The Los Angeles Rams will have plenty of work to do this offseason.
In addition to making their official move from St. Louis to L.A., deciding on their offensive coordinator and having approximately one-third of the roster becoming restricted or unrestricted free agents, the Rams will have some difficult decisions on which players to release in order to free up some salary cap space.
Long, the No. 2 overall pick in 2008, has a total of four sacks in 18 games over the past two seasons and carries a salary cap number of a team-high $14.25 million for the 2016 season, according to OverTheCap.com.
The Rams will save $11.75 million if they release Long, according to the website, while incurring $2.5 million in dead money.
Coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead may try to restructure Long’s deal in a way that it benefits the team, but those cap savings could go a long way toward re-signing a few of the teams’ free agents, including veteran defensive end William Hayes.
If the Rams don’t add another quarterback in the draft or in free agency this offseason, they will go into the 2016 campaign with Keenum, Foles and Sean Mannion at that position. But if they add another QB in the next few months, Foles is the most likely to leave.
His contract makes that kind of tricky, though, because of his extension.
According to OverTheCap.com, if the Rams release Foles before June 1, they will have $8 million in dead money and save just $750,000. If they release him after June 1, the numbers change to $7 million in dead money and $1.75 in cap savings.
That’s a lot of dead money to eat for a minimal amount of cap savings, but if the Rams really want to walk away from Foles they will be willing to do it.
Tight end Jared Cook has the fourth-highest cap number on the Rams for 2016 at $8.3 million and hasn’t quite lived up to his deal while the team has switched its focus offensively.
Cook has been among the Rams’ leading receivers in his first three seasons with the team with his 142 receptions for 1,786 yards, but he only has eight touchdowns during that time while being paid like one of the better players in the NFL at his position.
According to OverTheCap, the Rams would save approximately $5.7 million (with $2.6 million in dead money) if they cut Cook before June 1 and would save $7 million (with $1.3 million in dead money) if they release him after June 1.
For $7 million, the Rams may be able to re-sign a player like Hayes and also sign a blocking tight end in free agency if they don’t feel like a younger player like Justice Cunningham could fill that role.
The Rams will face a similar situation with veteran middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, who has a cap number of $6.425 million for 2016.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams values Laurinaitis’ leadership of the defense, but the Rams may opt to move on from the 29 year old in favor of a younger player signed in free agency or drafted.
The Rams could save $5.525 million (with $900,000 in dead money) if they release Laurinaitis before June 1 and would save $5.775 million (with $650,000 in dead money) if they cut him after June 1.
The Rams could decide to go younger and cheaper at that position, especially considering how many other defensive players they could choose to re-sign this offseason.
Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold's injury history and cap number ($5.65 million) make him a candidate to be cut.
If the Rams wait until after June 1, they could save $4.65 million (with $1 million in dead money) by releasing the veteran guard. Considering he only played in five games this past season because of a shoulder injury, the team could opt to continue to go with Garrett Reynolds at left guard or rely on one of their youngsters there.
The Rams don’t have a lot of depth at wide receiver because of Stedman Bailey's situation and Brian Quick and Wes Welker both being unrestricted free agents this offseason, but Britt’s production dropped from his first to his second season in St. Louis.
After catching 48 passes for 748 yards and three touchdowns in 2014, Britt’s numbers fell to 36 receptions for 681 yards and three scores in 2015. He’s only 27 and is still a contributing player, but do the Rams view him as enough of a contributor to justify his salary?
They will have to make that decision this offseason, among several difficult decisions they will have to make.