Rams place OT Long on injured reserve

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams officially placed Jake Long on injured reserve Wednesday afternoon, ending his 2013 season with one game left to play.

In Long's stead, the Rams promoted defensive end Sammy Brown from the practice squad for Sunday's season finale in Seattle.

The Rams will start Rodger Saffold at left tackle against the Seahawks. What happens on the offensive line beyond that remains a major question mark for the rest of the offseason.

Long's injured reserve status does alter things a bit but not as much as some might think. Given Long's recent injury history, the Rams built some protection into the four-year, $34 million contract he signed with the team in March. As part of the deal, Long received a signing bonus of $5 million spread out over the four years of the contract.

For 2014, Long was scheduled to make $8 million in base salary with the $1.25 million from his signing bonus added for a total cap charge of $9.25 million. However, the Rams added a provision to the deal that would guarantee only half of the $8 million base salary if he didn't finish the 2013 season on the roster. Now that he's on injured reserve, Long technically is only guaranteed $4 million.

Considering that Long's torn ACL and MCL will put his availability to start next season healthy in jeopardy, some may wonder whether the Rams would consider a move to save money against the salary cap. The savings wouldn't be as large as many might think.

Although the Rams would owe Long only $4 million guaranteed as base salary, if they were to release him it would accelerate the remainder of his signing bonus on to next year's salary cap. Adding that additional $3.75 million to the $4 million guaranteed would leave the Rams with a cap charge of $7.75 million, only $1.5 million less than the $9.25 million he'd count if were on the roster for all of 2014.

Although Long has struggled with injury issues in recent seasons, he'd played pretty well for the Rams in his first season in St. Louis, especially after the team went to a more run-heavy approach. Subtracting him from an already murky equation for a small cap savings would only add to offseason disruption on the line.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Monday there is hope Long would return sooner than later. Although the Rams have plenty of questions to answer about the offensive line this offseason, it would seem Long isn't one of them.