LOS ANGELES -- When the Los Angeles Rams and linebacker Bobby Wagner mutually agreed to part ways before the start of the league year, it indicated the start of a change in the organization and perhaps more importantly, why that might be occurring.
That the linebacker was interested in more stability and perhaps a better chance to win than he would have with the Rams is a far cry from a year ago when players saw the Rams as repeat Super Bowl contenders.
Coming off a 5-12 season, there is uncertainty about what the Rams’ roster will look like going into next season. During his end-of-season news conference, Rams general manager Les Snead used the word “remodel” instead of "rebuild" when talking about offseason moves. The Rams are currently more than $14 million over the 2023 salary cap, according to Over the Cap, although when Wagner's release is official, they will save $5 million.
They will have to not only make cuts to get under the cap and make moves in the new league year, but likely have to restructure contracts, too. There isn’t a lot of space to trim fat without a lot of dead money, although the front office has been creative in the past to get under the cap and isn’t afraid to make aggressive moves.
Here’s a look at moves the Rams could make this offseason as part of their “remodel.”
Trading cornerback Jalen Ramsey
While the Rams have gotten calls inquiring about Ramsey’s availability, the team isn’t sure whether it will trade the star cornerback, a team source told ESPN. If Los Angeles does trade him, it would likely take a first-round pick or a package with a second-round pick and more.
Ramsey has three years remaining on the contract extension he signed in 2020 that made him the highest-paid at his position at the time, but there isn’t any guaranteed money remaining for the final two seasons. He was the only player of that Rams’ Super Bowl-winning core group not to sign a contract extension or reworked deal last offseason, although when asked during training camp about the possibility of signing an extension, he said he wasn’t focused on that.
Ramsey currently ranks third among cornerbacks in AAV ($20 million), behind Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander ($21 million) and Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward ($20.1 million).
If the Rams trade Ramsey before June 1, they will take on $19.6 million of dead money on their 2023 salary cap with $5.6 million of cap savings. It would be a move that would be more focused on helping them contend in 2024 because of that high dead money number.
Trading wide receiver Allen Robinson
Robinson is a trade candidate due to a combination of his performance in 2022 and his cap hit of more than $18 million. Trading Robinson would likely require the team to pay a portion of the three-year, $46.5 million contract he signed in March 2022. If the deal gets done before June 1, they’d incur a dead-money hit of $11.2 million.
If the Rams cannot trade Robinson, they may prefer to see how he looks during a full offseason with a healthy Matthew Stafford rather than cutting him. If Los Angeles were to cut Robinson before June 1, they’d take on more than $26 million of dead money.
Ultimately, this is another example of the Rams being open to any way to save money and get some cap flexibility, especially because Robinson has a guaranteed salary of more than $15 million in 2023.
Other money-saving moves
The Rams are expected to release linebacker Leonard Floyd if they fail to find a trade partner. He has a $22 million cap hit in 2023, but if the Rams cut him before June 1, they’d have $19 million of dead money and save just $3 million. If they designate him as a post-June 1 cut, it would cut the dead money to $6.5 million against the 2023 cap and save them $15.5 million of cap space in 2023. However, the cash savings are important too, and because the Rams have to get under the $224.8 million before the start of the 2023 league year on March 15, even a small amount helps.
Again, the Rams’ front office has shown it is willing to be aggressive, even if that means taking on dead money. Snead said in January that the Rams are trying to find a balance of trying to be “very competitive” while also understanding, “there is going to be an element where we're probably going to have to, let's go not press the gas as much, pay a little bit of the debt that we've accumulated.”
Snead did acknowledge that the Rams have been able to be competitive in the past “paying some of that debt as well.” The debt he was referring to is the dead money on the salary cap. In the past, the front office has been aggressive in making moves, even if it does require taking on high dead money hits, including in recent years with quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley.
“So there are ways, not necessarily easy, but this league's not easy, and it's up to us to be creative, innovative and try to figure that out,” Snead said.
The Rams will also look at roster restructures. They have a few candidates, including wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who signed his contract extension in June. According to Over the Cap, restructuring Kupp’s contract would save Los Angeles more than $14 million of cap space.
Restructuring defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s contract could save the Rams quite a bit of cap space, but because of the uncertainty of his future -- he’s talked about retiring -- Los Angeles would prefer to keep his contract clean.