It's no secret that professional sports is a business. Players are traded or waived to save money.
The NFL is no different, particularly because of its strict salary cap.
These five players on the Rams' roster could be facing uncertainty heading into 2015.
Their performance could determine what happens to their future in 2016.
Nick Foles, quarterback
Rams' general manager Les Snead has maintained reaching a long-term deal with Nick Foles is"definitely realistic." Whether they can come to an agreement before the Week 1 remains to be seen. But Snead did not rule out stopping contract talks once the season is underway. The big question is this: Will the Rams get the Foles from 2013 that tossed 27 touchdowns to two interceptions? Or will they see the Foles from 2014 that was inconsistent and turned the ball more times in seven games (13) than his previous 23 games (12) from 2012-13 combined?
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Chris Long, defensive end
Ever since being drafted No. 2 overall in the 2008 NFL Draft, Chris Long has been a stabilizing force along the Rams' defensive front line. He was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team and has recorded 51.5 sacks over his seven-year career. However, injuries slowed Long in 2014, limiting to him just six games. The Virginia product will also be entering the wrong side of 30 come 2016, when his cap number reaches $14.25 million (highest on the team). His backup, Williams Hayes, filled in admirably when Long missed time and would come at a much cheaper cost. Should the Rams decide to cut ties with Long, it would save them $11.75 million.
Nick Fairley, defensive tackle
The one-year deal Nick Fairley signed in the offseason is essentially a make-it or break-it deal. When healthy, Fairley was a key cog in the Detroit Lions' defense. But the Auburn standout played in just 46 out of 64 games during his four-year career in Detroit. From 2012-13, he appeared in 28 games and recorded 11.5 sacks. His 2014 season was hampered by injuries as he appeared in just eight contests. Fairley has also dealt with weight issues that perhaps contributed to inconsistent play over the years. Entering the prime of his career, Fairley could be part of the Rams' long-term plans if he performs up to expectations. His play in 2015 hinges on that.
Michael Brockers, defensive tackle
In April, the Rams' picked up the fifth-year option on Michael Brockers' rookie deal, ensuring he'll be under contract with the club through 2016. The 14th overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft has appeared in all 16 games the last two seasons for the Rams, recording 7.5 sacks during that same span. In the offseason, though, the Rams signed Nick Fairley, who is expected to see ample playing time rotating with Brockers and Aaron Donald. Cutting ties with Brockers would do no good as he's guaranteed $6.146 million in 2016 regardless. But how Brockers performs could decide whether the Rams choose to sign him to a long-term deal or simply let him play out his rookie contract.
Jared Cook, tight end
The Rams signed Jared Cook to a 5-year, $35 million deal in 2013. Simply put, he's failed to produce at a level anywhere near what he's getting paid. But some of that could be attributed to a revolving door at the quarterback position during his two seasons in St. Louis. In two seasons, he's averaged 40.7 receiving yards per contest and has reached the end zone just eight times. Looking at it further, he scored twice in his Rams' debut on Sept. 8, 2013. Since, he's found pay dirt six times in the last 31 games. In the offseason, the Rams signed Lance Kendricks to a much cheaper 4-year, $18.5 million extension. It's not inconceivable the Rams could go with the more affordable option in Kendricks moving forward if Cook has another subpar season.
*All salary cap information used via OverTheCap.com