The Los Angeles Rams enter the 2022 season with having “manipulated” the salary cap in order to reassemble its championship team. After a trade for a former Ram, a pair of free agency signings, and a trio of massive extensions, the Rams still have $7.4 million in cap space. But behind the curtain, the future of the team’s salary cap has now been altered.
As it stands based on unofficial salary cap projections, L.A. is $2.6 million over the cap in 2023 and only has $7.9 million in cap space for 2024. The limited space would appear to handcuff the team’s roster construction beyond 2022, but may we consider how general manager Les Snead and front office contract wizard Tony Pastoors will proceed without hesitation?
Here’s how the L.A. Rams could save money over the next two years.
Teams will sometimes “restructure” contracts by turning base salary into a signing bonus because a bonus can be prorated over multiple seasons, whereas a salary is due all in that one year. The Rams have often gone this route, turning their biggest cap hits into signing bonuses, including Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd this year.
- Matthew Stafford, QB (2024)
The Rams won’t be able to effectively reap the benefit of restructuring Stafford’s new deal until 2024. A 2023 restructure would only net $250,000 in 2023 savings. But in 2024, LA stands to save nearly $20 million off of a contract restructure. It would involve a risk of pushing money into 2025 and 2026 with him as an aged 37 and 38 player.
- Jalen Ramsey, CB (2023)
Ramsey has already had his contract restructured once in 2020, and it’s likely the front office comes knocking again after the 2022 season. With a max potential of $12.7 million in savings for 2023, that alone will surely help relieve the LA Rams 2023 cap number and bring it to the black. The move will defer $6.35 million/yr to 2024 and 2025, making his cap numbers are $33.05 mil and $29.05 respectively. It will be a pricey risk-reward maneuver for the future, but it will help maximize LA’s title window while Aaron Donald is under contract.
- Tyler Higbee, TE (2023)
I am not advocating for his move. I believe Higbee is too valuable at $7.7 million to outright release. I would prefer to see two alternatives: 1) LA extend Higbee for two more years lessening his 2023 cap hit, or 2) the Rams trade Higbee (say: Minnesota).
- Tyler Hall, CB (2023)
Hall isn’t a lock to make the roster in 2023, let alone 2022. His $1 million salary in 2023 is more than the investments LA made during the draft weekend (Decobie Durant & Derion Kendrick & Troy Hill trade).
- Rob Havenstein, OT
Considering Havenstein will be 31 years old after the 2022 season and already having a ring with LA, he might set his sights on cashing in on the best free agency offer. Doing so would likely see the RT collect a 3-4 year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $10+ million.
~ 2024 4th round compensatory pick
- A’Shawn Robinson, iDL
A’Shawn has been a huge presence to the LA defensive front, but Bobby Brown III will likely be called upon to fill his shoes. On the open market, the 6th year pro would likely collect $8 million annually.
~ 2024 5th round compensatory pick
- Troy Hill, CB (2023)
It would be somewhat cruel for Troy Hill to switch locations for the 3rd time in 3 years, but he will likely have suitors as versatile secondary piece. His free agent market might be capped in the $4-6 million range.
~ 7th round compensatory pick
- David Edwards, OG (2023)
If I was LA, I would try to extend him now before the 2022 season and then use Edwards at RT after Havenstein leaves. It would certainly be an advantageous team play. However, the offensive line is prepared for Edwards departure. Anchrum, Bruss, and Shelton can all play guard. Edwards will be a 25 year old guard on the open market, who has the ability to play left or right tackle. His value probably stands at $7-12 million per year.
~ 3rd/4th round compensatory pick
- Thomas Brown, Coach (2023)
The former RB/now TE coach will likely be targeted in 2023 head coaching interviews. Based on the McVay connection and the success of those other coaches (Taylor, Staley, LaFleur), I think we will see another offensive coach poached next offseason.
~ 3rd round 2023 and 2024 compensatory picks
- Raheem Morris, Coach (2023)
Shockingly not hired in the 2022 offseason, Morris is likely one of the top targets for next year’s crop. A versatile coach in the league, he will surely land a position this upcoming season.
~ 3rd round 2023 and 2024 compensatory picks
Additions through the draft (via compensatory) seem to be the main strategy. If the salary cap grows at an estimated $15-20 million per year, then Los Angeles will find some relief in two years. Restructures, outside of Stafford in 2024, are not necessarily in the cards. There are not any options in terms of young players, with large deals, worth diverting salary. Higbee has flexibility in being a trade/extension/release candidate. Handing out an extension before the season starts looks unlikely, but we could see a 2023 free agency approach in which the Rams try to retain one or two of their own via a reduced cap hit in year 1 and large cap hits in subsequent years. They would likely get to choose one of: Havenstein, Robinson, or Edwards.
Below, would be the team’s draft capital with the proceeding moves.
- 1st Rounders
- 2nd Rounders
- 3rd Rounders
3 (Original + Comp. + Comp.)
- 4th Rounders
2 (Comp. + Comp.)
- 5th Rounders
- 6th Rounders
3 (Original + Titans/Falcons + Packers)
- 7th Rounders
When you have Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson II, Joe Noteboom, Aaron Donald, Bobby Wagner, and Jalen Ramsey under contract, there isn’t a lot of financial spending to be done.