It may seem ridiculous to claim that any team amassing 53 sacks to follow up a 52-sack year in 2012 needs to make changes in the pass rushing department, but that’s just what could be facing the St. Louis Rams this offseason.
Some of the impending adjustments that may be facing the franchise will be necessitated by salary cap restrictions rather than a choice by the club itself. After a dire cap situation this past season following the free agent signings of Jake Long and Jared Cook, the Rams will have to make some serious budget cuts in order to afford some key players to their defensive success.
Obviously the top concern is Robert Quinn who has some incremental growth in his first three NFL seasons. 2013 saw Quinn notch 19 sacks to follow up a 10.5 sack campaign in 2012 and just five QB takedowns in his rookie year. He is set to carry just a $3 million cap hit in the final year of his rookie deal in 2014 which is a crazy bargain considering what some of the best pass rushers in the league get paid. Now that Quinn is among that fraternity, there’s no doubt he will be looking to cash in on his success as the soon-to-be 24-year-old is just scratching the surface on his immense potential.
What makes defensive end the place of change is the fact that Quinn’s teammate, Chris Long, is set to carry an insane $14.7 million cap hit in 2014 with a staggering $13.2 million of that in base salary alone. A restructure certainly seems in order to clear room to get Quinn locked up, but the team could also look to flat out cut Long in an attempt to cut corners. Making a move like that would be just one way to free up some serious cash as the Rams have several other high-priced veterans not playing up to their contract values.
Of course the fact that they hold the No. 2 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft makes the idea of saying goodbye to Long a little easier being that the incomparable Jadeveon Clowney figures to be available with that selection. Either trading or cutting Long would create massive amounts of dead money, but it would also save a ton off the bottom line in 2014 against the cap. Re-signing Quinn and adding the soon-to-be 21-year-old phenom in Clowney would give the Rams a future pass rushing duo to torment opposing quarterbacks for years to come.
Now all of this may seem like Madden Football GM talk given that Long is a fixture in the St. Louis locker room who provides a great deal of leadership to the team, but sometimes difficult choices have to be made with a team in salary cap purgatory. When a player like Quinn is poised to hit the open market in a little over 12 months at his absolute peak value, it only seems wise to get him locked up prior to the offers from elsewhere wooing him away. It may be easier said than done, but there’s no question the Rams have a multitude of options at defensive end this offseason.