THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – One week from today at 1 p.m. pacific time, the Rams must be under the recently announced salary cap of $182.5 million for the upcoming league year.
As is the case with other NFL teams, that can be accomplished in a variety of ways. General manager Les Snead indicated the goal is to do so by restructuring contracts rather than having to make any trades or cuts.
"(Restructuring deals) would be priority number one," Snead said during a video conference with reporters Wednesday. "That's the process that's occurring (right now)."
In simple terms, a restructure involves converting a portion of a player's salary into a signing bonus, with that bonus prorated over the remaining years of that player's contract. Dividing that money over multiple years affords a team short-term cap relief by pushing the cap hit down the road.
Along those lines, the savings are greater for a team when restructuring veteran players with higher salaries compared to rookies, whose contracts have been on a wage scale since 2011 – which explains why Snead said Wednesday they would not be restructuring rookie deals.
Snead declined to specify which Rams players they were in discussions with on restructuring. However, based on data on salary cap tracking website overthecap.com, defensive lineman Aaron Donald, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, wide receiver Robert Woods, offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth and defensive lineman Michael Brockers could be potential candidates, with all of them being among the Rams' seven-highest 2021 cap hits.
"This has been an ongoing process, probably for the last, right, really getting into the weeds, two or three weeks, trying to work with everyone to come up with win-win solutions for player and club discount," Snead said.
From a team-building philosophy standpoint, Snead said he is comfortable with the Rams' current salary cap situation in light of the transactions, both planned and unplanned, that have contributed to it. Investments into pillars like Donald and Ramsey are a necessary part of keeping open the contending window the team is in.
"I'll say this, I would rather pay Aaron Donald a lot of money, than not have Aaron Donald but have cap space," Snead said.
Franchise tag philosophy
Yesterday's franchise tag deadline passed with the Rams opting not to use it for the third-straight offseason; they haven't used it on a player since safety Lamarcus Joyner in 2018.
The reasons for doing so were both financial and philosophical, according to Snead.
From a financial standpoint, a team can only apply the tag if they have the space for it, and as alluded to above, the Rams are currently over cap limit. The only way they could've used it on a player is by clearing the necessary space to afford it by the deadline.
Philosophically, Snead said the tag can sometimes make it difficult to get long-term deals done.
"You'd love to be able to not utilize the franchise tag and work to get something done long-term, just because usually when there's a franchise tag used, the history says it's very hard to get something done longer-term off of that tag," Snead said.