Each year, NFL teams are faced with questions on how to improve their roster by acquiring new players and getting rid of old misfits. The Los Angeles Rams are no different this year as they try to figure out how to retain a number of their own free agents while fitting it all into the NFL’s salary cap.
Using Spotrac’s salary projections for the 2018 Rams, the team currently has about $45m in space for 2018 and $74m in 2019 that is subject to change as they add and subtract players. Is that enough to retain and sign all of the Rams wants for next year? Possibly.
But if they’re looking to add cap space, here are players the Rams can cut and what it would net in savings*.
* I’m not a CPA...
WR Tavon Austin
Cap Hit: $8M
Dead Cap: $5M
Austin is probably the leading vote getter among fans to get the axe. This one is fairly simple because of his guaranteed roster bonus. Rams save $3 million with a clean cut. Is Tavon worth another flyer in McVay’s high flying offense at this price? I think his 317 yards from scrimmage and 1 TD in 2017 answers this question definitively, His 13 receptions for 47 yards for an entire season is hard to justify.
ILB Mark Barron
Cap Hit: $10M
Dead Cap: $3M
Barron inked a new deal just a few years ago after he switched from safety to linebacker and carries a hefty cap hit in relation to other ILBs around the league. Barron has a $2M roster bonus due on March 16th that would adjust the savings to $5M if they wait that long.
Barron has been one of the Rams more consistent defenders but unfortunately carries a cap hit that doesn’t match production for the position. Its an easy way to create a chunk of cap space while trying to find other cheaper alternatives more suited to play inside. But its always risky to cut a starting player who still has some juice left.
EDGE Robert Quinn
Cap Hit: $12.4M
Dead Cap: $955K
Quinn offers the biggest potential savings among all Rams players. Like Barron, Quinn has a roster bonus of $1.1m that kicks in on March 16th. His cap hit would leave Quinn around the 12th highest EDGE player in 2018 in terms of cap hit.
Quinn’s injury history has left him handicapped from his 19.0 sack 2013 season. Paying that much money for a guy coming off an 8.5 sack season while is too much to swallow for some. He’s also still 27-years old and has 7.0 sacks in his last 7 games played, including the playoffs.
CB Kayvon Webster
Cap Hit: $3.6M
Dead Cap: $500K
Webster’s roster bonus is already payed out so this one is also quite simple. Webster outplayed the first year of his two-year deal in the eyes of many but suffered an unfortunate injury late in the season, rupturing his Achilles.
On the surface some fans may not understand cutting a CB when you have two other CBs hitting FA. Many players struggle mightily returning from ruptured Achilles injuries. With a likely 7-9 month recovery just to get back on the field and even more time to reclaim performance standards, can the Rams afford to gamble on Webster and miss out on a decent chunk of change? It may be cruel, but it may also be worth thinking about.
DL Ethan Westbrooks
Cap Hit: $2M
Dead Cap: $250K
Westbrooks has one year left on a deal he’s outperformed on snaps alone. This season, Westbrooks filled in at NT down the stretch and played better than expected. Whether he moves forward as NT seems doubtful but every defense needs versatile rotational players like Ethan.
As seems obvious, the Rams could decide to grab a true NT leaving Westbrooks to his old super sub role. This would be the only move that actually leave me shocked but this is an exercise in how to save money and Westbrooks offers a partially logical $1.75M.
Total Potential Savings: $26.25M
Just the four mentioned players could net the Rams an additional $26+ M to add to their $45M to re-sign and extend their own players. Other than Austin, the other three players were starters that the Rams will need to heavily weigh if the savings are worth the roster hole to fill.
The Rams can add even more cap space to those potential moves if they decide to move on from other depth players on the roster that are already on team friendly contracts but above the rookie minimums that often come with late draft picks and UDFAs. They ultimately won’t net too much money as you have to replace them with, at best, slightly cheaper options but nevertheless:
LB Bryce Hager ($705K), QB Brandon Allen ($630K), LB Carlos Thompson ($630K), and S Isaiah Johnson ($705K) are examples of active 53-man roster members that played sparingly, if at all, and have no dead cap. There’s another potential $2+ M if the Rams absolutely need the most cap space possible.
So this is how the Rams can save money. If the team decides that they cannot live without all of their long list of impending free agents, there is potentially $70+ M in 2018 at their disposal a figure that seems impossible to reach the ceiling of even if the Rams do hand out an extension to DT Aaron Donald.
As with every offseason, hard decisions are on the horizon. This next Rams’ offseason offers the opportunity at considerably more cap space than is being led on.