St. Louis Rams 2013 season: Salary Cap Dilemmas

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

As rosters are trimmed to the required 53 by August 31, the salary cap again comes into focus. The off-season salary cap rules change for the regular season. The Rams are very tight against the cap. It will take some maneuvering, on the part of Kevin Demoff, to ensure the Rams can navigate the cap throughout the regular season.

Currently, the Rams' Available Salary Cap Space is $113,676, lowest in the league. The roster will be trimmed to 75 players by 4pm today. None of those cuts will affect cap space, as they're not among the top 51 cap space hits counted in the off season.

Once the regular season begins - all players under contract - including the practice squad and players on IR, count against the cap. The practice squad players cost the Rams $6,000 per week - per player. The necessity of counting 53 final roster players against the cap - instead of the current 51 - will cost a minimum of $810,000 against the cap. The Rams must also begin the season with a cap space "reserve" [a minimum of $2 million approx.]. The reserve is a contingency for adding players - to replace those that may end up on injured reserve throughout the season. The Rams will need to create approximately $2.7 million in cap space before the beginning of the season. They will need to be in compliance - with the change in accounting for cap space - by 4pm, September 4.

The Rams can achieve their cap space requirements in one of two ways: restructuring an existing contract, or cutting players with large enough salaries to have an impact on available cap space.

The accompanying chart presents the Rams' highest 25 cap hits for 2013:

Player Position Base Salary Signing Bonus Other Bonus Cap Figure
Cortland Finnegan CB 9,000,000 1,000,000 5,000,000 15,000,000
Sam Bradford QB 9,000,000 3,594,800 200 12,595,000
James Laurinaitis LB 1,000,000 400,000 11,000,000 12,400,000
Chris Long DE 7,250,000 1,500,000 8,750,000
Scott Wells C 5,500,000 1,000,000 6,500,000
Kendall Langford DT 5,000,000 1,000,000 6,000,000
Jake Long LT 3,000,000 1,250,000 4,250,000
Jared Cook TE 3,000,000 1,000,000 4,000,000
Harvey Dahl G 4,000,000 4,000,000
Robert Quinn DE 1,232,829 1,340,646 2,573,475
Tavon Austin WR 405,000 1,913,364 2,318,364
Michael Brockers DT 822,818 1,341,272 2,164,090
William Hayes DE 800,000 1,250,000 2,050,000
JoLonn Dunbar LB 1,300,000 500,000 1,800,000
Rodger Saffold T 655,000 580,000 225,000 1,460,000
Chris Williams OL 925,000 451,154 1,376,154
Alec Ogletree OLB 405,000 873,187 1,278,187
Eugene Sims DE 1,201,021 25,825 141 1,226,987
Brian Quick WR 634,845 589,250 1,224,095
Lance Kendricks TE 759,118 393,437 1,152,555
Janoris Jenkins CB 480,000 517,331 136,382 1,133,713
Darian Stewart S 700,000 300,000 1,000,000
Isaiah Pead RB 573,550 344,200 917,750
Austin Pettis WR 580,000 153,604 733,604
Jermelle Cudjo DT 555,000 175,000 730,000

There are very few players in the top 25 cap space hits considered as candidates for release. Bear in mind, the cap space savings from any players cut, would be somewhat minimized - by adding the contracts of players who replace them.

A far more likely scenario - the Rams restructuring an existing contract. Cortland Finnegan's contract is the one that makes the most sense to restructure, especially given the circumstances surrounding other high-priced players on the roster. The restructure would be done along the lines of Chris Long's, completed earlier this year. The accompanying chart breaks down Long's restructure - which essentially converted $6 million of base salary into a signing bonus. The resulting cap savings was $4.5 million for  2013.

Original Contract
Year Base Signing Bonus Roster Bonus Cap Hit
2012 10,310,000 8,247,500 18,557,500
2013 13,250.00 13,250,000
2014 13,200,000 13,200,000
2015 8,000,000 2,000,000 10,000,000
2016 9,750,000 2,000,000 11,750,000
2012 10,310,000 8,247,500 18,557,500
2013 7,250,000 1,500,000 8,750,000
2014 13,200,000 1,500,000 14,700,000
2015 8,000,000 3,500,000 11,500,000
2016 9,750,000 3,500,000 13,250,000

TST will keep you updated on the cap space situation as it evolves. One thing is for sure: having Kevin Demoff in the front office means the Rams are in good hands.

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