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St. Louis Rams Complete Salary Cap Update

September 10 marks the beginning of the 2015 NFL regular season. It also marks the transition from offseason to regular season salary cap rules and accounting.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Assessing The Rams' Current Salary Cap Position

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 allowed the team to avoid scrambling to fulfil their salary cap obligations before the deadline. Not a single cap-related move was made by the Rams in the days leading up to the deadline. The Rams currently have $5,763,787 in available salary cap space. The season-opening reserve and practice squad salaries total an estimated $4 million, leaving $1,763,787 million (notionally) in "surplus" salary cap space.

A healthy balance sheet is what you get when the "Financial Foursome" of Sam Bradford, Jake Long, Scott Wells and Kendall Langford are no longer with the team...a savings of close to $31 million in salary cap space.

The Jo-Lonn Dunbar Watch

In September, 2013 (before the start of the NFL season) the Rams released QB Kellen Clemens. After Week 1, the Rams (in a curious move) re-signed Clemens. He completed the remainder of the season with the team. Why did the Rams release Clemens? Andrew Brandt tells us why:

Clemens (as a vested veteran at the time) would have had his entire salary fully guaranteed if he was on the roster for Week 1. Re-signing him after Week 1 was completed allowed the Rams to avoid any salary guarantees. Could this same strategy be in play regards LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, a vested veteran released on the weekend?

The Salary Cap Beyond 2015

The Rams have 37 players under contract for 2016. 18 players on the current roster and reserve lists become Free Agents in March, 2016.

The accompanying chart presents the 18 Rams players whose contracts expire after the 2015 season:

Position Player FA Status
QB Case Keenum RFA
RB Benny Cunningham RFA
RB Isaiah Pead UFA
RB Chase Reynolds RFA
TE Cory Harkey UFA
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 Daren Bates RFA
CB Janoris Jenkins UFA
CB Trumaine Johnson UFA
SS Mark Barron UFA
FS Rodney McLeod UFA
FS Cody Davis RFA

The Rams currently have $110,214,031 in contractual obligations counting against the 2016 salary cap. I expect the league-wide salary cap to rise to $155 million in 2016 (from $143.28 million in 2015). Barring a slew of injuries during the regular season, the Rams should be able to carry over $4 million in unused salary cap space to 2016. Additional expenditures (season-opening reserve, the net cost of signing the rookie class, practice squad salaries and net league adjustments) will total an estimated $10 million. The Rams will have approximately $38.786 million available to re-sign their pending Free Agents (or Free Agents from other teams) in 2016.

Player Contracts & Salary Cap Calculations

The accompanying chart presents the St. Louis Rams’ detailed salary cap position. It includes all current contracts, dead money and a breakdown of all related costs used in determining the Rams’ available salary cap space.

