LA Rams roster remains less than 50 percent filled with only $11 million to spend

Les Snead
Les Snead / Cindy Ord/GettyImages
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The LA Rams need a bit of a miracle. Well, perhaps a series of miraculous signings. I've pointed this out, but now that the Rams are entering their fifth day of the NFL Free Agency Market (including the 48 hour negotiation period), the team had dug a pretty deep hole for itself.

The off-season roster limit for the LA Rams (and all NFL teams) is 90 players. But while some teams already have 70 or more players signed to 2023 NFL contracts (Looking at you New England Patriots and Washington Commanders), On March 17, 2023, the Rams have less than 50 percent of their roster filled. In fact, the Rams have just 44 players under contract, which is 10 fewer than the next team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have 54 players under contract.

The problem is, the Rams only have $11 million of available salary cap space.

The off-season salary cap applies to the Top-51 contracts on the Rams roster. To get to that level, the Rams must add at least seven players. But to do so and stay under the cap, the Rams must average $1.5 million per year per player. In short, the LA Rams have to do some bargain basement shopping right now.

All NFL teams, throughout the off-season, must remain below that NFL salary cap threshold. For most teams, all but the LA Rams, they have more than 51 players. So any cap impact for a new signing equates to the cost of the new player less the cost of the cheapest player who will be bumped out of the Top-51 calculation. So a $2 million/year player who replaces a $1.5 million/year player only adds $500,000 to the team's salary cap. But the LA Rams are not at 51 players. That means that any signing will directly impact the Rams salary ap.

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Making the math make sense

And keep in mind that the LA Rams' current 2023 rookie draft class will involve 11 players, and at least one of those draft picks will sign for $1.7 million per year. The salary cap implications of that 36th overall pick are just one more incentive for the Rams to trade back.

It does not appear that the Rams have any interest in kicking a can down the road. The Rams have tied up $91,800,000 in just four players in 2023: WR Cooper Kupp, DL Aaron Donald, QB Matthew Stafford, and WR Allen Robinson. or more than 40 percent of the team's total 2023 payroll. Of course, you have to skim another $50+ million of dead cap monies off the top as well.

We've seen this before. The Rams love to front load contracts with places their entire salary cap flexibility at question. Then, the Rams follow up in subsequent years by kicking the cans down the road, again and again.

Pay me now, or pay me later

There is still a wee bit of wiggle room on the LA Rams roster to add a player for up to $3 million per year. But if the Rams opt to go in that direction, the rest of the 51 player roster will be stuck at $1 million per year.

LA Rams fans are looking for the front office to sign some major players. Just from the financial standpoint, I believe that this is as good as it gets. Unless a player is willing to play for $1-1.5 million per year, it appears that they are out of the LA Rams price range. Right now, even if the Rams trade back for more picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Rams could be looking at signing 30 undrafted rookie free agents.

Whether you call this a rebuild, a remodel, or just a reboot, the harsh truth is this. The LA Rams did not make moves to free up sufficint amounts of salary cap space for 2023 to sign veterans. In fact, the Rams may be looking a the NFL's youngest roster in 2023 already.

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The Rams need to add 46 more players to the roster, which is more than the 44 players already on their roster. And the highest-paid seven players from that group of 46 must come in no higher than $11 million. The LA Rams are going through those pains in 2023 so that the team can get back in the race in 2024. Is it worth it? It will be in 2024. But it will not be fun for the time being.

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