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Los Angeles Rams’ salary cap situation heading into 2021

With the deadline for making salary cap decisions looming, what options do the Los Angeles Rams have for clearing cap space in 2021?

Los Angeles Rams salary cap situation heading into 2021
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 29: Head Coach Sean McVay talks with GM Les Snead of the Los Angeles Rams on the sidelines during a game against the Houston Texans during week four of the preseason at NRG Stadium on August 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. The Rams defeated the Texans 22-10. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Rams’ NFL salary cap situation has been an area of much discussion in recent years, and in 2021, they have some big decisions to make when it comes to opening up cap space. Let’s take a look at the Rams’ salary cap situation in 2021 and their options to create more cap space in 2021.

The Rams project to be around $30 million over the salary cap in 2021

The Rams have been battling the salary cap for a few years now, and the potential stagnation of the salary cap in 2021 has caused them concerns. As of February 27th, the 2021 salary cap is projected to be around $185 million. The Rams will carry over $5.7 million in cap space to the 2021 season. Therefore, the Rams’ current salary cap projects to be $190.7 million.

As it stands, the Rams have around $184.9 million committed to their top 51 highest-paid players, with an additional $34.1 million in dead money. Therefore, the Rams project to be around $28.4 million over the cap in 2021.

To view the most up-to-date numbers for the Los Angeles Rams’ salary cap space, check out our team by team 2021 salary cap space article, which is updated daily.

The Rams project to have at least $30 million in dead money in 2021

As it stands on February 20th, the Rams have the second-most dead money on their cap in 2021. In total, the Rams have $34.1 million in dead money thus far. That number cannot get any lower in the coming weeks and months.

Of that dead money, $30.6 million belongs to just two players. Jared Goff leaves behind $22.2 million in dead money following his trade. Meanwhile, after the Rams designated Todd Gurley as a post-June 1 release in 2020, he remains on the Rams’ salary cap in 2021 ($8.4 million). Overall, more than 15 percent of the Rams’ 2021 salary cap will be devoted to dead money.

Los Angeles does not have many options when it comes to releasing players

The issue for the Rams is that many of their players with big cap numbers are tough for them to release. This is due to them either playing crucial roles on the roster or having contract structures which would mean the Rams save little salary cap space in 2021 by releasing them.

Could Andrew Whitworth have played his last game for the Rams?

The return of Andrew Whitworth to the Rams in 2020 was a great story. The veteran tackle battled back from injury to help the Rams beat the Seahawks in the 2020-2021 NFL Playoffs. However, at 40 years old, Whitworth’s future is uncertain.

Related | 2021 NFL Free Agents: Top available at each position

Whitworth is due to count $11.2 million against the Rams’ salary cap in 2021. The Rams could release Whitworth and save $5.3 million. However, Whitworth could also retire, which would save the Rams a further $2.5 million. The potential money saved via retirement is because Whitworth’s $2.5 million roster bonus is guaranteed, but only if the Rams release him. If he retires, that bonus would not be paid, despite being guaranteed.

Two other linemen (one offensive and one defensive) could also be cut candidates

Right tackle Rob Havenstein has no more guaranteed money remaining on his deal. Therefore, releasing him would save the Rams $5.2 million in 2021. He would leave behind $3.2 million in dead money. However, releasing both Havenstein and Whitworth would remove a lot of experience from that offensive line.

On the defensive side of the ball, Michael Brockers is the name to watch. Brockers has played his entire career with the Rams after being a first-round selection in 2012. However, in 2021 he is due to count $9.8 million against the cap.

Brockers has a $1.5 million roster bonus already guaranteed. A further $6.5 million in base salary becomes guaranteed on March 22nd. If the Rams were to release Brockers, they would save $4.7 million in salary cap space in 2021. Yet, he would leave behind $5.2 million in dead money.

The Rams have a handful of players they could extend or restructure to create cap space in 2021

For the Rams to get under the salary cap ahead of the 2021 NFL league year, they will likely need to restructure some contracts.

The Rams could save around $40 million simply by restructuring the deals of Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and Matthew Stafford. However, doing so would increase the cost of their contracts in future years. All three of those players are set to count over $20 million against the Rams’ salary cap in 2021 prior to any restructuring.

Related | Top Los Angeles Rams’ pending free agents in 2021

The Rams could also consider restructuring the deals for Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. Combined, they could save as much as $17 million by restructuring deals for both receivers.

Which players could get extended?

If the Rams want to save salary cap space in 2021 by extending contracts, they have a few options. They could decide to go down that route with both Havenstein and Brockers. Doing so would actually save more salary cap space for the Rams in 2021 than releasing them.

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