The Rams opted not to use the franchise tag, meaning pending unrestricted free agents such as linebacker Cory Littleton and edge rusher Dante Fowler will hit the market.

Monday at 9 a.m. (Pacific) was the deadline for NFL teams to tag players with one-year guaranteed contracts. It also marked the start of the so-called “legal tampering” period, a two-day window during which agents can negotiate with teams in advance of the official start of free agency on Wednesday.

The Rams have nine pending free agents, including Littleton, Fowler, defensive lineman Michael Brockers, offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth and Austin Blythe, kicker Greg Zuerlein, backup quarterback Blake Bortles, linebacker Bryce Hager and safety Marqui Christian.

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Littleton signed with the Rams in 2016 as an undrafted free agent from the University of Washington. He developed into a special teams standout, was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2018 and had another outstanding season at linebacker in 2019 while earning about $3 million as a restricted free agent.

Fowler, the third pick in the 2015 NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, was traded to the Rams at midseason in 2018. Rather than becoming a free agent, last March he signed a one-year $12-million contract that included $2 million in performance incentives. He then had a career-best 11 ½ sacks.

This is the second year in a row that that Rams opted not to use the franchise tag. In 2016 and 2017, they tagged cornerback Trumaine Johnson for about $14 million and $17 million, respectively. In 2018, they tagged safety Lamarcus Joyner for just over $11 million.

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