Yesterday morning, I started up a series of NFC West articles looking at the salary cap situations for each team. In light of Larry Fitzgerald's contract restructuring, I figured the Arizona Cardinals were the team with which to start. They have some work to do to clear some space, but they have some options to do that. The Fitzgerald adjustment helps now, but they will eventually have to face the salary cap music. They face a $23 million cap charge in 2015, so they can't kick this can down the road forever.
Today, we move on to the St. Louis Rams. The Rams finished last in the NFC West, but at 7-9, they would have been right in the thick of things in the NFC North! They have an extra first round pick this year thanks to the RG3 trade, but they also face some question marks on their current roster due to a salary cap squeeze.
As of February 3, Over The Cap reported the St. Louis Rams likely had $617,233 in cap space. That is based on a salary cap $126.3 million, which is not a final figure at this point. There is a chance the cap goes up to $128 million, but either way, the Rams will need to figure out ways to clear some space.
Here is a look at the Rams top ten cap figures in 2014, according to Over The Cap:
1. QB Sam Bradford - $17,610,000
2. DE Chris Long - $14,900,000
3. LB James Laurinaitis - $10,400,000
4. CB Cortland Finnegan - $10,000,000
5. OT Jake Long - $9,250,000
6. TE Jared Cook - $7,000,000
7. C Scott Wells - $6,500,000
8. DE Kendall Langord - $6,000,000
9. G Harvey Dahl - $4,000,000
10. DE William Hayes - $3,845,000
It's interesting comparing how teams distribute money to the top end of their salary cap. The 49ers top cap hit in 2014 is $8,094,531 (Carlos Rogers). The Rams have four guys with eight figure cap hits, while the Seahawks and Cardinals each have two players with eight figure cap hits. The 49ers and Seahawks benefit from having young quarterbacks in the rookie cap era.
Meanwhile, the top of the Rams list reads like a time capsule of a different age. Sam Bradford was the last quarterback to be drafted No. 1 overall before the new CBA instituted a rookie wage scale. There are a host of ways the Rams can handle Bradford's contract situation. Turf Show Times took an in-depth look at the deal and what the team's options include. My guess is they end up re-negotiating his contract and he takes a pay cut. It is possible he forces their hand and they release him, but I think they're able to work something out with a new deal.
The Rams are likely going to be able to clear a decent amount of cap space with some releases. Releasing Harvey Dahl would clear $4 million with no dead money. Cortland Finnegan could clear out $4 million as well, but leave $6 million in dead money. Scott Wells could clear out another $4.5 million. Of course, unloading Dahl and Wells clears out two starters on the offensive line, with two more (Saffold and Williams) up for free agency.
Their 2011 draft class is up for contract extensions as well. The most notable player is Robert Quinn. The Rams selected Quinn No. 14 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, and he has quickly developed into a pass rushing beast. He had 5.0 sacks his rookie year, 10.5 in year two, and 19.0 this season. The Rams are likely to exercise their Year-5 option on Quinn and work an extension from there.
Here is a rundown of the Rams free agents. Turf Show Times provided some initial insights into what we can expect with these various players:
Rodger Saffold, OL
Chris Williams, OL
Darian Stewart, S
Will Witherspoon, LB
Kellen Clemens, QB
Jo-Lonn Dunbar, OLB
Matt Giordano, S
Brady Quinn, QB
Mike McNeil, TE (RFA)
Shelley Smith, OG
Tim Barnes, C (exclusive rights FA)
Quinton Pointer, CB (exclusive rights)
Justin Veltung, WR (exclusive rights)