One-year deals highlighted the unique economic realities of a madcap NFL free agent period. Players and teams each benefit from the so-called "prove it" deals, with teams not on the hook for a hefty contract and players with a chance to earn even more money when free agency returns to normal next March. Of the dozen free agents signed by the St. Louis Rams, eight of them received one-year deals. Rams guard Jacob Bell, already a member of the team, also received a new one-year deal. Bell's deal was a consequence of free agency that, like the other single-year deals, will have an impact on the front office plans next spring.
In order to make room for big ticket free agent additions Harvey Dahl and Quintin Mikell, the Rams had to clear space under the salary cap. Their options were limited as Chris Long, Jason Smith and Sam Bradford represented a rather significant portion of the Rams' cap space with their rookie contracts. Devaney and COO Kevin Demoff turned to Jacob Bell, asking him to restructure his deal. He agreed, and in return for cutting his $6 million salary by half, he'll be rewarded with unrestricted free agency next year.
On the one hand, it provides that classic free agent year motivation that players can use to cash in on the open market the following year. In the perfect world players play their best every season, but we know that they often chip in a little something extra in those situations.
On the other hand, it means the Rams will have to think about finding another guard for the left guard spot next year. They could always try to work something out with Bell, which would return some familiarity to the line. At 31 next year, Bell has enough playing time left to get one more rich free agent deal, so the Rams would have to pony up in order to keep him.
It also might make guard a priority in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Of course, around $2.3 million of his pay check will count against the Rams' 2012 salary cap, so even if Bell isn't here, he'll be with us in financial spirit.