THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — It didn’t take much time after the Los Angeles Rams won Super Bowl LVI for the front office trio of general manager Les Snead, COO Kevin Demoff and VP of football and business administration Tony Pastoors to turn to the task ahead: Keeping as much of this championship roster together as possible.
The first big move was to sign quarterback Matthew Stafford to a contract extension in March, tying him to the franchise through the 2026 season. And then last week, the Rams reworked defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s contract to give him a big raise and signed wide receiver Cooper Kupp to a three-year contract extension that pairs him with Stafford for five more seasons.
After the Donald and Kupp deals, the Rams still have $7.6 million of cap space, according to Over the Cap.
And while those are the three long-term deals the Rams have done this offseason, there is plenty of talent alongside them. The Rams are now the only team in the NFL with two players — Stafford and Donald — who have an average salary at least $30 million per year in their current contracts. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who signed a five-year, $100 million contract extension in 2020, has a cap hit of $23.2 million this season. Wide receiver Allen Robinson II signed a three-year, $46.5 million contract this offseason.
So, how did they do it?
With a top-heavy roster containing so many star players, the Rams have to rely on their draft picks to add cheaper talent. For this to work, they have had to find young talent to fill in around the headliners. The Rams have managed despite not having a first-round draft pick since 2016. The Rams have 11 projected starters they’ve picked on the second or third day of the draft since 2017, led by Kupp (a third-rounder in 2017).
The recent contract extensions also helped the Rams’ cap space for this season. Kupp’s cap number for this season went down with the extension, from $18.3 to $17.8 million, according to OTC.
Extending Stafford in March also gave the Rams some cap flexibility this year.
While Stafford’s contract averages $40 million per season, his cap hit for 2022 is $13.5 million, which is 6.71% of the Rams’ salary cap and a sizable reduction from the $23 million cap hit he would have had before the extension. Stafford’s deal does jump to $20 million in 2023 and then $49.5 million the following season, which is when many people around the league are expecting the cap to explode with the potential of huge TV deals.
But it’s a bargain right now. By comparison, the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers has a cap hit of $28.5 million in 2022, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ is $37.8 million and the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen’s $16.4 million.
According to OTC, the Rams are currently $2.5 million over the projected cap for 2023 and $7.8 million under for 2024, but those cap numbers won’t be set until after each preceding season and could drastically change.
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One player the Rams did not retain was outside linebacker Von Miller, who signed a six-year, $120 million contract with the Buffalo Bills in free agency. The Rams also have not re-signed wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who tore the ACL in his left knee during the Super Bowl.
The Rams could re-sign Beckham, who attended head coach Sean McVay’s wedding earlier this month. McVay joked that Beckham knew the expectation was, “You come to the wedding, you’ve got to sign with the Rams.”
After he signed his contract, Donald said it was not his top priority to become the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL. Instead, he said, one of the “most important things for me was feeling that the pieces that we brought in were going to still be here.”
With the core tied together for at least the next three seasons, the Rams were able to extend their Super Bowl window.