The "Shutdown Countdown" is going full steam ahead. In addition to previewing each team, "Shutdown Corner" will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the St. Louis Rams.
2013 Adjusted Cap Number: $122.166 million (fourth-lowest in the NFL)
2013 Cap Room Remaining: $214,088 (least amount in the NFL, as of July 15)
Best Bargain: The Rams selected defensive end Robert Quinn with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Over the last two seasons, Quinn has 15.5 sacks in 31 games, including 10.5 sacks in 2012, his first season in a full-time starting role. Thanks to the 2011 collective bargaining agreement sacrificing rookie compensation, Quinn was an instant bargain when he signed a fully guaranteed, four-year contract worth $9,436,053. Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who was the No. 14 overall pick in the 2010 draft, has earned $7.625 million in the first two seasons of a five-year contract that featured $12.32 million in guaranteed money and has a maximum value of $21.1 million. Quinn has earned $6.5 million over his first two seasons in the NFL and will earn just under $3 million over the next two seasons, including $1,232,823 in base salary in 2013, which ranks 39th among NFL defensive ends, slightly ahead of Rams backup defensive end Eugene Sims ($1,201,021, courtesy of the Rams' penchant for palindromes).
Potential Camp Cap Casualty: The Rams enter training camp with very little cap space, but there are enough high-priced veterans whose deals can be renegotiated. Cortland Finnegan, Sam Bradford, Scott Wells and Kendall Langford have high base salaries that are mostly-to-fully guaranteed and could be converted to signing bonuses to provide the club with short-term cap relief.
One player who fits the standard cap casualty profile (older veteran, coming off an injury, high base salary and large cap savings) is guard Harvey Dahl, who turned 32 in June and was placed on injured reserve in Week 16 of last season with a biceps injury. Dahl is due $4 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2013, the third season of a four-year, $16 million contract that was structured in a "pay as you go" fashion. Dahl received no signing bonus, so there would be no "dead" money to accelerate onto the Rams' cap if Dahl were released this summer. The Rams invested a fourth-round pick in Barrett Jones, who could play guard, and have cheaper options in Chris Williams, Brandon Washington and Rokevious Watkins, a 2012 fifth-round pick who will open the season on the suspended list.
Looming Contract Issues: Sam Bradford is coming off the best of his three seasons in the NFL, completing 59.5 percent of his 551 pass attempts for 3,702 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a 82.6 passer rating. According to Football Outsiders' advanced metrics, Bradford was 16th in both passing DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) and DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), one spot ahead of a guy named Joe Flacco, who received a $120.6 million contract extension a few months back. Between not having to learn a new offensive system, the continued development of Brian Quick and Chris Givens, and the offseason additions of Jared Cook, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, Bradford is primed for an even better season in 2013.
After this season, Bradford will have two years (and $27 million) remaining on his rookie contract, which was the same number of years Matthew Stafford had remaining on his rookie deal when the Detroit Lions signed the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 NFL draft to a three-year, $53 million extension on July 10. The Lions used the high base salaries in Stafford's contract to create cap space in 2011 and 2012, renegotiations that resulted in soaring cap numbers in 2013 and 2014 that helped bring about the lucrative extension. The Rams have not done that with Bradford, but his base salary has escalated to $14.015 million and he has a $17.61 million cap hit in 2014, which means the timing might be right for an extension.
Long-Term Cash/Cap Outlook: As of July 15, 2013, the Rams have just under $125 million in salary cap commitments for the 2014 season with an additional $3 million in base salary escalators available to be earned during the 2013 season. In terms of what side of the ball their 2014 cap dollars are being spent, the Rams are incredibly balanced. According to salary cap/contract data maintained by "Shutdown Corner", 48.6 percent of the Rams' 2014 cap commitments are scheduled to be spent on the offensive side of the ball, while 49.3 percent are ticketed towards the defense. The remaining 2.1 percent is on the specialists. While cap situations are always fluid, the -0.7 percent variance between the offense and defense is currently the closest in the league.
Previous salary cap outlooks
32. Oakland Raiders
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
30. Arizona Cardinals
29. Buffalo Bills
28. Cleveland Browns
27. Tennessee Titans
26. Kansas City Chiefs
25. New York Jets
24. San Diego Chargers
23. Philadelphia Eagles
22. Miami Dolphins