Rams free up $9 million cap space, but you won't like how they did it

Joe Noteboom
Joe Noteboom / Michael Owens/GettyImages

The inevitable question that LA Rams and the fans would eventually ask themselves as the NFL Free Agency market gets into full swing is perhaps the same tired old question that gets asked every season. How are they going to pay for all of this? And the answer comes not as one answer, but in a grab bag full of pieces for that answer.

You already know some of the ways that the LA Rams have cleared salary cap space. The team elected to release veteran outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. And the team traded veteran defensive back Jalen Ramsey to the Miami Dolphins. The Rams had even decided to release veteran ILB Bobby Wagner, a move that will not become 'official' until the start of the 2023 NFL season at 1:00 pm PT on Wednesday, March 15, 2023. By waiting, the Rams increase their salary cap savings by his release from $5 million to $8 million.

But even after all of those moves, the Rams would only just make it under the 2023 salary cap limit. The team knew that it needed to do more, as even signing players on minimum salaries would need salary cap space until the Rams roster reached the temporary ceiling of 51 players. So the Rams went back to work, combining Joe Noteboom's $7 million of salary and a $5 million roster bonus into a $12 million signing bonus, and spread the total over four years, saving the Rams $9 million against the 2023 NFL salary cap:

But this will not be a crowd pleaser for LA Rams fans. Here's why:

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Rams are stuck with Noteboom for the time being

By restructuring the contract for Joe Noteboom, the LA Rams immediately created $12 million of guaranteed money for him. That is, a signing bonus is not paid out over time, but is an immediate cash dispersion. Once cash goes out, teams cannot get it back very easily.

Some fans have been pushing hard for the LA Rams to release both left tackle Joe Noteboom and offensive center Brian Allen. Since the team appears to have concluded their decisions on releasing veterans, and both Noteboom and Allen remain on the roster, it appear that the team is content to keep both on the roster through the 2023 NFL season.

More telling is the fact that the Rams tapped Noteboom to restructure his contract. Because restructuring solidifies the team-player relationship by adding additional dead cap burded on the team, restructuring is typically reserved for those players who are part of the team's long term strategy. In short, it looks like the LA Rams are okay with having Joe Noteboom on the roster for years to come.

And there are many fans who that will not sit well with.

The LA Rams have many returning offensive linemen whose season ended prematurely in 2022 due to injury. Just as 2020, the LA Rams front office has resisted overloading a positional group in the offseason due to injury-related struggles from the previous season. The Rams will need to have a plan in place to fill vacant roster spots if the team does not bring back either David Edwards or Coleman Shelton, but the team has a number of players on the roster today who can compete for those roles, like Alaric Jackson, Logan Bruss, or Tremayne Anchrum Jr.

It appears that the LA Rams have more than $7 million of available salary cap space, and that will grow to over $15 million tomorrow when the team can file the necessary paperwork with the NFL office to designate Bobby Wagner as a post-June 1 release. By creating salary cap space today, the Rams are likely committing to play Joe Noteboom in 2023

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And please, don't shoot the messenger.