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A View on How the Rams Will Deal with the Salary Cap Issues in 2012

Football Outsiders is out and doing Division by Division looks at the salary cap and how it affects each team around the league.

To see about the entire NFC West – click HERE

Here’s the Rams breakdown, and some of the background on how they think things will play out for the team.

Estimated Cap Space: $3-6 million

Unrestricted Free Agents (21): Billy Bajema, Jacob Bell, James Butler, Chris Chamberlain, Mark Clayton, Kellen Clemens, A.J. Feeley, Gary Gibson, Adam Goldberg, Al Harris, Rod Hood, Donnie Jones, Bryan Kehl, Justin King, Mark LeVoir, Brandon Lloyd, Jerious Norwood, Brady Poppinga, Stephen Spach, Cadillac Williams, Tony Wragge

Restricted Free Agents (2): C.J. Ah You, Danny Amendola

C.J. Ah You has spent the last three seasons as a rotational defensive lineman and could receive an original-round tender worth $1.26 million to compete for a roster spot in a fourth season. Danny Amendola led the Rams in receiving in 2010 before missing all but one game in 2011 with an arm injury. The former undrafted free agent can expect an “upgraded” restricted free agent tender to either second- ($1.927) or first-round level ($2.742 million).

Franchise Tag Candidate: This is not meant as a slight to the 21 unrestricted free agents on the Rams’ roster, but the Rams do not have a lot of cap space and none of their players are worth of the franchise tag. Even if the club could squeeze it in.

The best fit for the tag would be Brandon Lloyd, who ranked second in DYAR and sixth in DVOA in 2010, but was 67th and 71st in those metrics in 2011. Franchising Lloyd would cost nearly $9.5 million in guaranteed base salary, which is a bit steep for a soon-to-be 31-year-old receiver who has been frustratingly inconsistent in offenses coordinated by someone other than Josh McDaniels.

Potential Cap Casualties/Restructures: In writings prior to taking over the “Under the Cap” here at Football Outsiders, I referred to the costs associated with having top-5 picks in the old collective bargaining agreement as the “Loser’s Tax.” That tax is apparent in 2012 as Chris Long (No. 2 overall in 2008), Jason Smith (No. 2 overall in 2009) and Sam Bradford (No. 1 overall in 2010) account for $47.42 million of the Rams’ current cap number. Long is entering the final year of his contract and his $18.558 million number could be reduced with a long-term extension. Entering his third season, Bradford’s contract is eligible to be restructured for the first time, and it could be reworked to lower his $15.595 million cap number. Smith has been unable to stay healthy and was moved from left to right tackle with the addition of Rodger Saffold in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Smith is due $10 million in base salary in 2012, $1 million of which is fully guaranteed. Releasing Smith would save less than $2.5 million in cap space, which isn’t all that much. A restructure seem a more likely path, as it’s hard to envision a scenario where Smith is allowed an eight-figure base salary. The Rams could restructure the contract of running back Steven Jackson, who is due $7 million in base salary with a cap number approaching $9 million. 30-year-old cornerback Ronald Bartell spent most of 2011 on injured reserve and is scheduled to make $6.2 million in the final year of his contract. The Rams would save $6.25 million in cap room by releasing Bartell and $2.8 million of cap room by releasing center Jason Brown.

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