We don't yet know exactly what the 2014 NFL salary cap ceiling is going to be. Many anticipate that it will land in the range of $126 million but some suspect it could actually finish in the range of $128 million.
The St. Louis Rams are like the rest of their NFL brethren in that they don't share their exact salary cap situation with the rest of the league. But we can at least piece together enough information to have a good handle on what a team is dealing with as we head toward the start of free agency and the new league year on March 11.
It's no secret that the Rams aren't exactly flush with salary cap space. In the past two years, they've spent big dollars on free agents such as tackle Jake Long, tight end Jared Cook and cornerback Cortland Finnegan along with fairly pricey deals for players like center Scott Wells and defensive tackle Kendall Langford. Add lucrative contract extensions for middle linebacker James Laurinaitis and defensive end Chris Long and you have the recipe of a team that's up against it when it comes to the salary cap.
As of Tuesday, ESPN's Roster Management system has the Rams carrying 51 players counting a total of $125, 548, 963 in salary cap charges for 2014. Only Dallas, Pittsburgh and Seattle currently have more money tied up in 2014 salaries. Depending on where the cap number comes in for next season, that means the Rams could have less than half a million dollars available or closer to $2.5 million.
Either way, the Rams are going to have to create salary cap space in the near future to be able to do anything this offseason. With two first-round picks, the Rams' rookie salary allotment will require a bit more than usual pending trade downs and the team would like to retain offensive lineman Rodger Saffold or add help elsewhere if that proves untenable.
At first glance, the Rams' lack of salary cap space would seem a tough obstacle to improving the roster but Rams COO Kevin Demoff has done a good job managing the cap by front-loading contracts to give the team flexibility when it comes to the salary cap. The team could release or re-work contracts for Finnegan, Wells and/or guard Harvey Dahl and instantly create between $12 and $15 million in space.
If the Rams needed further assistance, they could also choose to move some numbers around on Laurinaitis and Long's deals. They've already tweaked Long's contract a couple times to create room and could do so again if needed.