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St. Louis Rams: Individual Cap Hits And Available Cap Space: March 11 - Free Agency Edition

4 pm this afternoon marks the start of both the new league year and the free agent signing period. Will the Rams be active this year in the free agent market? What is their biggest need? Who will they attempt to sign?

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Aside from the hiring of Gregg Williams, there was very little news regarding the Rams in the first 9 weeks of the year. It was the calm before the storm. The tranquility has been replaced by the eye of a hurricane. The last week has brought much upheaval to the Rams organization. The almost certain departure of Rodger Saffold, coupled with the release of Harvey Dahl - plus the free agency status of Chris Williams and Shelley Smith - has left the Rams' interior line in tatters. An already suspect secondary was reduced by one, with the release of CB Cortland Finnegan. Will the Rams make up for these losses in the free agent market? Or will the Rams be relatively quiet in free agency this year, preferring to fill their roster holes through the NFL draft?

Transactions Update

  • March 5 - The Rams made tender offers to 3 Exclusive Rights Free Agents: WR Justin Veltung ($495,000), C Tim Barnes ($570,000), and QB Austin Davis ($570,000). As ERFA's, the 3 players have little choice but to accept the offers, for they would be out of football otherwise. The offers immediately count against the salary cap. The net cost against the salary cap is $375,000 (the total of their salaries, less the players salaries they replace in the top-51 off season cap hits - 3 x $420,000).
  • March 5 - The Rams released CB Cortland Finnegan. The Rams immediately gain $4 million in cap space relief ($3.58 million net, as his roster place in the top-51 off season cap hits costs $420,000). His release will create up to $7 million in total cap space savings, as outlined on Thursday in an article for TST (link). The additional $3 million in salary cap savings would result from offsets in signing with another team.
  • March 5 - The NFL finalized the Restricted Free Agent tender numbers. As noted, in an article for TST on January 24 (link), Austin Pettis' base salary increased to that of the lowest Restricted Free Agent tender (due to Proven Performance Escalators). The tender was initially estimated at $1.389 million. The final figure is $1.431 million, increasing Pettis' salary cap hit by an additional $42,000.
  • March 10 - The Rams released G Harvey Dahl. The Rams immediately gain $4 million in cap space relief ($3.58 million net, as his roster place in the top-51 off season cap hits costs $420,000). Dahl was released before his $2 million roster bonus came due on March 13.
  • March 11 - League charges of $504,000 - for "accrued workout bonuses" - reduce salary cap space for all 32 NFL teams as of March 11. In addition, the Rams' Adjusted Salary Cap was reduced by $845,000 for incentives earned in 2013.
  • Please note "net salary cap savings" are: the salary cap savings of a released player, less the salary cap hit incurred by the player who replaces him on the roster/top 51 off season cap hits.

St. Louis Rams' Current Roster

C Scott Wells Tim Barnes Graham Pocic
RG Brandon Washington
LG Barrett Jones
RT Joe Barksdale Sean Hooey
LT Jake Long Mike Person
TE Jared Cook Lance Kendricks Cory Harkey Justice Cunningham
WR Tavon Austin Austin Pettis Stedman Bailey
WR Chris Givens Brian Quick Justin Veltung Emory Blake
RB Zac Stacy Benny Cunningham Isaiah Pead Darryl Richardson Chase Reynolds
QB Sam Bradford Austin Davis
PK Greg Zuerlein
P John Hekker
LS Jake McQuaide
DT Kendall Langford Jermelle Cudjo
DT Michael Brockers Matt Conrath
DE Chris Long Eugene Sims Mason Brodine
DE Robert Quinn William Hayes Sammy Brown
MLB James Laurinaitis Daren Bates
OLB Alec Ogletree Phillip Steward
OLB Ray Ray Armstrong Caleb McSurdy
CB Janoris Jenkins Brandon McGee
CB Trumaine Johnson Darren Woodard
S Rodney McLeod Cody Davis
S T.J. McDonald Matt Daniels

Currently there are 54 players on the Rams' roster, each with a contract for 2014. The accompanying chart lists the 11 players who will become free agents - and no longer on the roster - as of today at 4 pm:

