Alright, so this is my first ever interaction at all on TST. I've been an avid reader for some time, but I thought I would take the next step in the relationship.
I've been giving a lot of thought to how I would like this offseason to break down and I thought I would gain some input from fellow Rams fans on the subject. I think this offseason will be the last one we venture into with a losing record for a while (or so I hope) and I think it's detrimental we get the most out of it. So, here it goes.
- First Step: Cap Space
So, reports indicate that we have $90,000 in cap space during the 2013 season. This is a pathetic number for an NFL team and I can't say that our money has been well spent. Granted, reports also say that the NFL cap will increase from $123 million to $126.3 million per season. That gives us a little less than $3.4 million in cap space prior to any cuts, restructures, etc. Also, the Rams will have $11.2 million in dead money coming off the books from 2013 that resulted from cuts like Quinten Mikell, Jason Smith, and others. That brings our total to roughly $14.6 million. Another thing to keep in mind is that the Laurinitis's contract will go down in $2 million in 2014. Add that $2 million to $14.6 million and you're looking at $16.6 million. However, Chris Long, Jake Long, Sam Bradford, William Hayes, and Jared Cook will see a combined $20 million increase against our cap, giving us a total of -$3.4 million.
- Second Step: Cuts
Now, I'm hoping we make some necessary cuts this year. Some of the players we've signed to contracts recently just aren't panning out. I think the Rams need to and will cut Finnegan, Wells, and Dahl. Finnegan has been performing subpar since week 6 of the 2012 season, definitely not worth his contract if you consider the cheaper and talented alternatives we have in Jenkins and Johnson. I also don't feel like we've experienced Wells in the way we should have considering his contract due to his injuries. Dahl is also getting old and should be cut as I'm sure we can find cheaper and better alternatives at this stage in his career. Between those three players alone, They count $20.5 million against our cap and, if cut, will only count in $5 million dead money. That's a savings of $15.5 million that we can add to our previous total of -$3.4 million, giving us a grand total of $12.1 million. The three players are the primary players that need to be cut without question in my opinion. Any other cuts made would either not make sense or provide much additional cap space for me to mention here.
- Third Step: Restructures
We absolutely need to restructure contracts. I don't like Bradford's or Long's contract too much, and I also feel like Laurinitis didn't need to be paid that much. I don't know what kind of restructuring the front office will do, but Bradford is making $17.61 million this year. That's intense. Chris Long isn't looking to shabby sitting in the corner with $14.7 million in 2014 either. As far as Laurinitis goes, I don't mind his contract as it was front loaded, so after 2014 he will be making an average of $6 million per year for 3 years (from 2015-2017). Now, granted Laurinitis might be asked to restructure in the sense that his $10.4 million he is due in 2014 be switched with the $4 million he is due to make in 2015. As I do not know the direction the Rams will take in restructures, I can't viably add any money to my projected cap space.
- Fourth Step: Leave Cap Space For Draft Picks
Assuming we spend the same amount on draft picks this year as we did last year, it'll cost us roughly $8-9 million. Subtract that from our $12.1 million in free cap space and we are looking at a grand total of $3-4 million to spend on FA.
- Fifth Step: Our Priorities
$3-4 million in cap space isn't much to work with. Whatever we get with restructuring will definitely bolster this total, but not enough to sign any big-name free agents, I don't think. Assuming it doesn't, I think we should just focus on bringing back the players we want back from our team. Rodger Saffold and Tim Barnes should be our main focus, with the likes of Chris Williams, Shelley Smith, and JoLonn Dunbar as secondary options. Saffold is an high risk, high reward player as he can play guard exceptionally well and can fill in at tackle when need be. However, his injury history is scary. Barnes is necessary as well for his play at center or as a backup to Barrett Jones. I'm not so high on Williams or Smith and I feel they can be let go. Dunbar is a vital part of our defense, but I feel we can fix this through the draft instead of spending our minimal money on him (that is, unless we can get him cheap).
If you were able to brace yourselves through this read (I wrote too damn much), this concludes my free agency portion of of the offseason. I will write part 2 here pretty soon, where I will address the draft and the final outlook of the team.