March 10, 4.00 pm EDT marks the opening of the new league year and Free Agency. The Rams have a number of players on the roster set to become Free Agents. Will they attempt to re-sign any of them? With numerous holes on the offensive line, the Rams will not be able to stabilize the line solely through the upcoming draft. Will the Rams actively pursue help for the offensive line via Free Agency? Do the Rams have enough salary cap space to go after players they're interested in?
St. Louis Rams 2015 Eligible Free Agents
The accompanying chart presents the 14 players eligible for Free Agency when the 2014 regular season ended:
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 Kenny Britt UFA TE Lance Kendricks UFA TE Cory Harkey RFA RB Chase Reynolds ERFA QB Shaun Hill UFA QB Austin Davis RFA LB Will Herring UFA DT Alex Carrington UFA S Rodney McLeod RFA
On March 6, the number of pending Free Agents was reduced from 14 to 9. The Rams tendered 5 of their 6 Restricted and Exclusive Rights Free Agents last Friday, four days in advance of the deadline. All 5 contracts have one-year terms.
Brandon Washington - $585,000 - Washington was tendered at the league minimum for an ERFA with two credited seasons. He is restricted from signing with another team.
Chase Reynolds - $585,000 - Reynolds was tendered at the league minimum for an ERFA with two credited seasons. He is restricted from signing with another team.
Austin Davis - $1,542,000 - Davis was tendered at the minimum level for a RFA. The Rams retain the right to match a higher offer, but will not receive any compensation if Davis is signed by another team.
Cory Harkey - $1,542,000 - Harkey was tendered at the minimum level for a RFA. The Rams retain the right to match a higher offer, but will not receive any compensation if Harkey is signed by another team.
Rodney McLeod - $2,356,000 - McLeod was tendered at the second round level for a RFA. The Rams retain the right to match any higher offer and will receive a 2nd round draft pick if McLeod is signed by another team.
RFA Tim Barnes was not tendered by the Rams and will become a Free Agent. The Rams could possibly re-sign Barnes at a later date for less money than the tender required.
The Rams will likely allow all eight remaining eligible Unrestricted Free Agents to test the market beginning March 10.
St. Louis Rams Current Roster And Depth Chart
The accompanying chart presents the Rams' 58-man current roster and depth chart. It reflects the subtraction of nine players becoming Free Agents, the releases of Kendall Langford, Scott Wells and Jake Long, plus the inclusion of the five above-mentioned tendered players.
|C||Barrett Jones||Demetrius Rhaney|
|LG||Brandon Washington||Travis Bond|
|TE||Cory Harkey||Justice Cunningham||Brad Smelley|
|TE||Jared Cook||Alex Bayer||Mason Brodine|
|WR||Brian Quick||Chris Givens||Devon Wylie||Damian Williams|
|WR||Tavon Austin||Stedman Bailey||Emory Blake|
|RB||Tre Mason||Chase Reynolds||Trey Watts|
|RB||Benny Cunningham||Zac Stacy||Isaiah Pead|
|QB||Sam Bradford||Austin Davis|
|P||John Hekker||Michael Palardy|
|DT||Michael Brockers||Doug Worthington|
|DE||Chris Long||William Hayes|
|DE||Robert Quinn||Eugene Sims||Ethan Westbrooks|
|MLB||James Laurinaitis||Daren Bates|
|OLB||Alec Ogletree||Korey Toomer|
|OLB||Jo-Lonn Dunbar||Marshall McFadden|
|CB||Janoris Jenkins||Marcus Roberson||Brandon McGee|
|CB||Trumaine Johnson||E.J. Gaines||Lamarcus Joyner|
|SS||T.J. McDonald||Mark Barron||Maurice Alexander|
|FS||Rodney McLeod||Cody Davis||Christian Bryant|
St. Louis Rams Available Salary Cap Space
The accompanying chart presents the Rams' current salary cap situation heading into the new league year:
|2015 NFL Salary Cap||$143,280,000|
|Plus: Rams' 2014 Salary Cap Carryover||$0|
|Plus: Rams' Net League Adjustments||$1,393,387|
|St. Louis Rams Adjusted Team Salary Cap||$144,673,387|
|2015 Current Net "Top-51" Contractual Obligations||$129,944,571|
|St. Louis Rams Current Available Salary Cap Space||$14,728,816|
|Less: Additional 2015 Financial Obligations (est.):|
|Practice Squad Salaries||$1,100,000|
|Roster To 53 Players From 51||$900,000|
|NET Cost Of Signing Rookie Draft Class||$2,800,000|
|Total 2015 Additional Financial Obligations (est.)||$8,000,000|
|Actual 2015 Available Salary Cap Space||$6,728,816|
Terminology And Calculations
2015 NFL Salary Cap - The league-wide salary cap (before adjustments) is $143,280,000 for 2015. In December, the NFL Management Council projected the salary cap to come in at $138.6-$141.8 million. In early January, I predicted the salary cap would rise to $145-$146 million.
