With the L.A. Rams sitting at 3-5 and the trade deadline set to pass on Tuesday, it seemed a good opportunity to take a peek into the future. When the Rams come back and attempt to reload in 2024, how much salary cap space will they have to work with?
Though numbers for every team will change between now and March, the Rams currently have $56.6 million in projected 2024 cap space and $39.9 million in “effective cap space” according to OvertheCap.com. The $39.9 million is the 13th-most in the NFL next year.
What could Les Snead to create more room?
The Rams would struggle to create more room with any of their big three contracts in Aaron Donald, Matthew Stafford, and Cooper Kupp. At most, the Rams would save $5.66 million by trading Donald, mostly tied to his $10 million base salary and an $11.6 million bonus. However, even if L.A. traded Stafford, they would still lose $6 million in cap space with $55.5 million in dead money left over.
Trading Kupp would only save $2.7 million with $27 million in remaining dead money.
How can the Rams create space to build around those three players if they’re still on the team and healthy for those season? Donald will be 33, Stafford will be 36, and Kupp will be 31.
The obvious moves are cutting Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen, the two offensive linemen who were extended during the 2022 offseason.
Cutting Noteboom saves $5 million and cutting Allen saves $4.9 million. There would be over $18 million in dead money with those two moves, but essentially $10 million in savings. Cutting them after June 1st or with a June 1 designation saves $15 million for Noteboom and $7 million for Allen in the 2024 season, but with less cap space in 2025.
If the Rams cut Noteboom with a June 1 designation and cut Allen outright, that’s basically $20 million in cap space and that would put L.A. around $60 million in effective cap space.
The Rams also don’t have many outgoing free agents who they definitely need to keep. Michael Hoecht, A.J. Jackson, and Jonah Williams are all restricted free agents. Ahkello Witherspoon, Jordan Fuller, and Kevin Dotson are unrestricted free agents who they may want to keep.
How much the Rams must pay their first round pick is a matter of how high the pick ends up being. A top-5 pick could take up over $7 million in cap space as a rookie, which isn’t insignificant.
L.A. has a lot of work left to do with the roster, including an investment in the offensive line. There usually are not many good tackles on the free agent market, so that could be where Snead focuses attention in the draft, but the Rams might want to try and use some of that money to upgrade the center and right guard positions.
There is of course also cornerback, linebacker, defensive line, and safety, to name all of the defensive positions.
The Rams may not win all of their battles in 2023, but they do have some cap space to compete in the free agency wars.