The NFL regular season is now in the history books. For a dozen teams, the playoffs lie ahead. For the remaining 20 teams, the focus has shifted to the offseason: Free Agency, offseason programs, front office/coaching changes, the NFL Draft and money managing the salary cap.
2015 Player Contracts & Salary Cap Calculations
The accompanying chart presents the St. Louis Rams’ detailed salary cap position at the conclusion of the regular season. 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||2015 Release Savings|
|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 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|
|Available Salary Cap Space||2,007,938|
Descriptions And Terminology
2015 NFL Salary Cap – The league-wide salary cap (before adjustments) is $143,280,000 for 2015. In December, 2014 the NFL Management Council projected the salary cap to come in at $138.6-$141.8 million. In early January, 2015 I predicted the salary cap would rise to $145 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. This year, the Rams have close to $2 million in salary cap space available for carryover and/or application against year-end salary cap charges.
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.
Regular Season Adjustments – Adjustments include salary cap charges for Likely To Be Earned Incentives and game day roster bonuses.
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 2015 (in some cases beyond 2015).
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.
2016 NFL Salary Cap
On December 1, 2015 (at the NFL owners meetings), the NFL Management Council announced an estimate of the NFL league-wide salary cap for 2016:
Club executives and cap managers given projection for 2016 salary cap today: $147 million-$153 million.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) December 1, 2015
The NFL league office is notorious for underestimating the following years salary cap at their December meetings. A lower estimate discourages team salary cap managers and executives from spending too much money on long-term contracts before the actual salary cap figures are announced in late February. At the December 2014 meetings, the owners were given an estimate of $138.6 million-$141.8 million for the 2015 salary cap. The actual figure (announced in late February, 2015) was $143.28 million.
The stable, continued growth of television contract revenues throughout the life of the current CBA ensures similar growth in the salary cap from year-to-year. With that in mind, I estimate the 2016 salary cap will come in at $155 million when announced in February.
Compliance with the minimum cash spending requirements of the 2011 CBA could have an impact on how much money is spent by teams this offseason. The minimum cash spending requirement is in relation to the salary cap “floor” instituted in the new CBA. The final eight years of the CBA are broken out into four-year periods (2013-2016 and 2017-2020). In each period, teams are required to spend up to 89% of the salary cap with a guaranteed league-wide spending amount reaching 95%.
The consequences for non-compliance with the minimum cash spending requirements? The league/clubs must pay the difference to the players. Compliance will likely put upward pressure on salary commitments and increase demand for players in Free Agency this offseason.
St. Louis Rams’ 2016 Offseason Salary Cap Space
The Rams currently have 44 players under contract for 2016, with salary cap hits totalling close to $114 million. In addition, the Rams will incur the following estimated costs counting against the salary cap in 2016:
|Consideration (Estimated)||Cost ($)|
|Net League Adjustments||2,500,000|
|Net Cost Of Signing Rookies||3,000,000|
|Practice Squad Salaries||1,200,000|
As noted, my estimate for the 2016 league-wide salary cap is $155 million. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Rams will also carry over approximately $2 million in salary cap space from 2015 to 2016 (making the Rams’ Adjusted Team Salary Cap $157 million).
The Rams will have an estimated $33 million ($157M less $124M) in Available Salary Cap Space this offseason for re-signing their own Free Agents and/or Free Agents from other teams. If the Rams can successfully structure their new contracts without backloading them, they will likely be able to re-sign as many of their own Free Agents as desired.
St. Louis Rams 2016 Free Agents
The following 28 players are currently eligible for Free Agency in 2016 (after this season). ERFA’s (Exclusive Rights Free Agents) have two or less accrued years in the league. RFA’s (Restricted Free Agents) have three accrued years in the league. UFA’s (Unrestricted Free Agents) have 4 or more accrued years in the league. In each instance, their contracts will have been fulfilled at the end of this season. Each level/type of Free Agent is accompanied by a certain level of team control. Included in the chart is an estimate of what each player can expect to earn (average per year) in their next contract. Who will the Rams attempt to re-sign?
|Position||Player||FA Status||Avg. Per Year|
The Rams will have many difficult decisions to make this off season. Some of those decisions will likely involve players listed among their 2015 top dozen salary cap hits:
- Nick Fairley becomes an UFA after the season. Has Fairley accomplished enough on his one year prove-it deal to warrant a longer term contract with the Rams?
- Chris Long has missed 4 games this season due to injury, after missing 10 games in 2014 with an injury. Long will be 31 and counts $14.25 million against the Rams’ salary cap in 2016 (the final year of his contract). Will the Rams part ways with Long, or work out a small extension, reducing his 2016 salary cap hit in the process?
- The inconsistent Jared Cook has an $8.3 million salary cap hit in 2016. Will the Rams negotiate a pay cut with Cook, release him outright (cap savings of $5.7M in 2016) or leave the contract as it is?
- The oft-injured Rodger Saffold will miss 11 games this season due to a shoulder injury. Saffold may become a salary cap casualty in the offseason. His release would create $3 million in salary cap savings for 2016.
- William Hayes becomes an UFA after the season. Hayes has played more snaps this season because of injuries to Chris Long and Robert Quinn. He’s a quality performer who represents great value for the Rams. They’ll make every attempt to re-sign Hayes this offseason.
- Kenny Britt has had his ups and downs since joining the Rams in 2014. Britt will carry a $4.85 million salary cap hit in 2016. Depending on ones perspective, that salary cap hit could be considered a relative bargain…or an extravagance.
- James Laurinaitis’ salary cap hit rises to $6.425 million in 2016 (from $4.275M in 2015). Laurinaitis is a better-than-average MLB and team leader. Could he become a cap casualty this offseason? If the Rams re-sign Mark Barron, they could decide to move Alec Ogletree inside (his college position) and have Barron, Ogletree and Ayers as their starting LB’s.
- A month ago, I took a look at “The Implications Of Nick Foles’ Contract Extension”. If the Rams release Foles after the season, they will only save $750,000 against the salary cap. Will the Rams keep Foles through 2016?
For salary cap information updated on a weekly basis, please visit my website: Rams In Perspective.