The 2022 NFL Combine is in full swing but we’ll get into that at a later time. For now, let’s chat a little about NFL Free Agency. The LA Rams currently have 19 projected free agents, all of whom will need new NFL contracts. The question is, how many of those new contracts will be co-signed by the organization? Before they can do that, some work needs to be done with the Rams’ current salary cap number.
The salary cap, though higher than 2021, is still considerably lower than it would be if not for the pandemic. The cap is currently sitting at $208.2 million, roughly $16 million below where it should be. It’s going to be a gradual process to get the cap back to pre-pandemic growth. The reason? The salary cap for 2022 is based upon the overall league revenue from the previous year. As things return to normal, the NFL salary cap will as well.
What this means for the LA Rams is that they are one of the NFL teams with the most work to do before the start of the 2022 NFL season. They are currently projected to be nearly $20 million over the cap (per Spotrac.com). The team is also very interested in extending a number of significant free agents, most notably veteran outside linebacker Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. These two players were added to the Rams roster mid-season and both were vital pieces of the Super Bowl puzzle. Can the Rams retain these guys? I believe the answer is yes, but should they?
Rams free agency
It starts with the contract work for LA Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and defensive lineman Aaron Donald. These two players currently account for two of the team’s top three contracts in terms of 2020 salary cap hits. Both of these contracts are in negotiations for new deals to relieve some of the cap strain from the Rams. Once this is done, I think the Rams can begin work on OBJ and Miller and perhaps a few more free agents.
That said, do the Rams bring OBJ back? No doubt he played great for the team and as I mentioned earlier, he was a vital part of the team’s post-season success. The concern I have with bringing him back though is the extent of his injury and the timing of his return to the team. This is his second ACL tear in two years, the first occurred in October of 2020 and OBJ did not see the field again until November 2021.
In the meantime, the LA Rams still have a team to run, a roster to fill, and players to develop. In terms of who to extend, it’s a delicate matter altogether. For every player the Rams do re-sign, they are also deciding not to re-sign another player. Perhaps that is why the decision of whether or not to extend Beckham is so difficult. Do you bring back someone for a handful of games? Or do you try to maximize the return by bringing back someone for all 17 games? After all, The most optimistic scenario for OBJ, based on a February 2022 injury, is to return no earlier than midseason.
Contract clauses and Rams free agency
Based on that projection, Rams fans may not see him again until November 2022. But a more conservative estimation is that he could be delayed until January 2023. Do the Rams or should the Rams give him an extension, just to have him rehab for nearly a year and possibly not play at all this upcoming season? Or do they let him walk and look to spend that money on a different wide receiver? Or, even still, do they compromise, and infuse any new contract with language that kicks in compensation after he returns to the team and is ready to play?
I mean think about it, they will probably get veteran wide receiver Robert Woods back in time for the 2022 season. His return also faces the question of whether he will be a full-go or struggle outta the gates with some rust? No OBJ to start the season, so the Rams might want to consider adding a healthy option in the wide receiver room via free agency.
With some impressive talent available among the Rams free agency at the wide receiver position and the fact that QB Matthew Stafford’s window will only getting smaller as he ages, the Rams must do everything they can right now to “run it back”. That likely means that the Rams will focus their attention on extending players in the off-season.