Around the League is taking a look at each team's salary cap situation heading into training camp. We conclude this series with the St. Louis Rams.
Adjusted cap number: $125.485 million
Cap room remaining: $3.602 million
Best bargain: As we noted in our "Making the Leap" series, Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis has led the team in tackles in each of the last three seasons and has missed just three snaps in his career. Between Jeff Fisher's defensive system and better talent in front of him, Laurinaitis could be Pro Bowl-bound in 2012, which also happens to be the final year of his rookie contract.
Laurinaitis will earn $620,000 in base salary and a $95,000 workout bonus in 2012, and his $1.382 million cap number is actually lower than cornerback Bradley Fletcher's. A free agent in 2013, Laurinaitis is headed towards an extension or a franchise tag, which has a projected value of $9.049 million if the salary cap remains flat, as it's expected to do.
Potential camp casualty: The Rams will have closer to $3 million in cap space once second-round cornerback Janoris Jenkins signs his contract and could use some additional space to add players during the season and prepare for the future. Considering that the top earners and higher cap numbers are poised for big roles this season, don't expect many earth-shattering transactions emanating from the team's headquarters.
With the Rams expected to use fewer "big nickel" packages, backup safety Craig Dahl and his $1.2 million salary and cap number could be on the bubble. Speaking of roster holdovers, wide receiver Brandon Gibson ($1 million salary and cap number) and the previously mentioned Fletcher ($1.202 million salary) could be pushed off the roster.
Contract issue looming in 2013: Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is not the only key player on the Rams defense headed towards unrestricted free agency. Defensive end Chris Long, who had a career-high 13 sacks in 2011 and has 30.5 sacks in his 64-game career, is due $10.31 million in base salary this season and has a cap number north of $18.5 million in the final year of his rookie contract. Long could be making similar money in 2013 as if no long-term deal is reached by next February, the Rams could keep him off the free agent market by using the franchise tag. The tag for a defensive end is projected to be worth $10.835 million in base salary next season.