A quick glance at the Los Angeles Rams’ page on OvertheCap.com would lead you to believe that the team could have over $7 million in cap space next year. But a deeper look reveals that because there are only 38 players accounted for that add up to those liabilities, it means that the Rams still must find a way to pay an entire 53-man roster plus practice squad and L.A.’s “real” cap space is more like $3.4 million in the red.
Every year, teams are projected to be over the cap. Every year, all those teams find ways to save money and usually without looking dramatically different. Even the Saints at $67.9 million over and the Bucs at $55.5 million over, will get under the cap. What can the Rams do and what should the Rams avoid?
Rams Key Free Agents
G David Edwards
S Taylor Rapp
S Nick Scott
CB David Long
RB Darrell Henderson
DT Greg Gaines
ST/WR Brandon Powell
K Matt Gay
P Riley Dixon
G Bobby Evans
There are more, but already you can see that the Rams have a number of starters who either need to be retained or replaced. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want the Rams to re-sign Taylor Rapp, for example, because L.A. needs to have a safety on the roster in his place anyway and that player will cost money regardless.
Even if the Rams had “$10 million in cap space” when free agency started, they couldn’t afford to pay an entire roster without making some moves with regards to the players currently signed through 2023.
Which Moves Should Rams Make? Possibilities:
Re-structure Aaron Donald
Donald has a $26 million cap hit in 2023, but the Rams can save a maximum of $20.5 million by restructuring his contract. The downside to that is that if the Rams wanted to restructure that deal by converting base salary into a signing bonus, it increases his 2024 cap hit from $34 million to $41 million and it essentially locks him in at that number. Donald already has a $29 million cap hit in 2025 and that’s in spite of him NOT BEING SIGNED for 2025. That’s just the result of void years being added to his recent re-negotiation.
The team would incur a greater cap hit if they had to convert his 2023 base salary into a signing bonus spread out over those seasons.
Re-structure Jalen Ramsey
Ramsey has a $25.2 million cap hit but the Rams can save a maximum of $10.6 million by restructuring. But that would essentially guarantee Ramsey’s place on the roster in 2024 at a cap hit of $26 million.
Re-structure Cooper Kupp
Kupp has a $15 million base salary next year and a $5 million roster bonus. L.A. could save a max of $14.1 million if they re-structure, nearly locking in Kupp at $31 million in 2024.
Cut Leonard Floyd, post June 1
The Rams have options to re-structure Floyd too, but are we past that point now? Cutting Floyd without a June 1 designation saves the Rams a total of $3 million, but doing so after that deadline brings the number up to $15.5 million. Floyd also has a $2 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year, so the Rams would need to make the move before then most likely. Post-June 1 cut explanations can be found here.
Trade Allen Robinson
Is it even possible? A team trading for Robinson would be on the hook for his $10 million base salary, depending how much the Rams are willing to pay. It’s not a very big cap hit for a starting wideout, Marquez Valdes-Scantling will make $11 million next year, Tim Patrick is set to make $11.5 million, Russell Gage is at $12.1 million. But is Robinson even that good? The Rams would still have dead money on the books for Robinson but they must consider possibilities if there’s a team out there willing to take Robinson from them.
Extend Tyler Higbee
The Rams can save $3.8 million by restructuring Higbee but he’s only signed through 2023 and that dead money would be added to the books in the future. Instead, extend Higbee to bring down his 2023 cap hit.
Trade/Release Joe Noteboom
It hasn’t been the year that Noteboom or the Rams had hoped for and it would be unfortunate for his L.A. career to end with an injury. But Noteboom has a $5 million roster bonus and a $8.5 million base salary. Maybe L.A. could find a team willing to trade for a semi-cheap offensive tackle, and a deal done early in the year would save the Rams $7.5 million. A post-June 1 release would save the team $8.5 million next season.
Cut Bobby Wagner
The five-year, $50 million contract was never going to end up going five years and $50 million. Wagner has a $7.5 million base salary next season and the team would save $4.5 million by making a move early in the year, as Wagner has a $3.5 million bonus due.
Cut Brian Allen
The team would save $2.6 million by releasing Allen.
Additionally, the Rams should save about $1.4 million when they part with Cam Akers, but again, they will still need to pay a different running back and that doesn’t leave much savings, even if it’s a rookie.
What the Rams should do:
I believe Kupp is the safest bet to be healthy and productive and valuable beyond next season. Donald too, but Donald is more expensive and two years older. This move would save up to $14.1 million against the cap, moving that earlier figure of $3.3 million in the red to being roughly $10.8 million in the black.
Release Leonard Floyd, post-June 1
It is past the time to move on already. Floyd has zero sacks and only four pressures in six games this year. Because the Rams have prorated bonus payments of $6.5 million in 2023 and 2024, plus $3 million void payments in 2025 and 2026, the team only saves $3 million by outright releasing him. Giving him the post-June 1 designation pushes some of those payments down the line (it doesn’t mean that the Rams just don’t have to account for that dead money, it just helps the team more immediately) but that might be a sacrifice that Snead has to make.
In any case, I don’t see Floyd staying on the roster at $22 million next season. He’s not that kind of an impact player. A post-June 1 designation saves $15.5 million of cap room next year and that would give the Rams to roughly $26.3 in cap space. Or they could go the other route, save $3 million, and be at $13.8 million in cap space. Either one is understandable.
Extend Tyler Higbee
Without any other solid options at tight end on the roster, the Rams could bring down Higbee’s $6.25 million base salary by giving him a new contract. That could save them at least a few million more.
As for the Allen Robinson situation, I believe L.A. is stuck with him now and must try to make it work. Besides, Snead would just be out there again trying to find another star receiver to replace Robinson, the Rams don’t tend to stop trying to add great receivers.
Trade Joe Noteboom
With A.J. Jackson playing well enough at left tackle, the Rams might find it is already time to move on from Noteboom. Despite his injury, left tackle is at such a premium that there should be interested parties if the Rams are willing to trade him as he only has an $8.5 million base salary. That would make him one of the cheapest veteran tackles in the league, assuming that there are teams that believe he’s a starter. However, if that interest does not exist, the Rams may need to just release him to avoid the $5 million roster bonus.
Re-evaluate the Bobby Wagner situation
I don’t think there’s enough intel yet to make a full commitment either way with Wagner. But he will be 33 next year and there’s savings no matter what route the Rams choose to go.
What the Rams should not do:
Re-structure Donald, Ramsey, Floyd
It was re-structuring Floyd once already that made his savings so inconsiderable next year without a post-June 1 designation. It’s about time for the Rams to have some “outs” with these expensive deals and Matthew Stafford’s biggest cap hits are coming after 2023.
Re-structuring Kupp, releasing Floyd, and parting with Noteboom should do enough to give Snead the wiggle room that the Rams will need.