Player Position FA Type
Rodger Saffold OL UFA
Jo-Lonn Dunbar OLB UFA
Chris Williams OL UFA
Darian Stewart S UFA
Shelley Smith OG UFA
Kellen Clemens QB UFA
Matt Giordano S UFA
Will Witherspoon OLB UFA
Brady Quinn QB UFA
Mike McNeill TE RFA
Quinton Pointer DB ERFA

St. Louis Rams 2014 Individual Cap Hits And Available Salary Cap Space

Player Position Base Salary Prorated Bonus Roster Bonus Cap Figure
Sam Bradford QB 14,015,000 3,595,000 17,610,000
Chris Long DE 13,200,000 1,500,000 200,000 14,900,000
James Laurinaitis MLB 10,000,000 400,000 10,400,000
Jake Long LT 8,000,000 1,250,000 9,250,000
Jared Cook TE 3,000,000 1,000,000 3,000,000 7,000,000
Scott Wells C 5,500,000 1,000,000 6,500,000
Kendall Langford DT 5,000,000 1,000,000 6,000,000
William Hayes DE 2,595,000 1,250,000 3,845,000
Robert Quinn DE 1,661,734 1,340,646 3,002,380
Tavon Austin WR 984,591 1,913,364 2,897,955
Michael Brockers DT 1,255,636 1,341,273 2,596,909
Alec Ogletree OLB 724,546 873,187 1,597,733
Austin Pettis WR 1,431,000 144,567 1,575,567
Brian Quick WR 879,690 589,382 1,469,072
Janoris Jenkins CB 570,000 517,331 273,665 1,360,996
Lance Kendricks TE 951,177 393,440 1,344,617
Eugene Sims DE 950,000 116,684 150,000 1,216,684
Isaiah Pead RB 757,100 344,200 1,101,300
Jermelle Cudjo DT 900,000 175,000 1,075,000
Trumaine Johnson CB 656,000 167,794 823,794
Jake McQuaide LS 645,000 100,000 745,000
Chris Givens WR 570,000 124,257 694,257
T.J. McDonald S 518,815 162,000 680,815
Joe Barksdale RT 645,000 645,000
Mike Person OT 645,000 645,000
Stedman Bailey WR 512,345 131,850 644,195
Greg Zuerlein PK 570,000 32,205 15,551 617,756
Barrett Jones OL 495,000 111,300 606,300
Daryl Richardson RB 570,000 11,474 581,474
Brandon Washington G 575,575 575,575
Matt Daniels S 570,000 3,334 573,334
John Hekker P 570,000 3,334 573,334
Matt Conrath DT 570,000 2,000 572,000
Rodney McLeod DB 570,000 1,334 571,334
Tim Barnes C 570,000 570,000
Austin Davis QB 570,000 570,000
Sammy Brown DE 570,000 570,000
Cory Harkey TE 570,000 570,000
Brandon McGee CB 495,000 47,790 542,790
Zac Stacy RB 495,000 44,125 539,125
Benny Cunningham RB 495,000 3,333 498,333
Mason Brodine DE 495,000 495,000
Daren Bates LB 495,000 495,000
Cody Davis S 495,000 495,000
Justin Veltung WR 495,000 495,000
Ray-Ray Armstrong LB 495,000 495,000
Chase Reynolds RB 495,000 495,000
Philip Steward LB 420,000 3,333 423,333
Graham Pocic OL 420,000 420,000
Caleb McSurdy LB 420,000 420,000
Darren Woodard DB 420,000 420,000
Sean Hooey OT 420,000 420,000
Justice Cunningham TE 420,000 420,000
Emory Blake WR 420,000 420,000
Top 51 Contracts 89,473,209 19,693,537 3,639,216 112,805,962
Roster Detail
54 Players On The Roster
54 Players With 2014 Contracts
11 Players Free Agents As Of March 11
Dead Money
Miscellaneous 12 Players 133,805
Cortland Finnegan 6,000,000
Off Season Total Cap Hits
Top 51 Contracts 112,805,962
Dead Money 6,133,805
2014 Total Cap Hits 118,939,767
Off Season Team Salary Cap
2014 Unadjusted Salary Cap 133,000,000
2014 Available Salary Cap Rollover 172,529
2014 Accrued Workout Bonuses 504,000
2014 Prior Year Adjustments 845,000
2014 Adjusted Team Salary Cap 131,823,529
Available Cap Space 12,883,762


