We've distracted ourselves from an ugly season with draft talk on more than one occasion, and at 3-12 (do I hear 3-13?) it's nice to have something visible to provide sagging fan morale with a needed boost.
Looking ahead also requires a look at the salary cap and the effect it's likely to have on the Rams ability to sign the free agents, draft picks, etc. they'll need to up the team's performance next season. The cap's convoluted configuration and the loophole filed accounting system that goes into determining player salaries makes the cap a difficult navigational star to wrap yourself around compared to the draft's promise to deliver a square-jawed hero ready to carve out a glorious future.
One thing to consider in our examination of future finances, is that money, as holiday movie after holiday movie has taught us, doesn't always buy happiness...or wins for that matter. The Rams have the sixth highest payroll in the league this season at $118.3 million, the highest total of all the other three win (or fewer) teams.
The cap for 2008 is slated to go up by about $7 million for each team. With the contracts slated to come off the books for the Rams, that leaves them with about $9.61 million in money to burn, compared to the $22+ million the team had last season.
In an offseason many consider to be a veritable gold mine of free agent talent, you see where this is going...
The Rams have few players coming off the books this season. The most notable free agent to be is LB Brandon Chillar, a player that the Rams must sign (in my opinion) if they're at all serious about building on the defensive improvements this season and bringing back fans with an improved product. Chillar could command a significant portion of the money available as of right now, so the Rams will likely need to create space among players already under contract for next season.
Due $5 million in 2008, Isaac Bruce has been discussed somewhat recently as a question mark heading into next season. Cutting him would be tough, and Linehan, who's not exactly Mr. Popular in STL as it is, won't comment on the team's plans for Bruce next season. I'd say at the very least, they'll have to cut him and work out a new deal if they want to keep him in a Rams uni to end his career.
There are a few other players whose value to the team versus contract cost for 2008 should be considered.
- Jeff Wilkins is due somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 million next season. His accuracy is starting to fade, and it's worth asking whether or not the Rams can get a younger, cost-controlled option to kick.
- At the risk of being unpopular, what about Corey Chavous? His cap value this season was just over $3 million, and next season will be his 11th in the league. This season he's been among the defense's worst tacklers, and the Rams could really beef up their defense by replacing Chavous with a blitz specialist.
- Claude Wroten doesn't eat up much space in terms of salary, but couldn't they do better?
- I imagine there's a pretty long list to be complied of the smaller contracts that could easily be replaced or lack value to begin with - looking at you Dominique Byrd. Anyone I miss?
Ok, I'm going to go holiday things, but we'll be back to this topic later in the week and hit it pretty hard in the offseason. No post tomorrow, so have a great holiday.