This offseason the Rams have some pretty difficult decisions to make, decisions that include big name players and decisions that could set this team up for success or failure.
The Rams are a young team, and believe it or not, they are in the building process, which is very fragile. One mistake could doom the franchise.
Thankfully for the Rams though, they have Les Snead in charge who has given this team two first round picks in the upcoming draft. Rams fans have every reason to believe they can be true contenders in 2014 as Snead and Fisher predicted.
With that said however, the Rams still have some key decisions to make in order to build this team into that contender.
Unfortunately they don’t have a lot of cap room headed into this offseason. According to overthecap.com, the Rams have the least amount of cap space in the NFL with a whole $114,397 to spare.
The Rams have spent quite a bit of money in free agency the past couple of seasons on players such as Cortland Finnegan, Jared Cook, and Jake Long. Some of those contracts have come back to haunt them, especially that of Cortland Finnegan.
This is where the tough decisions come into play. Last year the Rams signed Cortland Finnegan via free agency. To say the least Finnegan has underperformed in a Rams uniform. Head coach Jeff Fisher likes to stick by his guys, but there is a point when you have to say goodbye.
The Rams will have to pay Finnegan a $3 million roster bonus that is guaranteed for injury this offseason, but they still might want to consider releasing him. Finnegan has a $6 million base salary and will cost $10 million (including that roster bonus) on next year’s cap.
The Rams could release him early in the offseason and save $4 million on their cap in the process, or they could choose to designate him as a post–June 1 release, which would save them $6 million on next year’s cap while pushing $2 million of the dead money from Finnegan’s deal onto the 2015 salary cap.
It would be tough to swallow the hit on Finnegan’s contract after paying the Jeff Fisher favorite $27 million over two years, but those figures are irrelevant now. The release would give the Rams valuable cap space to use on a player who can perform better than Finnegan.
The Rams will either have to release Finnegan, or at the very least restructure his contract. There is just no way the Rams are going to be able to take the next step with the contract of an underperforming player.
The Rams have 12 players set to hit free agency this offseason, one of which being Rodger Saffold. If the Rams plan on resigning Saffold, they are going to have to make some cap room and that may include releasing some players with big contracts.
The next players that need to go are Harvey Dahl and Scott Wells. Releasing Dahl, would save the team $4 million. Releasing Wells, who has played just 19 games in his two seasons with the team while breaking his leg and his foot, would wipe away a $6.5 million cap hold, while placing just $2 million in dead money on St. Louis’s 2014 cap. The Rams don’t even have to release Wells, just renegotiate his contract, as Barrett Jones isn’t quite ready to be thrown in the fire at center. Releasing or renegotiating Wells, and releasing Dahl and Finnegan, would save the Rams around $15 million in cap.
The next player that needs to be addressed is Sam Bradford. Bradford does not need to be released, nor will he be, as this team fully believes in him. 2014 will be a huge year for Bradford as his cap hit in 2014 hits $17.6 million and fans are going to expect him to earn it.
The Rams either need Bradford to take a pay cut this season, which he would be willing to do, or extend him three or four years for a cheaper deal. Doing that would save the Rams a significant amount of money.
There is no way Bradford will have the same contract heading into 2014 if this team plans on building and getting better in the offseason.
With the new cap space the Rams will be able to bring back Saffold, sign a few free agents, and save cap for next season when they will need to sign Robert Quinn to an extension.
Speaking of free agents, the Rams also have Chris Williams, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Darian Stewart, Will Witherspoon, Shelley Smith(RFA), Brady Quinn, Austin Davis, Kellen Clemens, Mike McNeil(RFA), Matt Giordano, and Tim Barnes set to hit the market.
More than likely the Rams will lose Williams, Dunbar, Stewart, Witherspoon, Quinn, Davis, Giordano, and possibly others. may of those holes will be filled in the draft or free agency with the new cap.
The Rams have a lot of tough decisions coming up for them in the near future, and this doesn’t even begin to go into the draft which will just include more tough decisions with the trade possibilities.
Re-signing Saffold will be a must for this team in the offseason and should be the number one priority. The Rams failed to re-sign Danny Amendola, Sam Bradford’s safety blanket, they need to re-sign Rodger Saffold, the guy who keeps Bradford upright.
Sometimes you have to let some big players go and replace them in order to get better, and that’s exactly what the Rams are going to have to do here. This is setting up to be an interesting offseason. Buckle up Rams fans, because this could be a bumpy ride.
That is just the player side of the decisions. Coaching changes should also be considered. Head coach Jeff Fisher has voiced that defensive coordinator Tim Walton is safe as well as offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
Both coaches have disappointed at times this season, and fans have voiced their displeasure. Fisher likes to stick by his guys, but Walton didn’t look like the answer on the defensive side of the ball, and the play calling at times was questionable on offense.
Granted this was Walton’s first season as a defensive coordinator, and with this defense. Another year knowing the personnel, and adding pieces to the defense, might make Walton better. However, there is no doubt Walton should be on a short leash.
Same goes for Brian Schottenheimer, but more should be expected of him due to his experience, making his efforts this season even more disappointing. It almost looked like at times that the Rams had so many weapons that Schottenheimer didn’t know what to do with them all.
We didn’t see wide receiver Tavon Austin take many snaps at running back or many reverses and we didn’t see many shots taken downfield. Some of that had to do with Bradford being out, but even with Bradford in, Schottenheimer was struggling.
Next year will be a big year for this offense and there is no doubt Schottenheimer should be on a short leash and be on the hot seat.
The Rams have a lot of decisions that will have to be made this offseason, and this isn’t even the beginning of it all. The Rams are going to need to make some changes, and the changes that they make could determine the fate of the franchise.