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Aaron Donald makes $5 million more than rest of Rams defense combined

Some scary and shocking facts about L.A.’s 2023 cap situation

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

With what the Los Angeles Rams are set to account against the 2023 salary cap in dead money this year—$74 million by last count—they could nearly field half of a football team. In fact, right now there are three teams who are paying less then $74 million for their entire 2023 defenses so far and one of those franchises is the Rams.

The Cardinals and Lions are both paying $70 million for their defenses and although we should expect that number to go up after the draft, it is not likely to take a huge jump. However, the team spending less than that on defense, and I mean A LOT less, is the 2023 Los Angeles Rams.

Right now, Les Snead and Sean McVay and Tony Pastoors and Kevin Demoff’s 2023 defense for players on the roster is set to make...$47.6 million. And $26 million of that belongs to Aaron Donald.

That’s $26 million for AD and $21 million for everyone else on the defense. This is of course assuming—and I don’t know why anyone assumes that this is an inevitability because it still makes no sense—that Donald is still on the team in Week 1.

If the Rams were to trade Donald over the summer they would be taking $13.5 million off of the salary cap by unloading his fully-guaranteed salary and it would leave L.A. with a defense that costs about $25 million to everybody else once we account for draft picks and late free agent signings.

That would mean that the Rams defense costs about one-third the next-cheapest defense in the NFL and it would be about one-fifth what the Dolphins and Jets are paying to their defenses at $120-$125 million.

Even if the Rams keep Donald and add a couple players out of left field, they will come nowhere near being the 31st-ranked defense in terms of 2023 salary. That is only if we’re not counting three players who they cut and two of them have dead money cap hits that almost eclipse the entire non-AD L.A. Rams defense on their own.

Jalen Ramsey and Leonard Floyd both have dead money cap hits between $19 and $19.6 million. Bobby Wagner has a $7.5 million dead money cap hit.

That’s $46.1 million of dead money just for Ramsey, Floyd, and Wagner. If you add $2 million for Troy Hill, that would mean that the Rams are paying more money to not have Ramsey, Floyd, Wagner, and Hill than they’re paying their entire 2023 Rams defense WITH Aaron Donald.

Offensively, the Rams rank 25th in 2023 salary cap at just shy of $95 million. That includes a $27.8 million cap hit for Cooper Kupp and a $20 million cap hit for Matthew Stafford, meaning that those two players alone account for more than 50% of L.A.’s payouts on offense.

In fact, Donald, Kupp, and Stafford account for just under $74 million in 2023 cap hits on a team that has $216.8 million in 2023 liabilities, but $74 million of that is going to dead money. Subtracting the top-three players from salary cap hits for those who are still on the L.A. Rams roster, that would only leave only $47 million on offense and $21 million on defense for $68 million total. (The Rams don’t have any special teamers.)

Donald, Kupp, and Stafford make up more than 50% of the Rams 2023 salary cap for players on the roster.

Dead money payments, including Allen Robinson’s $21.4 million, would on their own account for more money than the entire Rams roster besides their three star players.

If the Rams trade Kupp before the draft and wait to trade Donald and Stafford until after June 1st, they would save $18.4 million against the 2023 salary cap. But they would leave themselves with just three players making more than $3 million next season: Rob Havenstein, Tyler Higbee, and Joe Noteboom.

If they don’t trade those players, they will be asking them to carry the rest of the roster to the playoffs despite being in the back-thirds of their careers, and then they will probably still cut or trade each of them in 2024 anyway.

What will the Rams choose to do? I don’t think that they’re inaction on making any trades since Ramsey is a sign that they’re done making trades. I think it’s a sign that they’re done making trades until it becomes feasible to do so again. We should learn more about those plans during the draft.