St. Louis Rams
Key Additions: Shaun Hill ($1.8M per year), Alex Carrington ($1.5M), Kenny Britt ($1.4M)
Key Re-Signings: Rodger Saffold ($6.3M per year), Jo-Lonn Dunbar ($1M)
Key Losses: Chris Williams (Bills),Shelley Smith (Dolphins),Kellen Clemens (Chargers)
Major Cuts: Cortland Finnegan ($4M cap savings), Harvey Dahl ($4M)
Free Agency Thoughts:
A relatively quiet offseason for the Rams who likely would have been even less active has the Raiders not backed out of the Rodger Saffold contract due to him failing their team physical. Wisely the Rams quickly pounced on Saffold keeping what could be an important part of the team. With the injury history of Jake Long, Saffold is very important to the Rams success since he can swing over from guard to play tackle. The Saffold contract I think shows a better structure than some of the more recent deals they signed with a full series of vesting guarantees rather than deals where all guarantees are earned after the first year. There are also incentives and void clauses that will reward him for exceptional play, which I think helps the Rams maintain a good relationship with potential free agents in the future while dangling a carrot designed to increase the level of play.
Kenny Britt could be a good pick up for a team with limited offensive talent. He only has a bit over $500,000 guaranteed if he completely busts with most of it in the form of a salary guarantee. That is smart because if he is cut they may get another team to eat some of the cost. I think they went slightly overboard on incentives, but if he can play well that won’t be a worry.
The other contracts are all low risk, low cost deals. Would they have been better off not bringing back Jo-Lonn Dunbar and attempting to keep Shelley Smith? Maybe, but that’s a very minor complaint. Shaun Hill should be a better fit at backup than Kellen Clemens if you are looking for someone to potentially mentor a young QB.
The timing of the Cortland Finnegan release was smart. By not waiting until the last minute they have teams more than enough time to dig up old tape and convince themselves that he could still play. The Rams owed him $3 million and this helped them earn a salary offset. That credit should come in 2015.
Overall Grade: C+
This was a smart offseason plan by the Rams. Of the four teams in the NFC West they are the team that would benefit the least from a big run in free agency, which they may have been able to accomplish by reworking a number of contracts which wisely they did not. The Rams have multiple draft picks, including two in the top 15. They should gain starters in the draft while also having the depth of picks to replace some of the players lost on the offensive line. It is the draft that will get them on equal footing with the other teams and they built their offseason around that.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.