As Ramfan 1313 has so capably pointed out to all of us here at TST, the Rams are up against it when it comes to the salary cap, figuratively and literally. In his posts, Ramfan 1313 has shown us various player contracts and their overall impact on the 2013 salary cap, and deftly explained the impact those existing contracts will have on the Rams ability to re-sign their own free agents, pursue outside free agents, and ultimately how it will steer their choices in the 2013 draft.
The Rams currently have 40 players under contract for the 2013 season. They also have their 8 practice squad players under contract. The Rams currently have no room under the salary cap to sign any free agents. What this means is that the Rams have 13 roster spots open with no money to fill those spots.
What the discussion has centered on thus far is who the Rams should cut to free up cap space, which of their own free agents they should try to re-sign, and which free agents from other teams they should try to bring to St. Louis. Many of us have taken a shot at freeing up cap space and then formulating which free agents we should sign, or re-sign as the case may be.
The Rams currently have 8 picks in the upcoming draft. It will take about $8 million to sign those draft picks. So to begin with we know they have to trim $8 million just to sign their upcoming draft class. Of course, even the most optimistic of us would hesitate to predict that all 8 draft picks will make the roster and be counted on to provide valuable playing time in 2013. Several should, and hopefully they all do, but it is a lot to expect. Even if the 2013 draft class is the greatest ever and they all contribute from day one, that would still leave the Rams short on players. Maybe some of the guys from the practice squad are ready to step up, and replacing them on the practice squad will be relatively cheap. Realistically though, the Rams are going to have to make several cuts to allow them the cap space and flexibility they need to sign their rookies and re-sign some of their own free agents and/or free agents from other teams.
The Rams currently have 13 players that were on the roster in 2012 that are UFA's - Amendola, Hayes, Gibson, Fletcher, B. Richardson, Laws, Clemens, Turner, Steve Smith, Williams, Haggan, McIntosh, and C. Dahl. It is hard to say what monetary amount it will take to re-sign any of these players.
The Rams currently have 3 players that were on the roster in 2012 that are RFA's - Stewart, Cole, and Cudjo. The Rams have to offer these guys a minimum of $1.323 million each to keep them from becoming UFA's. If they tender those offers, then any team that signs them would owe the Rams a draft pick from the round that player was chosen in. These guys were paid $540,000 each in 2012, so they will be receiving significant pay raises should the Rams decide to keep them around.
There are also 2 players from the 2012 roster who are "Exclusive Rights Free Agents" - Barnes and McNeill. These guys basically have to sign with the Rams, and only the Rams, if the Rams just offer them a minimum qualifying offer, which comes out to about $500,000 each. So they are cheap, and easy to re-sign.
In trying to decide who the Rams should cut, re-sign, etc... I found it useful to put the team's depth chart together to get a comprehensive look at the team as a whole with the 40 players currently under contract. I just found that easier to visualize than a list of pending free agents or guys under contract. For example, on the offensive side of the ball the depth chart looks like this:
TE - Kendricks, Mulligan, Harkey
RT - Hunter
RG - Dahl
C - Wells
LG - Watkins, Smith
LT - Saffold, Barksdale
WR - Quick, Givens, Pettis, Young
RB - Jackson, D. Richardson, Pead, Ganaway
QB - Bradford, Davis
On the defensive side of the ball the depth chart looks like this:
RDE - Quinn, Sims
RDT - Brockers, Conrath
LDT - Langford
LDE - Long
SLB - Brown
MLB - Laurinaitis, Hull
WLB - Dunbar
CB - Finnegan, Jenkins, Johnson, Pointer
S - Mikell, McLeod, Daniels
Special teams depth chart:
LS - McQuaide
K - Zuerlein
P - Hekker
So as we can see, the Rams are currently scarily thin on the right side of the offensive line and at WR. The Center position will probably see Barnes listed behind Wells eventually, as I noted earlier he'll come really cheap. Same goes for McNeill at TE. So as it stands now, on the offensive side of the ball the Rams desperately need a RG, RT, and WRs.
On the defensive side, the Rams need help at LDE and LDT, as well as at WLB and SLB.
Depending on whether or not some of the guys, such as Pointer or Brown for example, are ready to take a bigger role on the defense, will go a long way toward determining how the Rams make moves to bolster those positions.
Many of us have been throwing out the idea of cutting H. Dahl and Wayne Hunter pretty regularly. When I look at the depth chart I'm a lot less confident in that move unless the Rams are truly committed to drafting O-linemen early and often in the upcoming draft. It's an interesting puzzle that I'm glad I don't have to solve for real.