EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams have made it abundantly clear that they would like to get a contract extension done with quarterback Nick Foles at some point in the near future, preferably before the season comes to a close.
But Foles isn't the only pending free agent the Rams are talking to about keeping in place for an extended period of time.
"There is some discussion, yeah that makes sense," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "He is not the only one we are talking with. We are talking with a number of our players right now and their representatives. Yeah, we're heading down that path. I’m really not involved with it other than that I would like to see us get something worked out at some point with him."
It's common procedure for a team to try to work out deals with players before the final season of their contracts, but the Rams have two pretty significant reasons to try to work something out with their list of unrestricted free agents as soon as possible.
First and foremost, the more deals they can get done now, the less they'll have to work on in the offseason. That's particularly important considering that this offseason will offer the oversized draft class of 2012 a bite at the free-agent apple. The Rams have a whopping 17 players on their roster that are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after the season.
That includes key starters such as Foles, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, safety Rodney McLeod, receiver Brian Quick and tight end/fullback Cory Harkey. Key depth players such as ends William Hayes and Eugene Sims, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, safety Mark Barron, kicker Greg Zuerlein and quarterback Austin Davis are also due to hit the market.
The extensive list doesn't include starting defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who is under control for the 2016 season because of a fifth-year option but has already been in discussions with the team about an extension that would keep the Rams from having to pay him the fifth-year option salary.
One other reason it would make sense for the Rams to get some players signed before the season is over, or even before it starts, is the sheer amount of business they could have to deal with in the coming offseason. If the Rams do get cleared to relocate to Los Angeles, it would make for a hectic offseason with trying to get players signed and managing the logistics of a move.
"We've been discussing (contracts) with a lot of those guys," general manager Les Snead said. "We’ve definitely sat in with a few of them. We are very well aware. I think that's where in the big picture that's where we are all at. Big year, 2015, are we going to take the next step as a team? Are these players going to take the next step and maybe sign and become a part of the core? So we are all, in these next few weeks and months, are going to determine a lot of things."
While the Rams will take a wait-and-see approach with many of the aforementioned players, they've already reached out to the representatives of most of their potential free agents. They've also identified at least a handful of guys that they would like to have as part of the core moving forward. In addition to Foles and Brockers, the Rams have seemed to prioritize Jenkins, Harkey and McLeod.
If the Rams are able to strike some agreements, they have a bit of salary cap flexibility they could use this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Rams have about $7 million in cap space, though they must keep some space to sign a practice squad and for injuries.
"Yeah, it is important," Fisher said. "It's important to them as well. Each and every situation is different, you know with respect to the particular players and the positions and what their contribution and their performance have been to this point. So, yeah it is an ongoing process. It's nothing new. I think everybody is doing it. Everybody in the league is talking to their younger players to try and get a feel for what the potential is to get contracts extended."
It remains to be seen who or how many of the potential free agents will stay, but logic dictates that the team won't be willing or able to keep them all. That makes this season an important one for a number of players who still must prove their worth in order to secure their futures in St. Louis.
"When there’s multiple number of those guys, we are getting to the point -- which is a good thing -- where you now have to start making decisions and balancing your budget," Snead said. "If this guy gets this, who gets what?"
In the Rams' ideal world, those questions will get answered sooner than later.