On Monday I posted my latest update on the Rams available cap space going into free agency (14,831,165). From the detail and analysis that I provided, that figure certainly appears to be definitive. I have already seen comments, in other posts today, using that figure in determining who the Rams should go after (and be able to pay for) in free agency. However, is that the amount of money the Rams REALLY have to spend for free agents??? The answer is: not likely................
Both the CBA and salary cap are complex mechanisms that I could write a 10,000 word article about and still have not covered all of the vagaries prevalent in them. There are five factors that could easily have made that available cap space figure I presented yesterday different (or not 100% up to-date). In addition, the cap space figure is not always a true, real-time indicator of the amount of money the Rams have to spend on free agents.
Although it is now a certainty that Mikell was cut by the Rams, what is not 100% certain is the cap savings for 2013. I presumed, from the reports, that he had been completely released by the Rams. Because he was cut before June 1, this would mean that the 2013-2014 bonuses of 3 million each would be accelerated into 2013 as cap hits and create 6 million in dead money. However, there is a provision in the CBA (for up to two player cuts) that would allow the Rams to declare/designate Mikell a "June 1" cut, thereby spreading out the remaining 6 million in bonuses equally over 2013-2014 as cap hits. If the Rams indeed decided to invoke this designation (although he is cut and no longer a Ram) the cap hits he accounted for before being cut would remain unchanged until June 1. As of this moment, no information is available regarding what the Rams actually did in regard to the status of Mikell's contract.
It was reported that the Rams re-signed Jermelle Cudjo to a two year contract yesterday. This signing was left out of the cap space calculation because the details of that contract had not yet been publicized. His signing of course reduces the available cap space figure provided yesterday.
Restructuring of contracts
In yesterdays article, I gave examples of how contracts can be structured/restructured. The primary example was the contract of James Laurinaitis. Although all transactions regarding player salaries must be reported to the league office and the NFLPA when they occur, there is a time lag before any of these transactions become public knowledge. In addition, since the Rams don't have to report them until they DO occur, they might in fact have a restructuring already planned (and agreed to) as a contingency for signing a particular free agent, but as of yet are not required to report it. They may be waiting to pull the trigger on finalizing the restructuring pending a deal being agreed to with a free agent. No one outside of the Rams organization would be privy to any of the strategies that the Rams have employed (or will employ) in this regard.
The 2013 Salary Cap
The figure I used for the 2013 salary cap is 123.9 million dollars. This figure is correct, but it is somewhat misleading. The "salary cap" is actually composed of two elements: the "hard cap" or "team salary" itself (123 million) and the "minimum salary benefits" portion (900,000). Combined they are referred to as "total player compensation". The minimum salary benefits allow teams to pay a higher cash amount but incur a lower cap hit for older veterans making the NFL minimum salary. The allowable team total is 900,000 for 2013 (please click on link). The Rams may or may not use this provision in 2013. If they do use the provision in its entirety, it effectively raises their salary cap to 123.9 million.
Rookie signings and season opening reserve
Although accounting for rookie salaries and a season opening reserve were mentioned in yesterdays article, I thought it would be a good idea to reiterate the amounts involved for further emphasis. In my estimation, the Rams will need approximately 8-9 million dollars in cap space to sign their rookies and have a reasonable reserve set aside for the opening of the regular season. These contingencies should be kept in mind when determining how much money the Rams actually have to spend on free agents.
In summary, the figure provided yesterday for available cap space is in fact accurate (given the up to-date information available at that moment). However, available cap space does not necessarily equate to the amount of dollars the Rams have available to spend on free agents. That figure could actually be higher (or lower), depending on the circumstances noted in this article. It could be as low as 5 million (est.) and as high as 25 million (est.), depending on restructuring and further player cuts. Please bear this in mind when contemplating how the Rams should spend their money during the free agency signing period. They may in fact decide to spend more than the current numbers suggest they can.
March 12 Updates
It has just been reported that Jermelle Cudjo signed for 2 years and 1.8 million.
William Hayes signed as well today for 3 years and 10.5 million.
Darian Stewart was tendered by the Rams for 1 year at 1.3 million.
It has also been reported that the Rams have signed Jared Cook. 5 years and 35.1 million with more than half guaranteed (19 million). It has been reported that the contract will only have a 4 million cap hit for 2013. This likely means the contract was set up in a similar fashion to JL55's extension, although that is speculation on my part (which I should avoid for now). (please click on link).......I will fully update the cap situation as all of the details become available!March 14 Cook Update: As I suggested, the Rams set up Jared Cook's contract in a similar fashion to that of James Laurinaitis. (click on link)
I have just read where someone has suggested that Sam Bradford should restructure his contract to help pay for free agents. This would be a huge mistake. The Rams already have 23.3 million in dead money associated with Bradford's contract. In addition, his cap hits for 2014 and 2015 are 17.6 and 16.6 million, respectively. Restructuring his contract at this stage would be fiscally irresponsible......and the Rams will not do this.......guaranteed. The contracts of Chris Long, Courtland Finnegan and James Laurinaitis are structured in such a manner as to be amenable to restructuring. These would be the contracts the Rams would restructure, if they chose to do so.
March 13 Updates
March 13, 12:14 am.......just saw a link to Rotoworld (courtesy of ramsfan873) that suggests the Rams will sign Jake Long if he passes his physical on Wednesday (please click on link). In order for the Rams to complete this signing, there is little doubt that an existing contract(s) on the Rams roster will have to be restructured to accommodate this signing. It is also likely that both Cook and Jake Long would have their contracts structured to backload more money into 2014, when the Rams cap space situation will be better than this years. Again, I will avoid further speculation until the news unfolds.
Please bear in mind, as well, that the Rams cannot exceed the offseason salary cap. The salary cap figure is the same in the offseason; however, only the highest 51 cap hits and dead money are counted against the cap. This must be taken into consideration as the Rams contemplate signing additional free agents.
Given the number of transactions occurring, it is prudent to wait for ALL of the details before assuming or speculating on anything regarding restructuring, new contract structures and remaining cap space. I will update the full implications of the transactions as the details become completely known and finalized.
Your comments and opinions are valued and appreciated!!!