In the hours before the regular season begins on September 10, the NFL’s salary cap undergo’s changes to its rules and accounting procedures. In the offseason, only the top-51 contracts and dead money count against a teams’ salary cap. Before the regular season begins, ALL contractual obligations and dead money begin to count against the salary cap. Teams must set aside enough salary cap space to account for the increase in roster size (51 to 53). In addition, teams must allocate salary cap space for the payment of practice squad salaries and for setting up a reserve to pay for players signed to replace those on Injured Reserve during the season.
In each of the past three years, the Rams were forced to create salary cap space at the last minute to satisfy all of the above-mentioned requirements. Although the damage inflicted on the Rams’ overall salary cap structure wasn’t significant in any of the three years, it’s not an ideal way to manage the salary cap on an ongoing basis.
The Rams’ current salary cap position allowed the team to avoid scrambling to fulfil their salary cap obligations. Not a single cap-related move was made by the Rams in the days leading up to the deadline. The Rams currently have $5,763,787 in available salary cap space. The season-opening reserve and practice squad salaries total an estimated $4 million, leaving $1,763,787 million (notionally) in “surplus” salary cap space.
A healthy balance sheet is what you get when the “Financial Foursome” of Sam Bradford, Jake Long, Scott Wells and Kendall Langford are no longer with the team…a savings of close to $31 million in salary cap space.
The Jo-Lonn Dunbar Watch
In September, 2013 (before the start of the NFL season) the Rams released QB Kellen Clemens. After Week 1, the Rams (in a curious move) re-signed Clemens. He completed the remainder of the season with the team. Why did the Rams release Clemens? Andrew Brandt tells us why:
Vested veterans (4 years or more) on NE/Pitt trigger salary guarantee if on roster today at 4p et. Rest of league: Saturday at 4p et.
— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) September 9, 2015
Clemens (as a vested veteran at the time) would have had his entire salary fully guaranteed if he was on the roster for Week 1. Re-signing him after Week 1 was completed allowed the Rams to avoid any salary guarantees. Could this same strategy be in play regards LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, a vested veteran released on the weekend?
The Salary Cap Beyond 2015
The Rams have 37 players under contract for 2016. 18 players on the current roster and reserve lists become Free Agents in March, 2016.
The accompanying chart presents the 18 Rams players whose contracts expire after the 2015 season:
The Rams currently have $110,214,031 in contractual obligations counting against the 2016 salary cap. I expect the league-wide salary cap to rise to $155 million in 2016 (from $143.28 million in 2015). Barring a slew of injuries during the regular season, the Rams should be able to carry over $4 million in unused salary cap space to 2016. Additional expenditures (season-opening reserve, the net cost of signing the rookie class, practice squad salaries and net league adjustments) will total an estimated $10 million. The Rams will have approximately $38.786 million available to re-sign their pending Free Agents (or Free Agents from other teams) in 2016.
Player Contracts & Salary Cap Calculations
The accompanying chart presents the St. Louis Rams’ detailed salary cap position. It includes all current contracts, dead money and a breakdown of all related costs used in determining the Rams’ available salary cap space.
|Player||Position||Base Salary||Prorated Bonus||Other Bonus||Cap Hit||Release Savings|
|Available Salary Cap Space||2,007,938|
|Robert Quinn (IR)||DE||5,555,555||955,355||10,233,201||16,744,111||2,689,489|
|Rodger Saffold (IR)||OG||4,250,000||1,000,000||3,000,000||8,250,000||-2,750,000|
|Nick Fairley (IR)||DT||2,500,000||2,250,000||4,750,000||3,250,000|
|Alec Ogletree (IR)||LB||1,044,092||873,187||1,917,279||-873,187|
|T.J. McDonald (IR)||SS||624,426||162,000||786,426||462,426|
|Jamon Brown (IR)||OL||435,000||188,704||623,704||-131,112|
|Stedman Bailey (Res/NFI)||WR||601,234||127,972||-247,567||481,639||331,795|
|Darrell Williams (IR)||OT||435,000||2,500||-47,926||389,324||381,824|
|E.J. Gaines (IR)||CB||510,000||26,918||-177,000||359,918||279,164|
|Isiah Ferguson (IR)||WR||435,000||333||-117,000||318,333||317,333|
|Eric Patterson (IR)||CB||435,000||-332,647||102,353||102,353|
|Doug Worthington (IR)||DT||510,000||-420,000||90,000||90,000|
|Trey Watts (Res/Susp)||RB||510,000||-450,000||60,000||60,000|
|Total Active Contracts||129,688,865|
|74 Players Under Contract|
|53 Players On The Roster|
|8 Players On The Practice Squad|
|11 Players On Injured Reserve|
|1 Player On Reserve Suspended|
|1 Player On Reserve/NFI|
|Mitchell Van Dyk||45,450|
|Total Dead Money||11,179,886|
|Total Salary Cap Hits|
|Total Active Contracts||129,688,865|
|Total Dead Money||11,179,886|
|Practice Squad Salaries||1,249,823|
|Regular Season Adjustments||546,875|
|2015 Total Salary Cap Hits||142,665,449|
|Team Salary Cap|
|2015 Unadjusted Salary Cap||143,280,000|
|2015 Salary Cap Rollover||0|
|2015 Accrued Workout Bonuses||0|
|2015 Prior Year Adjustments||1,393,387|
|2015 Adjusted Team Salary Cap||144,673,387|
Salary Cap Summary
The accompanying chart presents the St. Louis Rams’ salary cap summary. It’s continuously updated to reflect all transactions approved and accounted for by the NFL/NFLPA. The summary includes all figures derived on the “detailed salary cap” chart above, and accounts for all additional costs occurring throughout the remainder of the year. My primary source for contract information is the NFLPA. All totals match those published by the NFLPA.
