With NFL salary cap set, L.A. Rams can start making deals

Maneuvering by the Rams began even before the NFL set the salary cap for the 2016 season.

Now that $155.27 million has been established as the number, the Rams know exactly how much money they can spend. They are about $60 million under the cap heading into the new league year, which begins March 9.

The Rams will have 12 unrestricted and five restricted free agents.

Cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, safety Rodney McLeod and safety/linebacker Mark Barron are among those set to become unrestricted free agents.

Defensive linemen William Hayes, Eugene Sims and Nick Fairley also are in that group.

Quarterback Case Keenum is among the restricted free agents.

Less than two weeks ago, the Rams cleared about $23 million in salary-cap space when they released middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, defensive end Chris Long and tight end Jared Cook.

Coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Les Snead said this week at the NFL scouting combine that signing members of the secondary was the priority.

"It's a tough task but it is realistic…. Especially considering the cap room and things like that," Snead said.

Tuesday is the deadline for teams to designate whether they will utilize franchise or transition tags on unrestricted free agents.

Jenkins, 27, and Johnson, 26, are candidates to receive the lone franchise tag if the Rams opt to use it for the first time since 2009.

Players who get the franchise tag are retained by their current team for one season, earning no less than the average of the top five salaries at their position, or 120% of their previous year's salary, whichever is greater. For cornerbacks, that is expected to be nearly $14 million.

A transition tag gives teams the right of first refusal to match another team's offer.

Fisher has said that Keenum would enter training camp as the starter. If Keenum accepts an offer sheet from another team, the Rams would have the opportunity to match it and retain his services. If they lose him, the Rams could be granted one or more compensatory draft picks.

"We're not going to let him go somewhere else," Snead said last month.

But the Rams also are expected to pursue other avenues at the position. Nick Foles, who was benched in favor of Keenum last season, and Sean Mannion are also on the roster.

Fisher said Foles and Mannion would have the opportunity to compete for the starting job, and that others could be in the quarterback mix.

"There's probably a good chance there's going to be another one at camp, if not two," Fisher said. "I can't say whether that comes through the draft, through free agency or through trade."

Among other free agents, Snead said center Tim Barnes was "one of those guys we'd like to get back."

Barnes, 27, started all 16 games last season.

"The center and the QB thing are very important," Snead said, "So there's a lot of continuity on our line, and lot of things in terms of our young offensive lineman.

"Sometimes you want to keep that heartbeat, that brain, in check so that all the other guys can kind of fall in line and be communicated with and not have to learn new communication."

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 28, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Rams can start making deals - They are about $60 million under the $155.27-million salary cap set by the NFL." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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