After the 2021 season, the Los Angeles Rams rewarded two starting offensive linemen with contract extensions. They signed left tackle Joe Noteboom to a three-year, $40 million deal, committing to him as their replacement for Andrew Whitworth. They also gave center Brian Allen a three-year, $18 million extension after he put together a strong season in 2021.
Neither player started more than seven games in the first year of their extensions, battling through injuries during a difficult 2022 season for the entire team.
This past season wasn’t much better, with Allen getting beaten out by Coleman Shelton at center and Noteboom making just eight starts at left tackle, right guard and even right tackle. He was a valuable depth piece, but that’s not what the Rams paid him to be.
Entering this offseason, the Rams have big decisions to make with both players. Alaric Jackson, Coleman Shelton and Kevin Dotson will all be free agents, but does the front office and coaching staff feel confident enough in Allen or Noteboom to go back to them as starters? Or, will the Rams move on from them after they both failed to meet the expectations that their lucrative contracts came with?
According to Over The Cap, Noteboom has a cap hit of $20 million in 2024, the fourth-largest on the team. Allen’s cap hit is $8.05 million, seventh-highest on the roster. This is the result of the Rams restructuring the contracts of both players last offseason in an attempt to free up some cap space in 2023, though it came at the expense of giving each player larger cap hits in 2024 and 2025.
Cutting Noteboom before June 1 isn’t a great idea. That would come with a dead cap charge of $15 million, netting a savings of only $5 million. It’s more feasible to cut Allen before June 1, which would save the Rams $4.9 million after a dead cap hit of $3.15 million.
As post-June 1 cuts, the Rams could save $15 million with Noteboom and $7 million with Allen. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t see the cap savings of those moves until after June 1, but it would be more financially responsible than taking on $18.15 million with pre-June 1 cuts.
Trading either player doesn’t save the Rams any additional cap space compared to cutting them before June 1. The savings with Noteboom would only be $5 million and trading Allen would save $4.9 million.
There are a few different ways the Rams can play this with Noteboom and Allen. Jackson should be back as a restricted free agent, but if Dotson prices himself out of the Rams’ budget, might they just plug Noteboom in at right guard and hope he can stay healthy? The same goes for Shelton, who will be an unrestricted free agent and should have a decent market after playing well in 2023. If he leaves, will the Rams feel good enough about Allen to give him a third opportunity to start?
No matter what, it’s not a great situation to be in. The Rams will either be taking a risk with injury-prone players, paying them a lot to be backups or cutting them for an insignificant savings before June 1.
There’s been no indication yet of which way the front office will go, but it’s a decision that will need to be made at some point for both players.