Rams release Bruce (Wagoner)
Rams Release Bruce
Monday, March 6, 2006
By Nick Wagoner
Although itís certainly not the way anyone wanted it to happen, there remains hope for the return of receiver Isaac Bruce to the Rams after his release late Sunday night.
What once seemed like unlikely became a reality when Bruce and the Rams could not come to terms on a contract extension that would lower his cap number for this year. The team and Bruceís agent, Jimmy Sexton, intensified over the weekend and a deal that at one point seemed imminent fell apart.
Bruce is the longest tenured Ram, playing his entire 12-year career with the Rams after they drafted him in the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft. Because of his devotion to the team and his outstanding productivity on the field, the move to release him becomes all the more shocking.
But, though this is not the path of least resistance to a contract extension, the Rams and President of Football Operations Jay Zygmunt are holding out hope that they can get something done with Bruce in the coming days.
"Isaac has been an integral and valuable member of our organization for a long time, both on and off the field," Zygmunt said Monday morning. "This has been a difficult process. However, we remain optimistic that a contract extension can be completed in the near future."
There remains questions about the way negotiations went over the weekend with the Rams hoping to get Bruce to lower his cap number from the $10.04 million he was scheduled to make this season. Bruce was due a $1.5 million roster bonus on the first day of free agency. The Ramsí offer had asked Bruce to take a pay cut in the vicinity of $3 million, but Bruce wasnít ready to take a substantial cut for a team that was under the salary cap. But, the NFL pushed that date back from Sunday night to Thursday at 12:01 a.m.
The Rams then had an opportunity to rescind Bruceís release, just as teams had the chance to do with cuts they made on Thursday. But St. Louis made the decision to go forward with the cut. The release of Bruce clears just over $8 million in salary cap room, his scheduled base salary for the coming season.
In his time with the Rams, Bruce earned team records for catches with 813, yards (12,278) and touchdown catches (77). Though Bruce missed five games and was limited in others because of a turf toe injury in 2005, there are few signs that he is no longer a valuable player.
His numbers dipped because of his injury and the injuries to quarterback Marc Bulger, but turf toe has nothing to do with age. In fact, at 32, Bruce is the same age as the Coltsí Marvin Harrison, who signed a long-term deal with Indianapolis a year ago.
There are plenty of people in the organization, though, that are confident that Bruce will return to the Rams. And the reason for that optimism, however cautious it may be, comes from a recent situation that developed in a similar manner to this.
In February of 2003, star cornerback Aeneas Williams was due a $3.5 million roster bonus on Feb. 28. His cap number for that season was set to be just over $8 million. Unsure of Williamsí desire to return or retire and unwilling to pay Williams at such a high cap number, the Rams released Williams on Feb. 27.
Two days later, Williams re-signed with the team on a two-year deal for $5 million plus incentives that could make the deal worth as much as $6.5 million. Williams received a $1 million signing bonus in the process and his cap number dropped from just over $8 million to just over $2 million.
While Bruce isnít likely to take a pay cut as large as Williams did, there remains plenty of reason for hope that he will still finish his career a Ram. The Rams already have about $18 million in cap room and, should a new collective bargaining agreement be finished in the next few days, itís possible that the cap will go up by as much as $10 million, putting the Rams in the neighborhood of $28 million under the cap.
That would leave St. Louis with plenty of room to bring back Bruce and bring in some top-tier help on defense. If Bruce doesnít return, itís expected that Kevin Curtis would handle the No. 2 receiver role next to Torry Holt with Dane Looker and Shaun McDonald competing for the third spot.
In the meantime, Bruce is free to negotiate with any team he would like. But itís unlikely there will be much action on any free agents until something is worked out on a collective bargaining agreement.
Itís not the ideal situation for either side, but until Bruce signs on the dotted line of a contract with a different team, itís not over yet.
Re: Rams release Bruce (Wagoner)
So, it's not unheard of, folks. Let's not give away his locker space just yet.
In February of 2003, star cornerback Aeneas Williams was due a $3.5 million roster bonus on Feb. 28. His cap number for that season was set to be just over $8 million. Unsure of Williams’ desire to return or retire and unwilling to pay Williams at such a high cap number, the Rams released Williams on Feb. 27.