Player Position Base Salary Prorated Bonus Other Bonus Cap Hit Release Savings
Robert Quinn DE 5,555,555 955,355 10,233,201 16,744,111 2,689,489
Chris Long DE 7,000,000 2,500,000 3,000,000 12,500,000 7,500,000
Jared Cook TE 7,000,000 1,300,441 8,300,441 -600,882
Rodger Saffold OG 4,250,000 1,000,000 3,000,000 8,250,000 -2,750,000
Lance Kendricks TE 1,500,000 4,100,000 5,600,000 -1,150,000
Greg Robinson OT 1,387,459 3,449,836 4,837,295 -12,576,967
Nick Fairley DT 2,500,000 2,250,000 4,750,000 3,250,000
William Hayes DE 3,105,000 1,250,000 125,000 4,480,000 3,230,000
Kenny Britt WR 2,550,000 1,750,000 4,300,000 750,000
James Laurinaitis LB 3,625,000 650,000 4,275,000 2,725,000
Nick Foles QB 1,022,000 1,000,000 2,020,000 4,042,000 -7,980,000
Tavon Austin WR 1,564,182 1,913,364 3,477,546 -4,057,137
Michael Brockers DT 1,688,454 1,341,273 3,029,727 0
Akeem Ayers LB 1,250,000 1,671,875 2,921,875 2,921,875
Todd Gurley RB 435,000 2,078,306 2,513,306 -11,309,874
Eugene Sims DE 1,900,000 116,686 375,000 2,391,686 2,275,000
John Hekker P 1,111,111 151,551 1,111,111 2,373,773 -454,655
Mark Barron SS 2,362,704 2,362,704 0
Rodney McLeod FS 2,356,000 2,356,000 2,356,000
Aaron Donald DT 880,750 1,423,000 2,303,750 -5,989,750
Alec Ogletree LB 1,044,092 873,187 1,917,279 -873,187
Brian Quick WR 1,124,536 589,382 1,713,918 1,124,536
Trumaine Johnson CB 1,542,000 167,794 1,709,794 1,542,000
Chris Givens WR 1,542,000 124,257 1,666,257 1,542,000
Janoris Jenkins CB 660,000 517,331 410,498 1,587,829 1,070,498
Cory Harkey TE 1,542,000 1,542,000 1,542,000
Lamarcus Joyner DB 648,644 494,578 1,143,222 -370,512
Garrett Reynolds OL 750,000 249,999 999,999 750,000
Isaiah Pead RB 585,000 344,200 929,200 585,000
Jake McQuaide LS 850,000 850,000 550,000
T.J. McDonald SS 624,426 162,000 786,426 462,426
Stedman Bailey WR 601,234 127,972 729,206 473,262
Greg Zuerlein PK 691,102 32,205 723,307 691,102
Rob Havenstein OT 435,000 286,822 721,822 -1,475,921
Tim Barnes C 660,000 50,017 710,017 660,000
Tre Mason RB 530,035 159,375 689,410 211,285
Maurice Alexander SS 510,000 116,065 626,065 277,870
Jamon Brown OL 435,000 188,704 623,704 -131,112
Sean Mannion QB 435,000 156,449 591,449 -34,347
Benny Cunningham RB 585,000 3,334 588,334 585,000
Case Keenum QB 585,000 585,000 585,000
Cody Davis FS 585,000 585,000 585,000
Chase Reynolds RB 585,000 585,000 585,000
Daren Bates LB 585,000 585,000 585,000
Andrew Donnal OT 435,000 124,234 559,234 62,298
Ethan Westbrooks DL 510,000 6,666 516,666 503,332
Marcus Roberson CB 510,000 5,000 515,000 505,000
Cody Wichmann OG 435,000 22,621 457,621 367,137
Bryce Hager MLB 435,000 18,035 453,035 380,895
Demetrius Rhaney C 435,000 11,474 446,474 412,052
Darrell Williams OT 435,000 2,500 437,500 430,000
Bradley Marquez WR 435,000 2,166 437,166 430,666
Cameron Lynch LB 435,000 666 435,666 433,666
Trey Watts (Susp.) RB 510,000 2,000 -120,000 392,000 388,000
E.J. Gaines (IR) CB 510,000 26,918 -177,000 359,918 456,154
Total Active Contracts 130,008,732
Roster Detail
55 Players Under Contract
53 Players On The Roster
Dead Money
Sam Bradford 3,595,000
Jake Long 2,500,000
Scott Wells 1,000,000
Kendall Langford 1,000,000
Damien Williams 134,118
Jo-Lonn Dunbar 125,521
Barrett Jones 111,300
Zac Stacy 88,250
Isaiah Battle 57,216
Brandon McGee 47,790
Mitchell Van Dyk 45,450
Christian Bryant 36,750
Michael Sam 34,422
Garrett Gilbert 29,010
Bud Sasser 28,434
Martin Ifedi 17,774
Louis Trinca-Pasat 15,000
Austin Franklin 11,667
Phillip Steward 3,334
Alex Bayer 3,333
Malcolm Brown 2,833
Imoan Claiborne 1,666
Aaron Hill 1,334
Abasi Salimu 1,334
Jay Hughes 1,333
Matt Longacre 1,333
Zach Laskey 1,000
Montell Garner 833
Terrence Franks 833
Deantre Harlan 667
Kadeem Jones 667
Jarrid Bryant 667
Jamaine Sherman 667
Isiah Ferguson 333
Jacob Hagen 333
Keshaun Malone 333
Tyler Slavin 333
Total Dead Money 8,900,868
Total Salary Cap Hits
Total Active Contracts 130,008,732
Total Dead Money 8,900,868
2015 Total Salary Cap Hits 138,909,600
Team Salary Cap
2015 Unadjusted Salary Cap 143,280,000
2015 Practice Squad Salaries Paid 0
2015 Salary Cap Rollover 0
2015 Accrued Workout Bonuses 0
2015 Prior Year Adjustments 1,393,387
2015 Adjusted Team Salary Cap 144,673,387
Available Salary Cap Space 5,763,787

Salary Cap Summary

The accompanying chart presents the St. Louis Rams’ salary cap summary. It’s continuously updated to reflect all transactions approved and accounted for by the NFL/NFLPA. The summary includes all figures derived on the "detailed salary cap" chart above, and accounts for all additional costs occurring throughout the remainder of the year. My primary source for contract information is the NFLPA. All totals match those published by the NFLPA.

Consideration $ Amounts
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
Less: All 2015 Contractual Obligations $138,909,600
St. Louis Rams Current Available Salary Cap Space $5,763,787
Less: Additional 2015 Financial Obligations (est.):
Practice Squad Salaries $1,122,000
Season-Opening Reserve $2,878,000
Roster To 53 Players From 51 (September 7) $0
NET Cost Of Signing Rookie Draft Class (Signed June 12) $0
Total 2015 Additional Financial Obligations (est.) $4,000,000
Actual 2015 Available Salary Cap Space $1,763,787

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.

2015 Salary Cap Carryover – The Rams were the only team in the NFL without unused salary cap space to carry over from 2014 to 2015. The Rams did in fact have approximately $700,000 in unused salary cap space at the end of 2014. They chose to net that amount out of year-end salary cap charges related to performance raises and earned incentives.

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 at various times during the year.

Additional Financial Obligations – Are obligations incurred by the Rams at varying times throughout 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.

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.

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

Signing/Prorated vs Other Bonuses - A signing bonus can be defined in its literal sense. The signing bonus is 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.

Accrued Workout Bonuses - Are adjustments charged by the league, reducing a teams available salary cap space. These bonuses reduced the Rams' salary cap space by $506,600 on March 11. The Rams were credited back the entire amount in the first week of September. 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 2015 league year a cap fee of $506,600 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 and performance escalators earned in the previous year.

Unadjusted Salary Cap - The base salary cap amount ($143.28 million in 2015) 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.

Roster Detail - Currently, there are 55 players under contract for 2015. Contracts run concurrently with the league year.

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 as 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.

For salary cap information updated on a weekly basis, please visit my website: Rams In Perspective.