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Big jump in salary cap would come at good time for Rams

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The NFL hasn't officially announced what the 2016 NFL salary cap will look like, but there have been reports during the past couple of weeks that it will ultimately land in the range of $155 million per team.

That would represent an increase of about $12 million over the 2015 season's $143 million cap. The exact figure won't be revealed until a few days before the start of the new league year on March 9, but it's fair to assume that such a leap is reasonable, considering the continued rise of league revenue.

If the $155 million figure (or close to it) proves accurate, it would be good news for every NFL team, including the Los Angeles Rams. In fact, it would help the Rams in multiple ways entering an offseason with a lot of difficult decisions on the docket.

Keep in mind that the Rams could carry over some cap space from last year to have even more room, so as it stands before they make any roster moves, this team could have more than $40 million to spend.

Here's a look at four ways the rising cap could benefit the Rams this year:

1. Re-signing their own players -- Obviously. The Rams have about a dozen players set to become unrestricted free agents, including key pieces such as cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, safeties Rodney McLeod and Mark Barron and ends William Hayes and Eugene Sims, among others. It also allows them a little more flexibility with restricted free agents they definitely want to keep, such as quarterback Case Keenum. In most offseasons, that would mean coming to grips with the fact that some of those free agents will not return. But the Rams should have enough money to keep the majority of the players they want, as long as they're willing to pay the freight. They could even use the franchise or transition tags if they want. The downside of the cap jump, though, is that every team gets the same money, so they can come with big money to drive up prices on the Rams, too.

2. Not cutting their own players -- In recent years, the Rams have found themselves parting ways with high-priced veterans before free agency begins. Players such as cornerback Cortland Finnegan, tackle Jake Long and center Scott Wells are among the names they've let go to carve out more cap space. The Rams will likely make a move or two before free agency, but those would be as much a result of cutting ties with players who aren't worth the price tag, as it would be just trying to create more cap space. The flip side of that is if there are players whom they aren't sure about keeping or letting go -- players such as receiver Kenny Britt and linebacker Akeem Ayers come to mind -- they could be easier to keep because of the additional cap space.

3. Taking a hit -- There isn't a team in the league that enjoys letting players go and adding dead money to their salary cap. It's also a reality of the league that you're eventually going to have to have money count against your cap for players that aren't on your team. While it's never ideal, it's a lot more palatable when you have a salary cap reaching a record high and a lot of room to spend already. The Rams are going to be looking for quarterbacks this offseason and if they find one, it means they have to delete one. Because keeping Keenum is a priority and Sean Mannion is only entering his second season, that makes Nick Foles the most likely candidate. If the Rams choose to go that way, they would have to eat quite a bit of salary unless they can trade him. It would be a bitter pill to swallow after trading for and signing him last year, but it's a little easier to take with the extra space available.

4. Planning for the future -- The Rams have spent the past four years building the team, mostly through the draft, and they've finally hit on some players worth keeping around for a second contract. That's the good news. The bad news is that many of those players are going to be coming up on free agency soon and the Rams are going to have to pay dearly to keep them. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers is under team control via the fifth-year option, but will need an extension sooner than later and the Rams could theoretically get a big chunk of any guaranteed money out of the way in 2016 by getting something done sooner rather than later. Others, such as Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree, are heading into the final year of their rookie contracts and the Rams will have to make decisions on their fifth-year options this summer as well.