Assessing the Rams' Salary Cap Situation After Wayne Hunter's Release

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterMarch 6, 2013

Nov. 25, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA: St. Louis Rams tackle Wayne Hunter (72) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Rams fans can officially rejoice after the news of Wayne Hunter's release broke. With less than one full calendar year under his belt in the Lou, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the team had severed ties with the eight-year pro:

The move was less than surprising considering Hunter was due $4 million in 2013. That's an awful lot of money for a player who has no value as a starting offensive tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed four quarterback sacks, four quarterback hits and 12 quarterback hurries on 197 pass-blocking attempts. 

St. Louis' total cap space (per now sits at $108,867,777, a number that is finally starting to take shape after the increase of the cap floor and today's release. Yet I wouldn't assume that the organization is done making moves. They still have a ways to go if they want to get guys like Danny Amendola, Steven Jackson and Jared Cook signed. 

One should realistically expect one or two more contracts to be slashed by the start of free agency.

The two potential releases that seem most obvious to me are those of Quintin Mikell and Harvey Dahl. Mikell and Dahl both played at a very high levels last year, but the temptation of having $7 million more to work with may be too enticing for the Rams to pass up. 

Even though Mikell is due $6 million in 2013, cutting him would only save $3 million in cap space because of the dead money involved in his contract. Cutting Dahl, though, would be a clean break. He has no dead money remaining in his contract because St. Louis has already given him all of the guaranteed money that is owed to him.

Realistically though, the only one in true danger of having his contract axed is Mikell. Dahl's name has been floated out there because of his high level of compensation compared to his level of play. At times last season he played okay. If anything he started to come on strong towards the end of the year. And honestly, St. Louis may not have the luxury of making a move on him until after the draft.

A lot of the Rams' offensive line woes could be solved with a solid draft that includes two starters. Yet the draft could go the other way as well. As we know, the draft doesn't always fall the way fans and media members predict. There are always a few surprises and certain players will move up or slide based on information the general public has zero knowledge of. 

It's also worth noting that Les Snead and Jeff Fisher liked what Mikell brought to the table as a player in 2012, and based on Jim Thomas' comments from his weekly chat, they want him back. They just need to get his price down.

Whether that comes in the form of a pay cut or a potential re-signing after the market settles down remains to be seen. 

The only thing we can be sure of at this point is that free agency is slowly creeping up on us. There are now only six days until the official signing period begins and three days until the negotiating period gets cranked up. 

For those of you unaware of the new negotiating process, here's a quick break down from our friends over at Niners Nation:

1. The negotiation period starts at 9:00 p.m. PT on Saturday and ends Tuesday when free agency starts at 1:00 p.m. This period will allow for negotiations, but contracts cannot be executed until Tuesday, 1:00 p.m. This is also when trades become official.

2. Team can only speak with agents during this period. They cannot speak with players. If a player does not have an agent, they will not be able to speak with teams. Apparently Ed Reed does not have an agent, although Ravens writer Aaron Wilson indicated he has business advisors. We'll see if he makes any adjustments to their roles, or if he simply continues trying to work a deal with the Ravens.

3. This period only applies to unrestricted free agents. Restricted free agents and franchise players are not allowed to enter into negotiations with outside team

These rules were put into place to try and cut back on the widespread tampering issues the NFL had been dealing with for umpteen years.