Going into the 2022 offseason, the Los Angeles Rams will be looking to reconstruct their roster in order to run it back and repeat as Super Bowl Champions. Over the next four weeks, I will examine how Les Snead and Sean McVay are likely to fill out their 2022 roster through free agency, including potential cap casualties. For the most part, I will be using OvertheCap.com as a way of keeping track of the team salary cap and individual salaries.
Currently, the Rams have -$21,623,914 in cap space. While the initial number makes it seem discouraging to repeat, Los Angeles has multiple contracts with star playmakers that they can restructure in order to free up a large amount of space fairly quickly. The Rams also have a player that is considering retirement: Andrew Whitworth. His retirement would free up a large amount of cash for L.A. to spend in free agency, potentially on one of their own free agents like Joseph Noteboom, for example.
Below is an overview of a number of restructure options for the Rams heading into the 2022 off-season.
If the Rams were to restructure all seven of these contracts, it would free up $53,118,750 in cap space. HOWEVER, there is the caveat that if you restructure a deal now, it kicks the money down the road (spread evenly into the remaining years). This can be very beneficial if the player is an absolute guarantee to be on the roster for the remainder of his contract (i.e. Aaron Donald). However, it can cause future salary complications if a) a player is not a lock to be on the roster in future years or b) if the player sustains an injury affecting future performance.
So, who should Les Snead & Sean McVay look to restructure out of these options?
- Aaron Donald
- Jalen Ramsey
- Cooper Kupp
That trio (3 of the 4 biggest stars on the team) alone would save $29,663,750 in cap space. This group is also the center core of the Rams moving forward. The defense runs through Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey and the offense runs through Cooper Kupp. With the moves, the Rams would have a cap space of: $08,039,836. That isn’t a lot of flexibility, but it does put the Rams back in the “black”. (Again, this does not include the fluid situation of Andrew Whitworth opting for retirement or his 17th season).
- Leonard Floyd
- Tyler Higbee
Here is where my writing could be subjective, but for the most part I will try to lean towards trends in what the Rams front office would likely decide. With Leonard Floyd having just signed a four-year deal in 2021, the Rams front office likely feels committed to his ability and performance on the field. Floyd also offers a versatile element to the defense as a pass-rusher: 20 sacks in two years) and as an above-average run defender. Those elements likely make the Rams feel comfortable in their investment of Floyd and would be willing to restructure his contract this off-season. Leonard Floyd’s restructure would free an additional $10,310,000 and their 2022 cap space would increase to $18,349,836.
Tyler Higbee’s case to restructure is 50/50 in my opinion. Yes, it opens up some relief for 2022. But is it significant enough? With the amount being just shy of $3 million, the Rams could use that amount or they could not. If it means being able to re-sign one of their own (L.A. will move his money - (i.e. Odell Beckham Jr.). With Higbee and Stafford showing a positive rapport with one another in their first season together, I think the Rams are confident in keeping Higbee through the duration of his contract.
- Robert Woods
- Johnny Hekker
Again, subjective thoughts come into play here. But here’s why I think the Rams avoid restructures with these two players. One, Robert Woods will be coming off an ACL tear and rehab. At age 30, Woods will likely be associated (by the public eye) as having reached the peak of his career and must now find a way to combat a knee injury on top of that. (I personally do not believe this). I actually think that based on Cooper Kupp’s ACL rehabilitation in 2018 and improvements in 2019, Robert Woods can come back just as effective of a wide receiver. But again, this comes down to money at the end of the day. The Rams have invested in the receiver position through the draft - Van Jefferson, TuTu Atwell, Jacob Harris, and Ben Skowronek. The front office could be willing to keep Woods for another year or two and then move on from him. Thus, restructuring does not seem like the option.
Alas, Johnny Hekker. The undrafted punter from 2012 went from potential 2021 training camp release to SB champion. The Rams and Hekker mutually reworked his deal and the Rams promptly traded his competition (Bojorquez) to the Packers for a 2023 7th round pick. But now that the Rams won a Super Bowl, do they feel like they need a costlier punter long term? I believe he’ll return in 2022, but he can opt out and choose free agency in 2023. I think this will happen and it doesn’t make sense for the Rams to defer his money.
Stay tuned next week as we dive into the Rams players entering free agency for the next roster overview!