clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What is ‘dead cap’ and how is it affecting the Rams right now?

The Rams will likely add more dead cap in the next few months

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As the Los Angeles Rams and the rest of the NFL enter the offseason to gear up for the 2023-2024 NFL season, many fans will be spending their time sharing their viewpoints and strategies. Most fans love to strategize about who they should sign in free agency and look to select in the NFL Draft. It’s easy to play armchair general manager, but most forget the challenges of cap space.

Signing, release, restructuring, and trading players always carries consequence in the NFL limited salary cap world. Teams and players negotiate and structure deals in a way that try to find a happy medium between honoring the production/future production of a player, while also giving the NFL team cap space flexibility. Fans typically see the largest contract agreements between players and teams, but the guaranteed money is the part that matters at the end of the day. That money is where dead cap comes in…

What is Dead Cap?

Any future, unpaid, guaranteed salary or bonus or any already paid signing bonus that hasn’t yet been allocated to the salary cap becomes the responsibility of the team in the event of a release. With a trade, the future guarantees would simply transfer to the new team, leaving behind just the unallocated bonus cap as the current team’s dead cap. (courtesy of Spotrac)

The following is an example of a player that received a five-year deal worth up to $77.5 million. The deal entails a signing bonus of $20 million and guarantees at signing the player’s 2023 and 2024 salaries ($15.0 million).

Dead Cap - Example

Year Base Salary Signing Workout Cap Hit Dead Cap
Year Base Salary Signing Workout Cap Hit Dead Cap
2023 $5,000,000 $4,000,000 $100,000 $9,100,000 $35,000,000
2024 $10,000,000 $4,000,000 $100,000 $14,100,000 $26,000,000
2025 $12,000,000 $4,000,000 $100,000 $16,100,000 $12,000,000
2026 $15,000,000 $4,000,000 $100,000 $19,100,000 $8,000,000
2027 $15,000,000 $4,000,000 $100,000 $19,100,000 $4,000,000

This contract comes with $35M of dead cap - the total amount guaranteed at signing (signing bonus + 2023 base salary + 2024 base salary). Once the player completes his offseason workout program, that $100,000 bonus will be added to the dead cap total. If we look at the 2024 dead cap initially, it represents four years of signing bonus proration ($4M x 4), plus the not yet paid but fully guaranteed $10M base salary, or $26M total. (courtesy of Spotrac).

With that intel in mind, here are former Rams players that currently dead cap hits going into the 2023 season.

2023 Rams - Dead Cap

Name Dead Cap Number
Name Dead Cap Number
Andrew Whitworth $2,000,000
Jacob Harris $249,672
Terrell Lewis $233,381
Terrell Burgess $208,073
TOTAL $2,923,395

The Rams $2.92 million in dead cap is the 14th best in the NFL. The Super Bowl LVII champion Kansas City Chiefs have the best situation with only $98,328 in dead cap.

Moving Forward...

The Rams have to find ways to get under the cap. They are $15 million over as it stands now. Releasing and trading players does create cap savings, but cap casualty candidates like Leonard Floyd, Jalen Ramsey, Joe Noteboom, Tyler Higbee, and Brian Allen carry significant dead cap charges too...