Matthew Stafford Faces a $32 Million Dilemma Thanks to the LA Rams’ Financial Problems

Former Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is hoping to get a fresh start with the Los Angeles Rams in 2021. That may be easier said than done. Behind the scenes, the Rams are dealing with what is, by far, the worst salary cap situation of any team in the NFL. This may actively hinder the team’s ability to surround Stafford with the supporting cast he needs to compete for a championship.

The Los Angeles Rams’ salary cap situation is dire

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Due to revenue losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL’s salary cap has fallen to $182.5 million this offseason. One year ago it stood at $198.2 million. Because of this drop, every NFL team has scrambled to restructure and slash contracts to get themselves out of the red.

The Los Angeles Rams have been slower than anyone else in doing so. According to Spotrac’s figures as of Monday morning, they still sit $32.1 million over the salary cap. By contrast, the next-worst team — the Philadelphia Eagles — are only $8.6 million over the cap.

The situation used to be even more dire. According to the Los Angeles Times, the team’s deficit was as high as $33 million back on Wednesday, the day the salary cap was first announced. However, the Rams have not made public how they shaved $10 million off of their payroll in the past five days.

The Rams’ salary cap situation is bad news for Matthew Stafford

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The Rams’ financial predicament means that they cannot easily surround new quarterback Matthew Stafford with the tools he needs to win a championship.

This is not to drag the Rams’ current offense. As it is, they have plenty of standout players, such as wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Evans. Last season, the duo combined for 182 receptions and nine touchdowns. This is still more than Stafford had to work with last season in Detroit.

Some more cap room would have helped the Rams bolster their offense even further, however. There are plenty of free-agent wide receivers available. If the Rams had the flexibility, they could have possibly reunited Stafford with Kenny Golladay of the Lions. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Las Vegas Raiders’ Nelson Agholor would also be up for grabs.

Where is the LA Rams’ money headed?

SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA -- home of the Los Angeles Rams and new quarterback Matthew Stafford
A general view of the exterior of SoFi Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Rams and their new quarterback Matthew Stafford | Photo by Kevin Reece/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Aside from Stafford, who the Rams picked up in a trade from Detroit in February, a large chunk of the team’s current payroll goes to three players in particular. These are defensive end Aaron Donald (cap hit of $27.9 million), cornerback Jalen Ramsey ($22.5 million), and wide receiver Cooper Kupp ($14.5 million). Donald’s cap hit is the largest of any non-quarterback.

The quickest way for the Rams to exit the red would be to restructure the contracts of both Donald and Ramsey. According to SBNation, if general manager Les Snead converts as much of their base salaries as possible into signing bonuses, the team will shave almost $29 million off of their payroll. This would be almost enough to put them under the cap.

Financial data courtesy of Spotrac. Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.