The St. Louis Rams possess three of the first 39 picks in the 2012 NFL Draft, and that is important this year, in part, because the Rams do not currently have a vast amount of cap room available for the 2012 free agency period that begins in earnest on March 13.
Furthermore, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports is reporting that the 2012 salary cap is likely to mirror the 2011 salary cap almost perfectly:
@JayGlazer: Hearing that when the league sets the salary cap on Monday it'll be right around $120.6 million.
If that indeed ends up being the 2012 NFL salary cap number, it will only constitute a $225,000 dollar increase over last year's figure of $120.375 million.
Why is the cap basically remaining flat when it normally increases substantially?
According to Howard Balzer of 101sports.com, part of the new NFL collective bargaining agreement formed last summer determined that the cap number would essentially remain static for two years.
However, it is anticipated that there will be a significant boost in 2013.
Most teams, though, (including the Rams) will have a higher cap than the base number would indicate, due in part to teams being able to carry over cap dollars that they did not use in 2011.
All in all, Balzer projects that St. Louis will have $5.3 million in additional cap room over the final cap number and have about $12 to $13 million in cap room.
Turf Show Times reported recently that that Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff told them on February 17 that he expects to have approximately $10 million in cap space for the 2012 campaign, so it looks like a final cap room number in the "approximate" range of $10 to $12 million looks accurate.
Expect the Rams to clear some additional space before all is said and done, though.
According to Balzer in the above-linked article, St. Louis would save $4 million by cutting defensive tackle Fred Robbins and $2.8 million by releasing center Jason Brown.
I expect Robbins to be cut. Brown could go either way.
It has been reported the 2009 No. 2 pick Jason Smith faces a pay cut if he desires to remain in St. Louis, although Rams general manger Les Snead has indicated recently that they would like to have him back, according to this piece from stltoday.com.
If Robbins is axed and Smith takes a pay cut, that could push the Rams to well over $15 million in cap room.
Even that number, however, would be a relatively modest amount, so the Rams will have to make wise use of their free-agent dollars.
It is also not out of the question that some restructuring could be done to free up a little more room.
One theoretical option to additional space includes extending the contract of defensive end Chris Long (who is in the final year of his deal).
As it stands now, Long will count $18.3 million dollars against the 2012 cap. A new or extended deal for Long could add a few million in cap savings, too.
Whatever the eventual number is, the Rams do have at least some room to go after a few key players who could make a major impact in 2012 and beyond.
It is important to note that the Rams may not have the flexibility to pursue all of these guys, but of the following, I would like to see them target at least two or three of them.
The following slides detail the players alluded to above that I would like to see St. Louis pursue aggressively.