Dead Money Vs. Cap Hit: Hashing Out The St. Louis Rams Offseason Situation


October 4, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke (center) talks with general manager Les Snead (left) and head coach Jeff Fisher (right) before a game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

With the offseason quickly approached, many in Rams Nation are wondering what moves Les Snead and the St. Louis Rams front office are going to make to prepare for the 2014 season. Last year, the Rams had too many of their “top earners” watching the game from the sidelines. This season, most expect that a couple of those players will not be returning, or at least working under a significantly different contract. However, there may be some confusion to who exactly those players are this offseason. We’ll try to clear that up here.

PlayerDead MoneyCap Hit 
Sam Bradford$7,190,000$17,610,000
Chris Long$17,700,000$14,700,000
James Laurinaitis$10,200,000$10,400,000
Cortland Finnegan$6,000,000$10,000,000
Jake Long$7,750,000$9,250,000
Jared Cook$12,000,000$7,000,000
Scott Wells$2,000,000$6,500,000
Kendall Langford$2,000,000$6,000,000
Harvey Dahlnone$4,000,000
William Hayes$2,500,000$3,845,000

So, for those not as “savvy” on contract terminology, we’ll break it down into simpler terms. The “cap hit” refers to the total dollar amount that each player will count against the overall cap number for that give season. Meanwhile, the “dead money” refers to the salary cap space a team must allocate to a particular player who has been cut for that particular season. That dead money figure is intended to ensure that every dollar a team has paid players, or that is guaranteed in their contract, is eventually counted within the cap.

To simplify it even more: the cap hit is the monetary space a player will take up if retained, dead money is the space a player will take up if cut.

While the dead money figure is an important variable in the decision making process, it is not necessarily the end-all to the conversation. If the organization need to move the player, and the owner is willing to “take the hit” financially, it isn’t unheard of for a player with a significant dead money figure to be cut from the roster. However, cutting that player will essentially count as a double negative, as he would still be eating up some of the cap despite not being on the roster.

As a rule of thumb, if the dead money number is higher than the cap hit, he is likely going to have a place on the roster the following season. If that dead money is substantial enough, even with minimal savings, they will also likely be retained.

For those advocating the “cutting” of Sam Bradford, you would be looking at a $7,190,000 hole in the cap for the 2014 season. Not feasible.

So, who are the potential “big money” savers that could be on the chopping block this offseason?

PlayerDead MoneyCap Hit “Savings”
Sam Bradford$7,190,000$17,610,000$10,420,000
Scott Wells$2,000,000$6,500,000$4,500,000
Cortland Finnegan$6,000,000$10,000,000$4,000,000
Kendall Langford$2,000,000$6,000,000$4,000,000
Harvey Dahlnone$4,000,000$4,000,000
Jake Long$7,750,000$9,250,000$1,500,000
William Hayes$2,500,000$3,845,000$1,345,000
Eugene Sims$233,369$1,216,684$983,315
Lance Kendricks$393,437$1,344,614$951,177
Austin Pettis$144,567$814,567$670,000
Trumaine Johnson$355,588$823,794$468,206
Isaiah Pead$688,400$1,101,300$412,900

As most already know, the likely targets for getting the “cap casualty” tag this offseason are Scott Wells, Cortland Finnegan, Kendall Langford, and Harvey Dahl. The two offensive lineman are especially vulnerable, both having missed substantial time over the last two seasons with injury; especially Dahl, whose contract is essentially penalty-free if he were to be released. With Shelley Smith and Chris Williams both slatted for free agency, the St. Louis Rams could certainly take the least expensive path to maintain their interior line depth (i.e. releasing the high contract players and re-signing the low contact players). Moreover, they will need some “space” if they plan on keeping Rodger Saffold into the foreseeable future, which is likely the case given his dominance at right guard in the latter portion of the season.

Luckily for the St. Louis Rams, the re-signings from the 2013 roster should be relatively inexpensive overall. The top four “cap hit” players, aside from Rodger Saffold, combined for only approximately $3,611,000 and shouldn’t be expecting anything more in a new contract. That should make things less “sticky” this offseason. Guess we’ll have to wait until the start of free agency to find out.