|Actual 2015 Available Salary Cap Space||2,007,938|
|2015 NFL Salary Cap||143,280,000|
|Plus: Rams 2014 Salary Cap Carryover||0|
|Plus: Rams Net League Adjustments||1,393,387|
|St. Louis Rams Adjusted Team Salary Cap||144,673,387|
|Less: All 2015 Contractual Obligations||142,665,449|
|St. Louis Rams Current Available Salary Cap Space||2,007,938|
|Less: Additional 2015 Financial Obligations (est.):|
|Practice Squad Salaries (Sept.)||0|
|Season-Opening Reserve (Sept.)||0|
|Roster To 53 Players From 51 (September 7)||0|
|NET Cost Of Signing Rookie Draft Class (Signed June 12)||0|
|Total 2015 Additional Financial Obligations (est.)||0|
Terminology And Calculations
2015 NFL Salary Cap – The league-wide salary cap (before adjustments) is $143,280,000 for 2015. In December, the NFL Management Council projected the salary cap to come in at $138.6-$141.8 million. In early January, I predicted the salary cap would rise to $145-$146 million.
2015 Salary Cap Carryover – The Rams were the only team in the NFL without unused salary cap space to carry over from 2014 to 2015. The Rams did in fact have approximately $700,000 in unused salary cap space at the end of 2014. They chose to net that amount out of year-end salary cap charges related to performance raises and earned incentives.
Net League Adjustments – Adjustments include proven performance escalators, earned incentives, accrued workout bonuses and carryovers. In addition, the Rams received a $3 million salary cap credit for Cortland Finnegan. The credit was earned as a result of an offset included in the language of Finnegan’s contract with the Rams, and was triggered when Finnegan signed with the Dolphins.
Adjusted Team Salary Cap – The adjusted team salary cap is calculated by taking the league salary cap figure and adding/subtracting carryovers and net league adjustments.
Net “Top-51” Contractual Obligations – In the offseason, only the top 51 contracts in terms of cap hits (plus outstanding dead money) count against the Rams’ adjusted team salary cap.
Current Available Salary Cap Space – Current available salary cap space only takes into account obligations incurred to-date. It doesn’t account for additional financial obligations counting against the salary cap at various times during the year.
Additional Financial Obligations – Are obligations incurred by the Rams at varying times throughout the year. They must be budgeted for, as they count against the salary cap at different times during the year: Practice squad salaries – during the regular season, season-opening reserve – September, signing the rookie draft class – June, and 2 players added to make up the 53-man roster – September.
Available Salary Cap Space – The amount of money the Rams have remaining to spend on player contract obligations, without exceeding the salary cap. The calculation to determine the available salary cap space is: the dollar amount of the adjusted salary cap, less the total dollar value of current active contracts (cap hits) less any “dead money”.
Dead Money – The amount of money counting as cap hits in the current year, for players that are no longer with the team. These amounts consist of guaranteed money/bonuses/prorated amounts outstanding for 2014 (in some cases beyond 2014).
Salary Cap Figure (Hit) – Any contractual obligation counting against the salary cap in a particular year. It’s the sum of a players base salary, signing and/or other bonuses, and any incentives/escalators deemed to be earned.
The Salary Cap – The maximum amount a team can have in total cap hits, plus dead money, without incurring penalties imposed by the NFL. These penalties can be financial in nature and/or include the loss of draft picks.
Signing/Prorated vs Other Bonuses – A signing bonus can be defined in its literal sense. The signing bonus is spread out – prorated for cap purposes – evenly over the life of a contract. Other bonuses include roster, incentive, option, etc. bonuses that occur in different years of a contract, and in varying amounts.
Accrued Workout Bonuses – Are adjustments charged by the league, reducing a teams available salary cap space. These bonuses reduced the Rams’ salary cap space by $506,600 on March 11. The Rams were credited back the entire amount in the first week of September. From the 2011 CBA:
“…all players will earn $175 a day for each day they participate in 2013. That per day number changes every other year, with the next increase slated for 2015. The NFL charges each team at the start of the 2015 league year a cap fee of $506,600 for minimum workouts on top of the contracted bonuses, so any reported cap space number between now and the start of the regular season needs to be reduced by $504,000. At the end of the workout period teams have their salary cap credited for money that was not earned.”
Prior Year Adjustments – The league adjusts/charges a teams’ current year salary cap for player incentives and performance escalators earned in the previous year.
Unadjusted Salary Cap – The base salary cap amount ($143.28 million in 2015) for each of the 32 NFL teams.
Adjusted Team Salary Cap – The actual salary cap (after adjustments) for a particular team in the current league year. Each team will have a different figure for cap purposes.
Roster Detail – Currently, there are 55 players under contract for 2015. Contracts run concurrently with the league year.
Methodology – To derive salary cap figures and information, two main sources are used: the NFLPA and the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement. The NFLPA only publishes team salary cap details as team totals. Once the totals are established, I then compile information for individual contracts, ensuring they collectively add up to match the NFLPA totals. At last count, 83 sources have been used to compile data on the Rams’ individual contracts.