With training camp beginning on Monday, it's time to look at some Rams-related items of note, and take a peek at what lies ahead. Let's breathe some life into the slow part of the offseason!
The Rams' Preseason Salary Cap Outlook
In the hours before the regular season begins on September 10, the NFL's salary cap undergo's changes to its rules and accounting procedures. In the offseason, only the top-51 contracts and dead money count against a teams' salary cap. Before the regular season begins, ALL contractual obligations and dead money begin to count against the salary cap. Teams must set aside enough salary cap space to account for the increase in roster size (51 to 53). In addition, teams must allocate salary cap space for the payment of practice squad salaries and for setting up a reserve to pay for players signed to replace those on Injured Reserve during the season.
In each of the past three years, the Rams were forced to create salary cap space at the last minute to satisfy all of the above-mentioned requirements. Although the damage inflicted on the Rams' overall salary cap structure wasn't significant in any of the three years, it's not an ideal way to manage the salary cap on an ongoing basis.
The Rams' current salary cap position suggests the team will not have to scramble this year to fulfil their salary cap obligations. The Rams currently have $6,648,852 in available salary cap space. The season-opening reserve, practice squad salaries, and increased roster size cap hits (51-53) total an estimated $5 million, leaving $1.65 million (notionally) in "surplus" salary cap space.
St. Louis Rams Training Camp Roster & Depth Chart
Since the release of WR Bud Sasser on June 4, the Rams had been carrying only 89 players on their 90-man offseason roster. On July 9, the Rams reached the 90-man limit by selecting OT Isaiah Battle in the NFL Supplemental Draft. Barring any unforeseen circumstances or additional player movement, the roster and depth chart should remain unchanged heading into training camp (the rookies report on July 27).
|C||Barrett Jones||Tim Barnes||Demetrius Rhaney||David Wang|
|RG||Jamon Brown||Garrett Reynolds||Brandon Washington|
|LG||Rodger Saffold||Cody Wichmann||Travis Bond|
|RT||Rob Havenstein||Andrew Donnal|
|LT||Greg Robinson||Isaiah Battle||Steven Baker||Darrell Williams|
|TE||Lance Kendricks||Cory Harkey||Brad Smelley||Zach Laskey|
|TE||Jared Cook||Alex Bayer||Justice Cunningham|
|WR||Brian Quick||Damian Williams||Devon Wylie||Tyler Slavin|
|WR||Tavon Austin||Chris Givens||Emory Blake||Isiah Ferguson|
|WR||Kenny Britt||Stedman Bailey||Bradley Marquez||Daniel Rodriguez|
|RB||Tre Mason||Benny Cunningham||Chase Reynolds||Malcolm Brown|
|RB||Todd Gurley||Isaiah Pead||Trey Watts||Terrence Franks|
|QB||Nick Foles||Austin Davis||Case Keenum||Sean Mannion|
|P||John Hekker||Michael Palardy|
|LS||Jake McQuaide||Tyler Ott|
|DT||Aaron Donald||Nick Fairley|
|DT||Michael Brockers||Louis Trinca-Pasat||Doug Worthington|
|DE||Chris Long||William Hayes||Martin Ifedi||Matt Longacre|
|DE||Robert Quinn||Eugene Sims||Ethan Westbrooks|
|MLB||James Laurinaitis||Daren Bates||Bryce Hager|
|OLB||Alec Ogletree||Marshall McFadden||Korey Toomer||Keshaun Malone|
|OLB||Akeem Ayers||Jo-Lonn Dunbar||Cameron Lynch|
|CB||Janoris Jenkins||Marcus Roberson||Brandon McGee||Imoan Claiborne|
|CB||Trumaine Johnson||E.J. Gaines||Lamarcus Joyner||Montell Garner|
|SS||T.J. McDonald||Mark Barron||Maurice Alexander||Jacob Hagen|
|FS||Rodney McLeod||Cody Davis||Christian Bryant||Jay Hughes|
2016 Rams Free Agents
Training camp is right around the corner. Many roster battles will be fought right through to the end of August. Starters will be determined, the 53-man roster will flesh itself out and 10 players will find themselves on the Rams' practice squad. The Rams could have a whopping 21 players eligible for Free Agency in 2016. How much of an impact will that have on the composition of this years final roster and practice squad? Will the Rams keep certain players (or stock certain positions) in anticipation of Free Agent losses?
