Easy money? How the Rams can save

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Following up on our previous item about NFC West salary-cap situations, here's a look at how the Rams could create additional cap space heading into free agency:

Current cap room: $13.9 million

Projected functional cap room for free agency: $4 million

How the Rams could create more room: The team would save $8 million by releasing Torry Holt and $6 million by releasing Orlando Pace. Those players' contracts count a combined $19.2 million against the 2009 cap if they remain on the roster, compared to $5.2 million if they are released.

The Rams might have a hard time replacing either player in the short term, but inflated salaries could influence the team's thinking as general manager Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo remake the roster.

The chart shows the difference between how much some higher-priced players' contracts count against the salary cap depending on roster status.

How can a player's contract consume cap space even after the player is released? Through signing bonuses.

Example: The Rams paid a $15 million signing bonus to Pace in 2005. League rules allowed them to spread the cap consequences over five years, at $3 million per year. The final installment counts against the Rams' cap in 2009, even if Pace departs. Pace would earn another $6 million, mostly in base salary, if he remained with the team.

I included quarterback Marc Bulger on the chart to illustrate this aspect of cap management. Though Bulger stands to earn $6.5 million in base salary this season, the team would save only $500,000 against the 2009 cap by releasing him.

Update: The Rams guaranteed $3 million of Bulger's salary. As ar esult, Bulger's contract would count $11 million against he cap if he were released, not $8 million.