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Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Around the NFC West: Lingering effects

By Mike Sando

The St. Louis Rams sacrificed salary-cap space in future years to create room right now when they reworked Chris Long's contract Monday.

The move, detailed by Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, counts as a relatively minor accounting maneuver. Long still gets the same amount of money he was going to get all along. The team simply accounts for that money differently, to the benefit of the 2013 cap.

The fact that the Rams would need to create room this offseason stands as the more interesting story. It's not like the Rams are coming off a championship run. They're still rebuilding their roster.

So, why the pinch?

Deals for Long, Cortland Finnegan, Sam Bradford and James Laurinaitis were combining to count more than $50 million against the cap this season. That wasn't such a bad thing, however. After all, those four remain core players.

It's the deals for ex-Rams Quintin Mikell and Jason Smith that are chewing up millions in cap space, even though both players are gone from the roster. The team's current leadership will rid itself of those burdens in 2014. For now, though, there's a price for making moves that didn't work out quite as expected for varying reasons.

Mikell was a good player, but his value to the team changed two years after the Rams moved aggressively to sign him in free agency. Back then, coach Steve Spagnuolo saw Mikell as an impact player on the field and in the locker room. He saw parallels between Mikell and Brian Dawkins after coaching both players in Philadelphia.

Spagnuolo is long gone now, of course, and the team wound up releasing Mikell to avoid paying a $9 million salary to him. The cap consequences remain for the 2013 season.

So, while the Rams are rightfully excited about the team's direction under current coach Jeff Fisher, the past isn't quite behind them.