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Rams Beyond 2014: Salary Cap, Roster & Free Agents

The upcoming off-season will be a critical one for the St. Louis Rams. Many difficult personnel decisions will need to be made, especially in regards to the quarterback position, the offensive line, and pending free agents. Who will the Rams re-sign? Which contracts will they restructure? Who will they release?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The upcoming off-season will be a critical one for the St. Louis Rams. Many difficult personnel decisions will need to be made, especially in regards to the quarterback position, the offensive line, and pending free agents. Looming in the background is the ever-evolving salary cap situation, which will play a crucial, dramatic role in how the Rams shape their roster in 2015.

The Rams currently have 71 players in the organization: The 53-man roster, 8 players on Injured Reserve, and 10 players on the practice squad.

In addition to the players on the practice squad (who are free to sign with another team at any time), the following 18 players are eligible for free agency in 2015:

Position Player FA Status
C Tim Barnes RFA
G Davin Joseph UFA
RT Joe Barksdale UFA
OL Brandon Washington ERFA
OL Mike Person UFA
WR Damian Williams UFA
WR Kenny Britt UFA
TE Lance Kendricks UFA
TE Cory Harkey ERFA
RB Chase Reynolds ERFA
QB Shaun Hill UFA
QB Austin Davis RFA
P John Hekker RFA
LB Marshall McFadden ERFA
LB Korey Toomer ERFA
LB Will Herring UFA
DT Alex Carrington UFA
S Rodney McLeod RFA

Joe Barksdale, Rodney McLeod, Lance Kendricks, Austin Davis, and John Hekker highlight the list of Rams eligible for free agency in 2015. None of the 18 players will count against the Rams' salary cap after the 2014 season - and league year - concludes.

The Rams currently have 43 players under contract for 2015. The accompanying chart presents the 2015 roster and depth chart, as of November 11, 2014.

C Scott Wells Demetrius Rhaney
RG Barrett Jones
LG Rodger Saffold
RT Jake Long
LT Greg Robinson
TE Alex Bayer
TE Jared Cook Mason Brodine
WR Brian Quick Chris Givens
WR Tavon Austin Stedman Bailey
RB Tre Mason Trey Watts Isaiah Pead
RB Benny Cunningham Zac Stacy
QB Sam Bradford
PK Greg Zuerlein
LS Jake McQuaide
DT Aaron Donald Kendall Langford
DT Michael Brockers
DE Chris Long Eugene Sims
DE Robert Quinn William Hayes Ethan Westbrooks
MLB James Laurinaitis
OLB Alec Ogletree Daren Bates
OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar
CB Janoris Jenkins Brandon McGee Marcus Roberson
CB Trumaine Johnson E.J. Gaines Lamarcus Joyner
SS Mark Barron Cody Davis
FS T.J. McDonald Maurice Alexander

Quarterback, linebacker, and the offensive line stand out as critical areas the Rams will need to address during the offseason. Given the extent of Brian Quick's shoulder injury, the wide receiver corps might also be high on the Rams' priority list.

The accompanying chart presents the Rams' top eleven salary cap hits for 2015, and includes the salary cap savings for 2015 if the player is released in the offseason:

Player 2015 Cap Hit 2015 Savings If Released
Robert Quinn 16,744,110 2,689,489
Sam Bradford 16,580,000 12,985,000
Chris Long 12,500,000 7,500,000
Jake Long 10,500,000 8,000,000
Jared Cook 8,300,441 -600,882
Rodger Saffold 8,000,000 4,000,000
Kendall Langford 7,000,000 6,000,000
Greg Robinson 4,837,295 -12,576,967
Scott Wells 4,750,000 3,750,000
William Hayes 4,355,000 3,105,000
James Laurinaitis 4,275,000 2,725,000
Totals 97,841,846 37,576,640

The Rams currently have $133,450,629 in financial obligations counting against the 2015 salary cap. The 2015 league-wide salary cap is expected to increase from the current $133 million to $145-146 million.

Most of the expected increase will be eaten up by additional financial obligations incurred throughout the year:

  • A season-opening reserve set aside for signing additional players during the regular season due to injuries (est. $3-4 million).
  • League adjustments for earned incentives, accrued workout bonuses, and proven performance escalators (est. $1.5 million).
  • Practice squad salaries (est. $1 million).
  • The net cost of signing the 2015 NFL Draft class (est. $3 million).
  • The cost of adding additional players to bring the roster up to the 53-man limit (est. $2.5 million).

The bottom line: The Rams will need to create a substantial amount of salary cap space if they wish to re-sign any of their eligible free agents, or those from another team. Restructuring contracts and outright releases are the primary means at the Rams' disposal for creating salary cap space.

The Financial Foursome

The Rams have four prime candidates for an outright release or contract restructuring: Sam Bradford, Kendall Langford, Scott Wells, and Jake Long.

Sam Bradford will be returning to the Rams after back-to-back season-ending ACL tears. Bradford is due to earn $12.985 million in base salary next year, the last year of his rookie contract. If the Rams decide to retain Bradford, they will likely attempt to restructure his contract, converting a substantial portion of his base salary to incentives. This type of restructure allows the Rams salary cap relief and flexibility.

Scott Wells is nearing the end of his career. Wells will be 34 in January, is injury-prone, his skills are declining, and he has a large salary cap hit in 2015. All of which makes him a possible target for release.

Kendall Langford will be entering the final year of his contract in 2015. He's been supplanted in the starting line-up by rookie star Aaron Donald. Although an integral part of the defensive line rotation, Langford might have to take a cut in pay in order to remain with the Rams.

Jake Long's year ended with his second ACL tear in as many seasons. Greg Robinson has been moved to LT to replace him in the starting line-up. Robinson will likely remain there for many years to come. Injuries - and the presence of Robinson - could mean the end of Long's days as a Ram. Could the Rams restructure his contract and move him to another position on the line, if they don't re-sign Barksdale and/or Joseph?

Who will the Rams re-sign? Who will they release or restructure? Will they be active in the 2015 free agent market, one including G Mike Iupati, WR Dez Bryant, and WR Demaryius Thomas? Difficult decisions lie ahead...