General manager Les Snead and the St. Louis Rams brass have their work cut out for them in the upcoming NFL free agency period. In order to get anything noteworthy accomplished in the way of signing free agents this offseason, they will likely have to create cap space.
ESPN’s John Clayton reported that the Rams have $1.8 million in cap room, but Steven Jackson’s contract situation all but balloons that number to $10.7 million. ESPN NFC West blogger Mike Sando noted:
The Rams re-worked Steven Jackson’s contract to move nearly $1.9 million in cap charges from 2013 into 2012. The change means Jackson’s contract will not count against the cap in 2013 if the team releases him or if Jackson exercises an option to become a free agent.
In essence, the cap charge change should have St. Louis looking at $3.7 million to work with, growing to $10.7 million once Jackson’s $7 million base salary comes off the books (via Spotrac). Of course, a portion of that released money would go toward re-signing the franchise’s leading rusher if he returns to the team.
Along with many others, Rams senior writer Nick Wagoner believes that “tackle Wayne Hunter and safety Quintin Mikell could be asked to figure out more cost-effective contract options,” as well. If the Rams are relieved of those two guys’ base salaries, their cap situation could open up to about $20.7 million.
Take Titus Young’s 2013 salary out of that, and STL could have as much as $20.1 million to distribute.
To determine where St. Louis can best spend its money, the Rams will need to decide which of their position groups most needs help. If a position has an “A” grade, the Rams don’t need to dip into the free-agent—or NFL draft—pool for help: It’s a unit of strength.
If the position grades out as a “B,” little assistance is needed: A bargain-type player or depth help would suffice. A “C” position group could certainly stand to be addressed, but the team would be fine without a talent upgrade there. It wouldn’t be hurt by a continuation of the current production at the position.
A “D” grade signifies that a position needs attention: It was problematic for the team in 2012 and will continue to be without a lot of help. When the production from a unit is glaringly unacceptable, it receives an “F” grade: a signal that the Rams simply won’t be legitimately competitive until the situation is rectified.
All following cap figures, unless otherwise specified, are from Spotrac.com.