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Should Rams restructure contracts of Stafford, Donald, or Kupp to save cap?

Rams have contract decisions to consider with Aaron Donald, Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams faced difficult contractual decisions in 2023 and not only did they manage to survive the fallout, Sean McVay coached them into the playoffs and a top-5 offense in the second half of the season. Now that the season is over, the Rams have more financial decisions to make and specifically with their big-3 stars:

Should the L.A. Rams restructure Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, and/or Cooper Kupp to save money now but pay these over-30 NFL stars more money later?

2024 salary cap projects $41.3 million in cap space and $25.8 million in “effective” cap space for 2024. That ranks 12th in the NFL.

But with free agents like Kevin Dotson, Ahkello Witherspoon, Carson Wentz, Demarcus Robinson, Jordan Fuller, and John Johnson, the number could evaporate quickly, not to mention L.A.’s probable desire to add more marquee talent.

Les Snead must be itching to do that after he was hamstrung from making moves last year. If the Rams want to create between $10-$50 million in additional space there’s opportunities to do that...but not without impacting 2025 and beyond.

Matthew Stafford

Stafford has a $31 million base salary next season, but the Rams could turn that into a signing bonus and save up to $19.8 million in 2024 cap space by restructuring. Though Stafford reportedly rejected the Rams advances to change his contract last year, they do not have to get his permission to restructure his deal. They can do that any time they want to do that.

What it would do, however, is change Stafford’s 2025 cap hit from $50 million to $60 million. He will be 37 in 2025.

Aaron Donald

Donald has a $34.1 million cap hit next season, when he will be 33.

The Rams can convert his $10 million salary into a signing bonus and save up to $13.6 million against the cap, at least according to OvertheCap. However, Donald is entering the last year of his contract and only has void years left beyond 2024. That means he will be a free agent in 2025 and the Rams can’t give him the franchise tag. It’s hard to imagine that Donald will play anywhere else and we’re not sure yet what his plans for the future even are.

Donald says he didn’t contemplate retirement after last season, but where is his head for next season and beyond?

Cooper Kupp

Kupp has a $29.8 million cap hit in 2024, but the team can save up to $12.5 million with a restructure. However, did Kupp play well enough this past season—or was he healthy enough—for the team to risk tying themselves to the 31-year-old receiver for additional years? A restructure now would increase his 2025 cap hit to $36 million.

The Rams will not cut Kupp this year because it is financially impossible due to the restructure last year. It’s possible he says his body isn’t in it for another round of football, who knows? Trading him isn’t feasible because of his age and the wear and tear and his $20 million guaranteed salary.

But a restructure seems unwise and unlikely.

What will the Rams do?

The most likely move, if the Rams need one, is to restructure Matthew Stafford for up to $20 million in cap savings. Though his $60 million cap hit in 2025 would be extraordinary, it’s not even quite the highest in the NFL anymore and a quarterback is the one position where it’s worth it.

The team might also look into extending Aaron Donald in order to bring down his cap hit.

As for Kupp, they might need to just sit on his deal this year and see what happens with him as the offseason progresses. Is his body in it or is he feeling like he’s given the NFL everything he can give?

The team has other cap savings opportunities, like with Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen, but these are the three contracts that matter the most. I wouldn’t expect all three to be exactly the same and intact when we get to training camp.