Much has been made about the Los Angeles Rams’ lack of cap space entering the offseason, and deservedly so. The Rams currently sit at 23rd in cap space available for 2020, with the figure landing at only $25.4m in space per Over The Cap.
The issue isn’t necessarily the available money, it’s the amount of upcoming free agents — important ones, too — that are slated to reach the market in March.
Here are some of the names on that list:
2020 LA Rams Free Agents
|Malcolm Brown||RB||UFA||Re-signed, 2-yr $3.25m|
|Tyler Higbee||TE||UFA||Re-signed, 4 yr $31m|
|Troy Hill||CB||UFA||Re-signed, 2-yr $8.25m|
|Dante Fowler, Jr.||EDGE||UFA|
With so many important players, starters, and key role-players, the Rams will need to shed excess cap in hopes of being able to retain as much talent as possible. There are a handful of moves the Rams can make, though basically none come without any potential downsides.
Let’s take a look at the four moves I’ve identified that make the most sense:
Release S Eric Weddle
The Rams signed Weddle to a two-year $10.5m contract in last year’s free agency period, though the structure of the contract — as well as the draft selection of S Taylor Rapp — all but guaranteed his tenure would only last one season in horns. The Rams can cut the 35-year-old, saving $4.75 with only a $500k dead hit, ultimately freeing $4.25m in cap space. The team has both Rapp and budding star John Johnson III at the safety position, all but ensuring the release of Weddle.
Restructure QB Jared Goff’s contract
This move would be a strange one to make as the Rams just made Goff one of the highest paid players in NFL history in September of this year, but the choice to restructure his contract would free up $16.8m in immediate cap space. Now, a restructure doesn’t really mean much other than taking a players signing/roster bonus and then spreading that amount over the remaining years of the contract. The move would create a ton of space in the immediate future, but it would also increase the price of every remaining year of Goff’s contract by $3.35m. Looking at the current status of the team, it makes sense to restructure. Looking at the season Goff just had (a really bad one), you begin to wonder whether it would be wise to invest more into Goff in future seasons.
Trade RB Todd Gurley
I’m sure this move won’t sit well with fans, but paying a running back is almost never a wise idea, and thus far, all recent large-money extensions to running backs have proven that statement true. Ezekiel Elliott disappointed after cashing in, and David Johnson, Todd Gurley, and Le’Veon Bell’s seasons could be considered disastrous. All three players are top-4 paid running backs (Gurley, Bell, Johnson is the order), yet all three guys finished with less than 860 rushing yards and all averaged less than 3.9-yards-per-carry. Gurley had the best season of the trio, but he also plays on a far more talented team than the other two guys. Not only that, but we still aren’t sure on the status of Gurley’s knee and his future longevity, which is why a potential divorce could be the outcome.
Trading Gurley would free only $4.65m and would leave $12.6m in cap space, but the Rams are right up against the wall, which makes any potential savings crucial. Trading Gurley won’t be an easy feat though, as potential suitors will need to take on a highly-paid runner with a potentially bum knee. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Rams ultimately attached an asset with Gurley to entice a potential suitor to pull the trigger on a deal, though that remains to be seen.
Extend CB Jalen Ramsey
This move seems like a slam dunk, but conventional wisdom is never easy to peg when evaluating General Manager Les Snead. After trading a boatload of assets to acquire Ramsey, the Rams stated they had interest in re-signing him immediately, and they should. You don’t move two first-round picks and more to acquire a 24-year-old superstar without having the intentions to lock him up for a long time.
Ramsey will be the richest cornerback in NFL history, rightfully so. A potential deal will surely top $16m average-per-year (APY) and $50m+ in guaranteed money. The best part about extending the star cornerback is that it would actually create cap space in the immediate future, somewhere in the range of $3m (depending on how the contract is structured). This move seems like a certainty.
These four moves would ultimately free just under $30m in cap space, increasing the available cap space from $25.4m (current) to $54.1m.
The only remaining moves that may be considered and could free up some money:
Trading RT Rob Havenstein
Releasing EDGE Clay Matthews
Trading QB Jared Goff
Trading TE Tyler Higbee
None of these are likely in my opinion, which is why I left them in this category and not in the one above. Some of the moves free up a decent chunk of change (all but Matthews), but they don’t seem like wise ideas for different ideas. Higbee recently emerged into a dangerous weapon and someone Goff is clearly comfortable with. Goff — for better or worse — is who this regime chose to marry themselves to when they handed him the massive extension, ultimately ruling out the possibility of a trade. The release of Matthews is a possibility, but if the Rams do lose Dante Fowler Jr. in free agency, they likely won’t want to lose both starting edge rushers. Lastly, trading Havenstein is a sure-fire possibility in the minds of some (it even crossed my mind), but the idea of losing three starting offensive lineman — and both bookend tackles — in one offseason is incredibly dangerous and frightening, and for that reason I’d keep Big Hav. Not only that, but Hav has put together some borderline elite play as a tackle and has a very fair contract, which proves just how much of an asset he is at this point in time.
These are the moves the Rams can elect to perform if they choose to open a significant amount of immediate cap space. With a bevy of starters slated to enter free agency, the decision may have already been made for the Rams, whether they like it or not.
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