The Los Angeles Rams have signed wide receiver Robert Woods to a four-year, high-priced extension amid a well-known salary cap crunch, and not even the team’s Twitter account knows how it’s going to pull off the payroll balancing act.
The 28-year-old Woods has been a highly productive receiver ever since landing back in Southern California, where he grew up and attended USC. In his first three seasons with the Rams, Woods has averaged 77.3 catches, 1,044 receiving yards and 4.3 touchdowns per year.
Woods’ deal is the second big deal the Rams have given to a wide receiver in as many weeks. Cooper Kupp, with whom Woods tops the depth chart, signed a three-year, $48 million deal last week, and it might be time to wonder how the Rams exactly plan to get around the salary cap.
What are the Rams’ salary cap plans?
If the Rams have had a strategy since reaching Super Bowl LIII, it’s been to lock up their stars on big-time deals and worry about the rest later.
Add those deals to contracts for quarterback Jared Goff and defensive tackle Aaron Donald — which will combine to take up more than $62 million in cap space next season — and the team could have some interesting decisions to make down the line. They already jettisoned running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Brandon Cooks last offseason.
Before Woods’ deal, OverTheCap projected the Rams to have -$14.7 million in cap space next year. Negative cap space. That might be why the team’s Twitter account went ahead and tried to stop any questions about cap space after announcing Woods.
Friendly reminder that we don’t have the answers to your salary cap questions. We just run the social media here. 😩— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 18, 2020
This all might sound bleak for the Rams, especially when the NFL is potentially facing a smaller salary cap next season, but they have enough co-habitants in this situation that it might be time to start wondering if they know something we don’t.
The Rams’ -$14.7 million cap space actually ranks only fifth-worst in the NFL per OverTheCap, with the New Orleans Saints topping all teams at a jaw-dropping -$79 million.
The Kansas City Chiefs were at one point reported to have only $177 (not million — one hundred and seventy seven dollars) in cap space this year, and then they signed Patrick Mahomes, Chris Jones and Travis Kelce to big deals, the former the largest contract in NFL history.
Teams have seemingly dozens of ways of getting around the cap, be it extensions, restructures, cuts or some other kind of magic. Next year could be particularly dire with a minimum cap of only $175 million, but these teams know what they’re doing much more often than not.
What about Bears WR Allen Robinson?
One person who might find Woods’ new contract mighty interesting is disgruntled Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson, who reportedly requested a trade after contract negotiations went nowhere.
Robinson has said he wants to stay with the Bears long-term, but has also wiped all mention of the team from his social media and clearly isn’t giving the team a discount. Robinson’s two seasons in Chicago have been roughly similar to Woods’ Rams tenure — 76.5 catches, 950.5 yards, 5.5 touchdowns per year in a significantly worse offense — and he’s more than a year younger than his Rams counterpart.
DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen and Amari Cooper have recently set the market for a top wide receiver at $20 million or more, and Woods’ deal — $16.25 million per year — is another sign that if the Bears want to keep their star receiver, they’re going to have to pay up.
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