The Los Angeles Rams have a predicament when it comes to their salary cap this offseason. As it currently stands, general manager Les Snead and Tony Pastoors have a lot of work ahead of them. Spotrac has already updated their cap numbers to include the Goff/Stafford trade, and as the Rams sit on February 2, 2021, they are $-35M in the hole. While that looks daunting, it is actually very possible for the Rams to get under the cap and have some cash to spend during free agency.
However, due the number of big money long term deals done the past few years, and owner Stan Kroenke is not afraid to spend big money to keep his roster improving, there are multiple options for re-structures/extensions to help reduce this cap number.
Option #1: Re-structure Base Salaries of Donald, Woods and Ramsey
Combined, these three players incur about $50M in base salaries. That is a LOT. The good news? Donald’s contract expires in 2025, Woods’ in 2026, and Ramsey’s in 2027. Therefore, spreading out base salaries over the remainder of their deals (as pro-rated signing bonuses) should not create too much “cap hell” down the road. The Los Angeles Rams would simply need to pay more upfront cash to the players as a result.
Using Spotrac’s Salary Cap manager, we can see that performing a Base Salary Restructure on these 3 players results in a savings of $36.46M on the 2021 cap:
This of course is about the most AGGRESSIVE, and costly (in terms of cash paid from Kroenke to the players). But, it shows how the Los Angeles Rams could quickly get to cap compliance by the league year, once the Goff/Stafford trade is official. They would then need to ensure enough cap space by June/July to sign their rookie draft class and any complimentary free agents.
Option #2: Re-structure Donald/Woods, Trade Havenstein, Extend/Re-structure Stafford
The second option is to try to limit the immediate damage to Kroenke’s wallet, and restructure only two of the players from Option #1 (Donald/Woods, who have shown an interest in doing what’s best for the team if it means winning a championship). Doing so will save $23.25M on the cap, which leaves the Rams about $-12M in the hole. That leaves a few (potentially tough) decisions for the front office in terms of creating additional space.
Right tackle Rob Havenstein improved from his 2019 season, but has a $8.3M cap figure in 2021. His deal expires in 2023, so it likely would not make much sense to re-structure his deal. Tackle Bobby Evans showed some promise in limited duty last year. Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer also worked his magic with a young group. I’m not worried about Evans, Tremayne Anchrum, or swing tackle Joe Noteboom getting a look at RT this offseason. The Rams could either release Havenstein (not advised), or trade him to an OL-needy team for a mid-round draft pick. My vote is the latter.
Trading Havenstein saves an additional $5.17M on the cap, bringing the number down to $-7M in cap space. Now, the Rams can address QB Matthew Stafford’s contract, which has 2 years (and $43M) remaining from its 2017 deal.
Stafford’s 2021 cap figure sits at $20M, and could be easily reduced by extending him through 2024 (age 36 season, and the same year as the Rams’ next 1st round draft pick). Or, they could simply agree to a joint restructure once the deal becomes official. From OTC’s Jason Fitzgerald, on how the Rams could get it done:
I would expect the Rams to restructure Stafford’s contract as soon as the trade is official (or get the two sides for cap purposes to agree to a joint restructure of both using guaranteed roster bonuses that come in after the trade) by prorating at a minimum his $10 million roster bonus. If they want to go the full void year route they can reduce Stafford’s cap number to $4.86 million, a $15.14 million savings.
If they in fact go the full void year route, they would be around $8M in cap space and could free up additional space once the league year begins. This option is my personal preference.
Option #3: Re-structure Donald/Whitworth, Re-structure Stafford, Release/Trade Multiple Players
The third option is to restructure Aaron Donald (notice he appears in all of these options due to his extremely large base salary), as well as reduce Andrew Whitworth’s base (signed through 2022) to free up about $18.4M from the cap. Whitworth has indicated that he’d like to keep playing in 2021, and the Rams might approach him first about working the cap to ensure their nucleus stays intact for another playoff run.
Then, the Los Angeles Rams could do something similar to Option #2 and re-structure (or extend) Stafford. In this case, an extension (2-3 years) might make more sense to try to reduce his 2021 cap number to as small as possible. After taking care of Stafford’s 2021 cap hit, let’s assume the Rams are still somewhat in the negative, and need to free up at least another $5-7M to be in compliance. Who are some candidates to get moved/released?
We already mentioned Havenstein in Option #2, so we’ll look elsewhere on the roster to determine who makes the most financial sense for the Rams to move. The following will likely be considered:
- P Johnny Hekker – I love Hekk, he’s been absolutely amazing for the Rams for almost a decade and is one of the best to ever do it. However, he has a $4.25M cap hit in 2021 and the Rams just hired a new ST coach. It’s possible they may try to move him, ask him to re-structure, or release him to save a few million dollars.
- C Brian Allen – he stepped in at center in 2019 and did ok for the most part, but it’s clear the Rams did not consider him the center of the future. He was inactive most weeks this past season. His cap hit is ~$1M.
- WR Nsimba Webster – Nsimba will likely not be back in 2020 after an extended look at KR/PR. His cap hit is $850k.
- DE Justin Lawler – hasn’t seen a snap since 2019 after suffering several injuries. Hits cap hit is $920k.
What Would You Do?
Let’s hear it in the comments how you would fix the Rams’ salary cap situation.