2014 Adjusted Team Salary Cap - $131,823,529

2014 Total Cap Hits - $118,939,767

Available Salary Cap Space - $12,883,762


Terminology And Calculations

Available Salary Cap Space - The amount of money the Rams have remaining to spend on player contract obligations, without exceeding the salary cap. The calculation to determine the available salary cap space is: the dollar amount of the adjusted salary cap, less the total dollar value of current active contracts (cap hits) less any "dead money".

Dead Money - The amount of money counting as cap hits in the current year, for players that are no longer with the team. These amounts consist of guaranteed money/bonuses/prorated amounts outstanding for 2014 (in some cases beyond 2014).

Salary Cap Figure (Hit) - Any contractual obligation counting against the salary cap in a particular year. It's the sum of a players base salary, signing and/or other bonuses, and any incentives/escalators deemed to be earned.

Available Cap Rollover - The amount of the preceding years available cap space not used in that year. The amount carried forward by the Rams from 2013 to 2014 is $172,529. Salary cap provisions allow for the carry forward to be added to salary cap space for the current year.

The Salary Cap - The maximum amount a team can have in total cap hits without incurring penalties imposed by the NFL. These penalties can be financial in nature and/or include the loss of draft picks.

Signing vs Other Bonuses - A signing bonus can be defined in its literal sense. The signing bonus can be spread out - prorated for cap purposes - evenly over the life of a contract. Other bonuses include roster, incentive, option, etc. bonuses that occur in different years of a contract, and in varying amounts.

Top 51 Contracts - There are three sets of salary cap rules prevalent in any league year. During the regular season, all contract obligations - and dead money - count against the salary cap. After the regular season - but before the start of the new league year in March - teams are not required to be compliant with the salary cap. On March 11 - the beginning of the new league year - teams must be compliant with the league off season salary cap provisions. In the off season, only the top 51 cap hits - plus dead money - count against the salary cap. This remains in effect until September, just before the start of the regular season.

Accrued Workout Bonuses - Are adjustments charged by the league, reducing a teams available salary cap space. These bonuses will reduce the Rams' salary cap space by $504,000 on March 11. From the 2011 CBA:

"...all players will earn $175 a day for each day they participate in 2013. That per day number changes every other year, with the next increase slated for 2015. The NFL charges each team at the start of the 2014 league year a cap fee of $504,000 for minimum workouts on top of the contracted bonuses, so any reported cap space number between now and the start of the regular season needs to be reduced by $504,000. At the end of the workout period teams have their salary cap credited for money that was not earned."

Prior Year Adjustments - The league adjusts/charges a teams current year salary cap for player incentives earned in the previous year.

Unadjusted Salary Cap - The base salary cap amount ($133 million in 2014) for each of the 32 NFL teams.

Adjusted Team Salary Cap - The actual salary cap (after adjustments) for a particular team in the current league year. Each team will have a different figure for cap purposes. For 2014, the Rams' Adjusted Team Salary Cap equals the base salary cap ($133 million), plus the carry forward from 2013 ($172,529), less the prior year ($845,000) and accrued workout bonus ($504,000) adjustments.

Roster Detail - Currently, there are 54 players on the Rams' off season roster. All 54 of them are under contract for 2014. There are 11 players eligible for free agency at 4 pm, March 11 (the beginning of the new league year). Contracts run concurrently with the league year. None of the 11 players count against the 2014 team salary cap, unless they are re-signed by the Rams.

Methodology - To derive salary cap figures and information, two main sources are used: the NFLPA and the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement. The NFLPA only publishes team salary cap details in the form of team totals. Once the totals are established, I then compile information for individual contracts, ensuring they collectively add up to match the NFLPA totals. At last count, 83 sources have been used to compile data on the Rams' individual contracts.


