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Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Closer look at Rams' cap before free agency

By Nick Wagoner

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams aren't likely to be big spenders in this year's free-agent market when it opens at 4 p.m. ET today. But that doesn't mean they don't have the resources to make a move or two, even a fairly pricy one if they so choose.

After releasing guard Harvey Dahl on Monday and with the pending release of cornerback Cortland Finnegan (which could go through as early as today), the Rams will save at least $8 million. The offset language in Finnegan's deal related to a roster bonus that is guaranteed could save the Rams up to an additional $3 million if a team signs him.

According to ESPN roster data, that leaves the Rams with $16.52 million in salary-cap space when accounting for just the top 51 highest-paid players on the roster. Ultimately, that number will come in closer to $15 million, because eventually they will have to count 53 players on the cap plus a practice squad. Also, the rookie class is expected to cost somewhere in the ballpark of $5-6 million for 2014, meaning the team has about $10 million in actual cap space it can use in this market.

That doesn't seem like much, but it's certainly enough to make a few moves if the Rams want. Remember, teams can backload deals and keep that first-year cap hit low to fit a player it covets. With the cap expected to rise to record levels in the next two years, teams might choose to do that more than ever this year.

Under the guidance of chief operating officer Kevin Demoff, that hasn't been the Rams' modus operandi. Demoff and the Rams prefer to operate under a pay-as-you-go philosophy, getting guaranteed money off the books and lessening the chance at future dead money.

One way or another, the Rams are going to add some reinforcements via free agency, but don't expect them to get into any major bidding wars. They have neither the cap space nor the inclination to do so.