The accompanying chart presents the 21 players eligible for Free Agency in 2016:
Position Player FA Status QB Nick Foles UFA QB Austin Davis RFA QB Case Keenum RFA RB Benny Cunningham RFA RB Isaiah Pead UFA RB Chase Reynolds RFA TE Cory Harkey RFA WR Brian Quick UFA WR Chris Givens UFA C Tim Barnes UFA K Greg Zuerlein UFA DT Nick Fairley UFA DE Eugene Sims UFA DE William Hayes UFA OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar UFA ILB Daren Bates RFA CB Janoris Jenkins UFA CB Trumaine Johnson UFA SS Mark Barron UFA FS Rodney McLeod RFA FS Cody Davis RFA
The Canadian Football League
Being a proud Canadian and all, I thought it might be appropriate to give football played in the great white north, namely the CFL, a little plug. Given the dearth of football south of the border at this time of the year, the CFL provides an entertaining alternative for fans clamoring for pigskin action. The CFL has already begun its regular season. No, it's not NFL-calibre football. Hell, it's not even the calibre of football found in many American major college programs. But it sure is fun to watch, and it's pretty wide open football: our playing fields are 10 yards longer and more than 10 yards wider, plus there are only three downs in the CFL (compared to 4 in the NFL).
The CFL has a rich history, with many players using the Canadian game as a springboard to success in the NFL. Among the more notable CFL to NFL players: Rams coach (and 49er QB) Jeff Garcia, QB Joe Kapp, QB Warren Moon, WR "Rocket" Ismail, QB Joe Theismann, DE Cameron Wake and QB Doug Flutie.
Battle Creates More Battles
With 15 players vying for positions on the offensive line, the upcoming roster battles figured to be quite intense. The Rams ratcheted up the intensity a notch by adding a 16th player to the equation, selecting OT Isaiah Battle in the 2015 NFL Supplementary Draft. Now the team has quite the conundrum. How many offensive linemen will the Rams carry on the final 53-man roster? If they keep 10, how will that affect other position groups (like the secondary or offensive backfield) and the special teams units? If they only keep 9 (or fewer), could one of their rookie draft selections be snatched off the practice squad by another team?
Until the addition of Isaiah Battle, I believed the Rams would carry 9 offensive linemen on the roster. Now I believe they could carry up to 10 on the roster. The Rams will keep 2 center's on the final 53 (Tim Barnes and Barrett Jones). Greg Robinson, Rodger Saffold and Garrett Reynolds are virtual locks. Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown and Andrew Donnal will make the roster by virtue of their 2015 draft status. The frontrunners for the other two positions will likely be Battle and 6th round pick Cody Wichmann.
Training Camp Jargon
Nothing gives me the red ass more than the use of "camp fodder" or "camp body" to describe (mostly young) players heading to training camps, who have little or no chance to make an NFL roster or practice squad. I consider those expressions to be derogatory in nature.
These young roster hopefuls should be respected and applauded, for both their dedication to the game and for having the courage to pursue their dreams and aspirations. Every year, tens of thousands play football on some level in the United States. Only 2,880 players will be entering NFL training camps this month. Just being invited to an NFL training camp is a great achievement.
UDFA Signing Bonuses
Not a year goes by without the Rams signing UDFA's that end up making the roster or practice squad. Who are the UDFA's with the best chance to make the team this year? The ones with the largest signing bonuses are usually a good indicator. The four largest signing bonuses paid to Rams UDFA's last year: Ethan Westbrooks ($20,000), WR Austin Franklin ($17,500 - was released), Marcus Roberson ($15,000) and Alex Bayer ($10,000). The three highest signing bonuses paid this year: DT Louis Trinca-Pasat ($15,000 plus $10,000 base salary guaranteed), RB Malcolm Brown ($8,000) and OT Darrell Williams ($7,500).
Ranking NFL Quarterbacks
How many of the NFL's top QB's will the Rams face in the 2015 regular season? I've ranked who I believe are the top 15 QB's in the league for 2015. The Rams play against 5 of them (6 games) this season: Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson (twice), Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford. Can the Rams win at least 4 of those 6 games?
Rank Quarterback Team 1 Aaron Rodgers Green Bay 2 Tom Brady New England 3 Peyton Manning Denver 4 Drew Brees New Orleans 5 Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh 6 Andrew Luck Indianapolis 7 Russell Wilson Seattle 8 Philip Rivers San Diego 9 Tony Romo Dallas 10 Joe Flacco Baltimore 11 Matt Ryan Atlanta 12 Eli Manning NY Giants 13 Matthew Stafford Detroit 14 Cam Newton Carolina 15 Ryan Tannehill Miami
Long before the arrival of the internet (and social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram) athletes like Muhammad Ali had already elevated the time-honored tradition of trash-talking to an art form. Today's athletes, particularly NFL players, could learn a thing or two from the master himself. Why say it in 140 characters or less, when you can give it true poetic justice instead?
"Floats like a butterfly...stings like a bee...he forces a fumble...must be Ogletree. (Dubs)"
The Who: Odds & Sods - Long Live Rock