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How much cap space do Rams have after signing Tre’Davious White?

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By: Kenneth Arthur

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams are an interesting position after signing Tre’Davious White on Tuesday

The Los Angeles Rams made a clear statement by signing Tre’Davious White to a one-year, $8.5 million contract on Tuesday and that message is that they are not worried about their dwindling remaining cap space. Nor do the Rams appear to be worried about 2025.

This is like another all-in season.

Why this is an ‘all-in’ move

I know, I know, signing Tre’Davious White at this stage of his career doesn’t have the same type of impact as trading for Jalen Ramsey. Not even close. The ‘all-in’ term simply comes from the fact that this move will significantly cut into the remaining cap space that the Rams have for 2024 even though there’s still a lot of work to do:

The Rams have 61 players signed to the roster right now, including White and not including Donald, so they are still well short of a 90-man roster. Only two teams in the NFL, the Ravens and Chargers, have fewer players signed than the Rams.

L.A. has about $16.7 million in cap space before we get the details of White’s contract. It was reported as $8.5 million with incentives that could make it $10 million. If the Rams take on the entire $8.5 million in 2024, that would only leave $8.2 million in cap space. And that’s just total cap space, not actual cap space, which could be about half of that. So let’s say $4.5 million.

That would put the Rams ranking 24th in effective cap space with the third-most roster spots needed to be filled.

Even if the Rams had void years to lower the cap hit, L.A. has so little left to give that there’s no reasonable number that doesn’t significantly impact their available moves. You could say it’s only a $4 million cap hit, that’s still a lot to the Rams and there is no good guarantee that White will play better or more often than options already on the team like Cobie Durant and Derion Kendrick.

White is an expensive shot in the dark and a clear indication that even in the wake of Aaron Donald’s retirement, Les Snead and Sean McVay intend to push all-in for a Super Bowl 2024 season.

Restructuring contracts would only cement ‘all-in’ push

It appears as though we’re going to get another season of Rams camp overrun with rookies. L.A. went into 2023 camp with almost 40 rookies and Snead will have to add more players who cost the least amount they can legally pay them. Of course, what matters is the top-51 contracts and one of those players will have to be the Rams first round pick, assuming they don’t trade down. Rookies are not free and the 19th overall pick carries a cap hit of $2.7 million. That’s just shy of the $3 million that Michael Hoecht got on Tuesday.

Whatever needs the Rams have on their roster now, most of it not all of those positions will have to be filled by players already on the roster, with rookies, or with cheap veteran free agents. That means that Desjuan Johnson, Bobby Brown, Hoecht, Christian Rozeboom, Russ Yeast, Quentin Lake, A.J. Jackson, Demarcus Robinson would almost all be slated for starting roles.

To try and add any more veterans through free agency or trade, the Rams could restructure the contracts of Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford, but pushing more cap commitments into the future for players who will be 37 and 32 in 2025 would make it irrefutably clear that the franchise is going “all-in”.

On one hand, this is similar to how the Rams went into the 2023 season and L.A. surprised everyone and made the playoffs. On the other, the Rams lost in the first round and that means that the team would theoretically be better than they were last season in order to complete an ‘all-in’ push.

Are the Rams going to be better than they were last season if they follow the same plan they used last season but don’t have Aaron Donald? Perhaps the offense will be so dominant that L.A. will surprise people again and make a deep playoff run, which again signals that signing White is the Rams way of saying that they believe they’re in Super Bowl contention with their free agent moves.

Could the Rams have used this money a different way?

If the Rams were trying to spread the wealth between the present and the future, then the expected move would be to not sign Tre’Davious White to a one-year, $8 million deal but to instead spread that money between multiple players who were younger or healthier, if not both. The Rams could have had multiple free agent defensive players competing to start with “up to $10 million”. For example, the team could have signed both DE Marcus Davenport and CB Isaiah Oliver for the same amount of cap space. Davenport and Oliver were never nearly as good as White, but we could have said the same thing about Kevin Dotson and Ahkello Witherspoon last year.

And if White has a great season in 2024 then it could be called a good signing as an all-in move. However, Bobby Wagner was a great signing for the team in 2022 but because everything else went wrong that year the addition had no impact on the season. As was the case with L.A.’s “all-in” trade for Matthew Stafford in 2021, the team still needs win to be all-in.

What will Rams do next?

Add more picks, restructure contracts

Though the Rams have 11 draft picks, tied for most in the NFL, the roster and draft board could setup Snead nicely to move down and pick 13 or 14 rookies again which is what I assume he will do. L.A. did so well by picking 14 players last year, giving them the opportunity to pick Puka Nacua when maybe they would have had the chance with one less pick, that I believe Snead will try to do something like that again. With Steve Avila, Kobie Turner, and Byron Young playing so well as rookies, Snead might be happy to trade down one or two times even if it puts him back in the second round.

Having that many draft picks also allows the Rams to look for a dozen or more cheap players to keep on the roster.

I’d also expect the Rams to restructure one or two of those contracts I mentioned to free up more cap space and they might still have another big name addition after that.

Draft Needs

To get the most out of their roster this season and without many other avenues, I believe Snead could draft a receiver with an early enough pick to think he could compete to start over Demarcus Robinson in Week 1; a defensive end to compete with Desjuan Johnson and Larrell Murchison; a third round linebacker to compete with Rozeboom; a fourth or fifth round safety to compete next to Kamren Curl; a sixth or seventh round kicker with a draft pick he adds in trading down.

Remaining cap space

Though we don’t have the official numbers yet, the answer is not much. Less than $10 million and even less than whatever that is after White’s contract details are announced. What matters is not necessarily the number, but how the Rams plan to complete their roster. It would seem that this is close to final with the addition of almost 30 rookies next month.