In 10 days, the Rams signed Jalen Ramsey, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods to large contract extensions.
It seems like the Rams turned the salary cap off to sign these three crucial pieces.
How did they do it, and what does that mean for next year’s cap space?
The Rams signed Ramsey to a five year $105 million contract extension on Sept. 9. According to RamsWire, they were $404,000 over the salary cap before Ramsey’s deal. After the deal, they freed up $7.6 million. It’s one of the most impressive moves since Ramsey’s contract makes him the highest-paid cornerback ever.
But how did they free up cap space for Kupp and Woods?
For the 2020 season, Ramsey’s base pay dropped from $13.7 million to $1.2 million. His $25 million signing bonus is prorated for the next five years, only costing the Rams $6.5 million this season.
Next came Kupp and Woods’ extensions. The thing to know about their deals is that their cap hits won’t apply until next season. The wide receiver duo will cost the Rams $3.4 million and $8.2 million, respectively. Kupp is coming off his rookie deal and would have become a free agent next season. Wood would have become a free agent in 2022 and took a $2 million cut for 2020. This creates a massive problem for next season’s salary cap. So what is the financial situation for the Rams?
The salary cap for each team is typically $198.2 million a year. But this year is not a typical year. In July, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a $175 million salary cap in 2021. It will probably remain there for the next three seasons to make up for the losses from the lack of ticket sales due to COVID-19.
Why is this important?
Before Kupp’s deal, the Rams were $6.1 million over the projected salary cap. After Woods’ deal, they are $14.7 million over the salary cap.
If the cap space remained at $198.2 million, they would have had $8.5 million in cap space in 2021.
Now, suppose the losses aren’t as bad as projected in July. In that case, the salary cap for 2021 could go up. However, planning for the worst-case scenario; the salary cap will probably remain at $175 million.
There are teams with worse salary caps next season. The problem is that all but one of the Rams 10 restricted free agents are starters. They also play all over the field, including key pieces like center Austin Blythe, linebacker Leonard Floyd, safety John Johnson, running back Malcolm Brown, wide receiver Josh Reynolds, and tight end Gerald Everett.
The dead money next season is one problem. Regardless if Floyd returns to the team or not, the Rams still owe him $3.3 million next season. The Rams will also pay Todd Gurley the remainder of his contract, an $8.4 million cap hit.
Luckily, if Johnson or Floyd ask for too much, the Rams have the depth to cover their departure. They don’t have depth at the center and guard position, so locking down Blythe should be a top priority.
The next concern is at tight end. Tyler Higbee is the starter, but Everett is an unrestricted free agent, and Johnny Mundt is a restricted free agent in 2021. If they lose both, rookie Brycen Hopkins will move up to the second spot and loss the depth at tight end.
The expectation, not just for the Rams but every team over the reduced salary cap, is a lot of restructured deals and cap friendly extensions. Don’t expect the Rams to make huge splashes in free agency or trades that make a cap hit.
It will be impossible for the Rams to resign everyone. Still, if they could sign Ramsey, Kupp, and Woods while being over the salary cap before their extensions, anything is possible.
Hopefully, they’ll be able to turn the salary cap off again.
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