For those a little confused (and count me among them) by the Rams spending big on Quintin Mikell -- 4 years, $27 million dollars, with $14 million guaranteed according to reports -- just hours after it was revealed that we have only $12 mil to play with, here's some clarification.
Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal passed on a memo from the NFLPA this morning: it turns out that the new NFL salary cap (just over $120 this year) is a "soft cap." Under certain conditions, teams can spend more.
NFL.com's Albert Breer offers more details:
Agents received an email from NFLPA today, clarifying how the $120.375 million cap is a "soft cap". Each club can spend an extra $3 million. That $3 million must be spent on players with five or more years of service, and no more than $1 million can be used on one player. The $3 million in exemptions to help older players stick w/teams, much like a veteran making the min is counted on cap at rookie min figure.
If I read this correctly, this savings wouldn’t get realized off the top of Mikell’s contract, but the Rams could make extra room for it by resigning some of their veterans and shifting those dollars into this “soft” area. I also hear, though I haven’t found a verified source, that teams can “borrow” up to $3 million more against future year’s cap.
That said, an extra six million doesn't give the Rams that much more flexibility. And in his first post-lockout press conference, Rams GM Billy Devaney tried to temper expectations.
“We’re not kidding anybody,” Devaney said. “We still have holes to fill and we’re going to take the same approach. We’re not going to jump out there for the one guy so to speak, the mega superstar guy. Obviously we’re going to build this thing through the draft and supplement with guys that can be good, solid players for a long time. It doesn’t mean they’re going to be the ‘A-plus’ kind of players.”
So while the Rams might have kicked the tires on Sidney Rice before he went to Seattle, I doubt there was a serious play made. Rather than get these big name weapons, the Rams are going to have to contain them when they line up opposite.