The salary cap implications of Robert Quinn’s great season


We’ve been fawning over Robert Quinn here since we launched back in August. I started it by saying the Rams’ defensive line was potentially the best – and certainly the deepest – in the NFL. The reason I felt so confident in that statement was because of Quinn’s unlimited potential.

Fourteen games into the season though, Quinn has surpassed even my wildest expectations. I wrote on October 18th that Quinn was proving that he was an elite pass-rusher, but I secretly wondered if he’d be able to sustain his breakneck pace. Sure enough, he has.

Quinn’s potential was always there, as I mentioned, but this year he has shown up and terrorized left tackles on a weekly basis. He also plays the run exceptionally well, something that used to be considered a weakness for him.

Three years into his career, Quinn is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate and is well-positioned to have an extremely long and productive career.

He’s also well-positioned to cash in…big-time.

One of our Twitter buddies, @Ramsherd, sparked the discussion this morning with the following tweet.

The article mentioned in that tweet posits that Quinn might very well set a new contractual standard for stud defensive ends. Which means when Quinn is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, he may very well command a pay day in the neighborhood of what Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams received two years ago: six years, $96 million.

I happen to think the Rams should do whatever it takes to keep Quinn in St. Louis. He’s a once-in-a-generation pass rusher who is the most complete 4-3 defensive end in the NFL. Did I mention the dude doesn’t even turn 24 until May??

But as Peter King noted this morning in his Stat of the Week, the Rams currently have $75.5 million of their 2014 cap allocated to their seven highest paid players. That’s 59.8 percent of the cap, good for third highest in the league. The good news is that the Rams can cut Cortland Finnegan and his $10 million cap hit without any ramifications. Offensive linemen Harvey Dahl and Scott Wells are also possible cap casualties.

However, the Rams front office doesn’t like to play short-term games with their salary cap, and cutting Dahl, Wells and Finnegan are short-term solutions. Additionally, the Rams have a history of extending core players long before they have a chance to hit the free agent market. That’s what they did when they extended Chris Long and James Laurinaitis before 2012’s training camp.

That leaves the elephant in the room: Sam Bradford. As his contract stands now, Bradford’s 2014 cap number is $17.61 million. The Rams are incredibly unlikely to stick with that number, so the issue becomes whether to renegotiate with Bradford this offseason and extend him or to cut bait and start over. (For a good breakdown on how this might impact the Rams cap, read this article.)

If the Rams stick with Bradford going forward (and I think they will), he will command an eight-figure salary – and therefore an eight-figure cap hit.

This very well could impact the ability for the Rams to sign Quinn to a long-term extension, as Quinn’s cap hit would make the Rams’ salary cap even more top-heavy than it currently is.

Just something to think about. But for now, I’m going to keep doing exactly what I tweeted yesterday: Sit back and enjoy the Robert Quinn Show.

Read cover32 Rams managing editor Spencer Engel’s interview with cover32 Saints managing editor Reed Marks to get up-to-date with this week’s matchup.

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