Rams' Potential Free Agent Targets

The accompanying chart lists my Rams' top 20 targets in this years free agency class:

Player Position Team
Evan Dietrich-Smith Center Green Bay
Brian De La Puente Center New Orleans
Geoff Schwartz Guard/Tackle Kansas City
Zane Beadles Guard Denver
Jon Asamoah Guard Kansas City
Austin Howard Offensive Tackle NY Jets
Linval Joseph Defensive Tackle NY Giants
Perry Riley Linebacker Washington
Vincent Rey Linebacker Cincinnati
Wesley Woodyard Linebacker Denver
Vontae Davis Cornerback Indianapolis
Alterraun Verner Cornerback Tennessee
E.J. Biggers Corner/Safety Washington
Husain Abdullah Safety Kansas City
Antoine Bethea Safety Indianapolis
Malcolm Jenkins Safety New Orleans
Chris Clemons Safety Miami
Donte Whitner Safety San Francisco
Jairus Byrd Safety Buffalo
T.J. Ward Safety Cleveland

Thoughts On Free Agency

8 of the Rams' 22 starters - for their opening game against Arizona - were signed as free agents.

A cautionary note - and food for thought - from Albert Breer of

"A study of the 12 playoff teams from last season revealed that the league's elite use free agency to augment rather than overhaul. Among the five highest-paid players on each playoff participant in 2013 -- a pool of 60 players total -- 42 represented home-grown talent while eight were acquired via trade. Just 10 were free-agent additions."

Last year, Kevin Demoff participated in the MIT Sloan Sports Analytic's Conference. He shared his thoughts about spending in free agency:

"If you have $8 million to spend in free agency, you might be better off spending $7 million on one guy and $1 million on the other than buying two players at $4 million."

Demoff's words certainly rang true last year, as the Rams added big-money free agents Jake Long and Jared Cook, and limited the remainder of their spending to mostly lower-priced players.

Demoff might have given a recent hint regarding where the Rams may head this year in the free agency market:

"When you look at free agency, this is the year we’ve targeted probably to be a little less active ... than others."

Les Snead suggests the Rams may be looking at more than just the "marquee" names when free agency begins:

"From the entertainment standpoint, the world focuses on the marquee names. In reality, there’s 400 players hitting the market and a lot of those players have a lot of experience and can come in and help you."

The Rams have additional financial commitments during the year to consider, as noted in my earlier off season primer article:

"The Rams WILL have to create $10-$11 million in salary cap space - irrespective of free agency signings/re-signings - at some point before the regular season begins. This amount covers the net cost of signing the incoming rookie class, creates an adequate reserve for contingencies during the regular season, pays the practice squad, and provides a cushion for salary cap adjustments - earned incentives, workout bonuses, escalators, etc. - made by the league."

Currently, the Rams' available salary cap space is $12,883,762. If all of the Rams' financial commitments for 2014 are taken into account, the Rams have approximately $2.4 million in "effective salary cap space". This can be increased by up to $3 million if Cortland Finnegan is signed by another team. If the Rams are to be heavily active in free agency this year, expect further cuts/restructures to occur at some point in the near future.

Within the last 48 hours, news sources have suggested the Rams currently have around $15 million in salary cap space. That figure is inaccurate. It does not take into account the two player contracts of $420,000 apiece, which replace those of Cortland Finnegan and Harvey Dahl. Nor does it take into account the $504,000 in accrued workout bonuses, and $845,000 in 2013 earned incentives being charged against the Rams' salary cap today.

My predictions? The Rams will sign at least one - or more - of the following players: Geoff Schwartz, Alterraun Verner, Malcolm Jenkins, Brian De La Puente, Jairus Byrd, or Jon Asamoah. The Rams will also re-sign one of Chris Williams or Shelley Smith.

Let the free agent games begin!!

St. Louis Rams Salary Cap Series

Salary Capping The St. Louis Rams' Off Season (link)

Sam Bradford's 2014 Salary Cap Hit: Can It Be Lowered? (link)

St. Louis Rams: Individual Cap Hits And Available Cap Space: February 27 - The Calm Before The Storm (link)

2014 Salary Cap Figure Now Set: How Does It Affect The Rams? (link)

Cortland Finnegan's Release: Salary Cap And Off Season Implications (link)