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Rams salary cap situation and free agency

A deal to end the NFL lockout and bring labor peace to the game/business for a decade may be at hand as soon as Thursday. In fact, the NFLPA player reps could vote on a deal tomorrow with owners voting on Wednesday. Details are, of course, yet to be finalized, but at this point it's a matter of splitting hairs as to what day it happens this week. 

Thanks to leaks, we have a pretty solid understanding that the salary cap for teams will be around $123 million. That leaves the St. Louis Rams in good shape, with about $105 million in current cap considerations. However, the free agents they are expected to target will require some spending, and $15 million in space might not be enough to bring in a trio like DT Barry Cofield, RB Darren Sproles and S Quintin Mikell, three free agents the Rams are known to be interested in once business resumes. 

Teams will have some mechanisms to work around the cap, exceptions, credits and deferred bonuses. Those details should be clearer once the agreement in done. 

Allow me to give you an idea about what those free agent targets might cost. Cofield has said that he wants a deal similar to what fellow Giants DL Chris Canty received, a six-year, $42 million contract with $16 million guaranteed. Canty makes $5.25 million this year. 

Mikell will also command one of the top safety deals this year. Antrell Rolle received a five-year, $37 million contract from the Giants last year, paying him $5.25 million this year. Rolle was only 27 when he signed that deal; Mikell turns 31 in September. In a world where James Butler makes $3 million a season, it stands to reason that Mikell could command $4-5 million. Again, it depends on how the deal looks, vis-a-vis signing bonuses, incentives, etc. 

Seattle's deal with Leon Washington, signed in March prior to the lockout, sounds like a reasonable comparison at four-years with an average of $3 million per season, but Sproles made $7.28 million on his RFA offer with the Chargers last year. A $4 million pay cut might not be all that appealing. He'll get more. 

Add it all up, and  those three free agents alone could represent $15 million in cap space this year. That would still leave rookie deals and those other needs the Rams have to address. Remember, they also want to re-sign WR Mark Clayton

Making it all work will be a real test for the Rams front office, particularly contract guru Kevin Demoff. So far, Demoff and the team has a good track record with respect to contracts, but this year will be their biggest test yet. If you were hoping for a marquee free agent addition, a Sidney Rice, this reality check is bound to disappoint you. Cheer up. Players like Cofield, Mikell and Sproles will dramatically change this team, really adding some talent at key areas of need. 

We'll look at the Rams current cap responsibilities and likely casualties in a subsequent post.