Salary cap space
As of March 17, 2021, the Rams are projected to be $29,957,852 over the 2021 cap.
The Rams rolled over $5.7 million in 2020 cap space.
March 10 update: The salary cap has been set at $182.5 million.
January 31 update: Well, the Rams certainly made a splash to open their offseason. Although the trade won’t become official until March, LA has traded Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford. Per Over The Cap, the Rams will carry $22,200,000 in dead money with the trade and clear $12,750,000 in cap space. Once the trade is made official, Stafford will carry a 2021 cap charge of $20 million and a 2022 cap charge of $23 million. The Lions will carry $19,000,000 in dead money following the trade.
The Los Angeles Rams finished the regular season with a solid 10-6 record, capturing second place in the NFC West and punching their ticket to the playoffs with NFC’s sixth seed. As I write this, they’re gearing up for a difficult Divisional matchup on the road against the Packers. It’s not quite time to start thinking about the offseason yet, but soon enough, the Rams are going to have to start making some critical decisions about their roster for 2021.
The Rams will start the offseason on the wrong side of the salary cap, more than $22 million in the red. Only four players currently on the roster are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this year. That means the team can keep its core players on both sides of the ball, it’ll also make for some tough decisions aimed at getting their cap number in shape.
The NFL powered through its 2020 season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The league played without fans in most stadiums, and limited fans in a handful of locations. The decrease in gate revenue is going to result in a decrease in money shared between the 32 teams. This in turn means the salary cap is expected to decrease. The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a salary cap of no lower than $175 million. The latest report has the number landing between $180 and $181 million, which is a good bit lower than the $198.2 million of this past season. This will result in some tough choices for many teams.
All salary cap information below comes courtesy of the NFLPA Public Salary Cap Report.
The two players commanding the largest salaries and taking up the most cap space are quarterback Jared Goff and all-universe pass rusher Aaron Donald. Together, they account for a whopping 34.3 percent of the team’s cap space this season. Donald’s due $19,982,000 in guaranteed salary this year with a $27,892,000 cap hit. Goff gets $27,500,000 in salary and carries a $34,625,000 cap hit. Together with Jalen Ramsey’s cap hit of $22.5 million, three players take up more than 46 percent of the Rams’ total cap space in 2021; that’s usually a recipe for disaster down the road.
Reworking a player’s hefty contract can sometimes be a fraught proposition, kicking the can down the road and forcing a cap recking at a later date. But in the case of Donald, the Rams would be foolish to do anything but keep in him as a cornerstone of the franchise for as long as he’s healthy. Therefore, restructuring his contract is one way the team could free up some money this year. He’s only 29, and his current deal dates back to 2018. This is the last year he’s got any guaranteed salary due, making it that much easier to handle a reworked deal.
Despite real questions about Goff’s ability to be a franchise quarterback, his contract means the Rams are stuck with him for at least another two seasons. In 2019, before the season started, the Rams made a VERY questionable decision to give Goff a $134 million contract extension. They could have waited. He was still on his team-friendly rookie deal, and a fifth-year option would have kept him on that contract through 2022. They could trade him, but it’s going to be hard to find a partner willing to take on that contract. Cutting him this year would leave the team with more than $100 million in dead money over the next four seasons. Beyond that, they don’t have a ready replacement for him.
The Rams could look at their wide receiver duo of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to save some money. Woods has a cap hit of $13,875,00 and Kupp’s sits at $14.5 million. It seems counterintuitive to get rid of either player, especially since they’re stuck with a mediocre quarterback, but trading one would free up anywhere from $10 million to close to $12 million. Then, the team could try to find cap space somewhere else to maybe re-sign slot receiver Josh Reynolds, an unrestricted free agent this year.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth has said that he plans to return in 2021, despite turning 40 next December. His contract carries an $11.1 million cap hit. The team could save as much as $7 million in cap space by designating him with a post-June 1 cut, but there again, they have to figure out how to replace a player who’s essential in making Goff somewhat serviceable.
The Rams have shown themselves to be capable cap ninjas in the past. We’ll see if they can slice and dice their way out of cap hell this year.