2014 Salary Cap Carryover - The Rams were the only team in the NFL without unused salary cap space to carry over from 2014 to 2015.
Net League Adjustments - Adjustments include proven performance escalators, earned incentives, accrued workout bonuses and carryovers. In addition, the Rams received a $3 million salary cap credit for Cortland Finnegan. The credit was earned as a result of an offset included in the language of Finnegan's contract with the Rams, and was triggered when Finnegan signed with the Dolphins.
Adjusted Team Salary Cap - The adjusted team salary cap is calculated by taking the league salary cap figure and adding/subtracting carryovers and net league adjustments.
Net "Top-51" Contractual Obligations - In the offseason, only the top 51 contracts in terms of cap hits (plus outstanding dead money) count against the Rams' adjusted team salary cap.
Current Available Salary Cap Space - Current available salary cap space only takes into account obligations incurred to-date. It doesn't account for additional financial obligations counting against the salary cap later in the year.
Additional Financial Obligations - Are obligations incurred by the Rams during the remainder of the year. They must be budgeted for, as they count against the salary cap at different times during the year: Practice squad salaries - during the regular season, season-opening reserve - September, signing the rookie draft class - June, and 2 players added to make up the 53-man roster - September.
Actual Available Salary Cap Space - This figure is the amount of salary cap space the Rams have with all 2015 financial obligations taken into account. This actual figure is rarely reported by the media (nor Spotrac/OverTheCap) when pronouncing the amount of salary cap space the Rams have. Actual salary cap space will change as the Rams sign/re-sign players, and release/restructure players currently on the roster.
The Financial Foursome (Re-visited)
The Rams needed to create a substantial amount of salary cap space if they wished to re-sign any of their remaining eligible free agents, or those from another team. They succeeded in creating $17.75 million in salary cap space in the last 2 weeks. Currently the Rams sit close to $6.7 million under the salary cap, with all costs for 2015 taken into consideration.
In my first salary cap update of 2015, I looked at 4 prime candidates for an outright release or contract restructuring/renegotiation (based on the size of their salary cap hits and individual circumstances): Sam Bradford, Kendall Langford, Jake Long, and Scott Wells.
Langford was released on February 26. The Rams gained $6 million in salary cap space with his release.
Jake Long and Scott Wells were released on March 9. The Rams gained $8 million in salary cap space with Long's release, and $3.75 million in salary cap space with Wells' release. $4 million of Long's $9.25 million base salary would have become guaranteed on March 14. Wells was due a $1 million bonus if on the roster March 12.
The Rams and Sam Bradford's agent Tom Condon are currently involved in talks related to reducing Bradford's $12.985 base salary for 2015. Little progress has been made. The talks are likely aimed at converting a substantial portion of Bradford's base salary into cap-friendly incentives.
The Rams will still have trouble re-signing multiple players (such as Joe Barksdale, Kenny Britt and Lance Kendricks) unless the team creates additional salary cap space. This also holds true in regards to signing higher-valued players from other teams who are entering Free Agency. The Rams have $76 million (53% of their entire salary cap) in 2015 financial obligations committed to the following 8 players: Robert Quinn, Sam Bradford, Chris Long, Jared Cook, Rodger Saffold, Greg Robinson, William Hayes, and James Laurinaitis. That figure was $98 million before the releases of Long, Langford and Wells. It's perhaps the single biggest reason the Rams are perpetually close to their salary cap limit, and why they will have difficulty signing players in what figures to be a robust Free Agent market this year.
Many teams will be looking to spend big dollars in Free Agency this year. The 32 NFL teams have a combined $623 million in salary cap space at present, led by the Jaguars ($63.6M), Raiders ($55.1M), and Jets ($52.1M). As noted in my last salary cap article, teams are needing to become mindful of minimum spending requirements under the new CBA:
"The memo also mentions compliance with the minimum cash spending requirements of the 2011 CBA. The reference is to the salary cap "floor" instituted in the new CBA. The final eight years of the CBA are broken out into four-year periods (2013-2016 and 2017-2020). In each period, teams are required to spend up to 89% of the salary cap with a guaranteed league-wide spending amount reaching 95%. The consequences for non-compliance? The league/clubs must pay the difference to the players."
Most of us Rams fans would love to see the team re-sign many of our high-quality UFA's, and shore up the offensive line with Free Agents from other teams at the same time. Given prevalent market conditions (and the Rams' modest amount of available salary cap space), it's difficult to envision the team making much of a splash in Free Agency this year. Especially when quality players such as C Rodney Hudson (Raiders - 5 years/$44.5M) and G/T Orlando Franklin (Chargers - 5 years/$36.5M) are already stricken off the wish list, receiving huge contract offers before Free Agency has officially begun.
If they can create additional salary cap space, the Rams will likely be able to afford the following: re-signing 2 or 3 of their own Free Agents, a moderately priced Free Agent from another team (ex. Stefen Wisniewski), plus a veteran Free Agent backup QB.