The NFL is setting the 2021 salary cap a $182.5 million, a decrease of roughly $17 million from last season, and that puts the LA Rams at $33.1 million over with a deadline approaching to get their large contracts and cap casualties settled prior to the new league year on March 17. That should not be an issue for Les Snead to really worry over and despite some pleas from the public to show their math for how that will happen prior to the salary cap being announced, the Rams have held steady since acquiring Matthew Stafford in late January.
That pause on transactions should get moving now that we know what the actual 2021 salary cap will be.
Teams are now being informed: The cap is $182.5M.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 10, 2021
According to OvertheCap.com, the Rams have $186 million in active cap spending for next season, but their $34 million dead money hit is the second-largest in the NFL behind the Philadelphia Eagles ($40 million) and is considerably more than the third-place Carolina Panthers ($22.6 million). That includes $22 million of dead money for Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff, a phrase that I think I just typed out for the first time.
So the dead money on Goff alone would rank as nearly the third-biggest dead money hit for any team in the league. But salary cap matters are really only the concern of two parties: NFL front office executives specifically hired for their accounting skills to make these things work every year without fail and the fans who like playing the GM fantasy role, which is perfectly understandable. I like playing the GM fantasy role too.
However, the Rams will be fine when it comes to the 2021 salary cap. All we know for sure is that because they’ve already spent big money to acquire talented players, they won’t have much money left to acquire talented players at this moment. And even having known for months that LA would be in “cap hell” this year, they still made the biggest trade acquisition of 2021.
How will those NFL accountants on the Rams help them get under $187 million? (Teams also carry rollover cap space from 2020, bumping the Rams up from $182.5 million to $187 million.) We know that LA is projected to be $33.1 million over right now, but they also need to get far enough under $187 million to also sign their rookies and make other key roster moves between now and September.
According to OtC, restructuring Aaron Donald could save $15 million.
Restructuring Jalen Ramsey could save $14 million.
By converting salary to bonuses for two players assured to be on the team for at least a few more years (restructuring doesn’t “save” teams money, it just pushes cap hits to future years), the Rams will be only $4 million away from the cap mark they need to hit.
Restructuring Matthew Stafford could save $13.3 million, another player guaranteed to be on the roster for the next two years. Though the team could also choose to extend Stafford.
Those three moves alone would get the Rams under the 2021 cap and even give them enough room to sign a rookie class that probably won’t feature a first rounder.
Additionally, we know that the Rams are probably considering what to do with the contracts of Michael Brockers and/or A’Shawn Robinson, moves that could save them between $3.7 million and $6.5 million if they opted to release either with a post-June 1 designation. We can’t say for sure yet if the Rams agree with Andrew Whitworth in that they’d like to have him back next season at $11.1 million. And if the Rams choose not to make a major move, like trading Cooper Kupp or Robert Woods, they could still ask either of their receivers to restructure their deals.
Restructuring Woods could save $10 million.
Restructuring Kupp could save $8.6 million.
There’s no shortage of funds that could become available to the Rams and now they know how much they need to cut. Wanting the Rams to show their cards early didn’t make much sense, because Snead might be trying to work out a puzzle based on the exact amount that LA needs between now and March 17. It would not have been wise for the Rams to restructure contracts nonchalantly, as that is what leads to $34 million in dead money.
The Rams do need to start showing their math, and they will. I believe we will see three or four restructures and one or two releases and then the next round of work begins: Finding the players who will begin taking that saved money back.