injury, doing so in 10 of 15 games as a rookie.
Though Rapp's starts came at strong safety, his designation position at Washington was reportedly free safety. If he stays at strong safety, however, it's possible Johnson could also move over to free safety, since Johnson also played that position in college.
It's possible Los Angeles could still pick up Weddle's option. However, Weddle also said he did not want to return to the team as a backup.
It's unclear exactly what the future holds for Weddle, but he seems prepared for what lies ahead regardless. Before he makes that decision, though, his first order of business will be getting healthy. According to ESPN's Lindsey Thirty, Weddle needs knee surgery and shoulder surgery for nagging injuries he endured during the season.