Rams trade William Hayes to Miami, release three other players

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Rams freed up close to $16 million under the salary cap after parting ways with four key players late Thursday night.

William Hayes, one of their starting defensive ends, was traded to the Miami Dolphins along with a seventh-round selection (No. 223 overall), the team announced. In exchange, the Rams received the Dolphins' sixth-round pick (206th) and saved $5.5 million.

The Rams also released starting center Tim Barnes, starting tight end Lance Kendricks and Eugene Sims, one of their key backups on the defensive line.

The four moves added up to $15.6 million in cap savings, much needed after the Rams nearly reached their ceiling by signing left tackle Andrew Whitworth and wide receiver Robert Woods earlier Thursday.

Kendricks' departure could mean more targets for Tyler Higbee, a talented fourth-round pick in 2016, but the Rams are still in need of a center and more depth for their defensive line. They also need help at linebacker and safety and could use more talent at receiver.

The Hayes move was partly motivated by the Rams going from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

Hayes, 31, was known largely for his infatuation with mermaids and his belief that dinosaurs never existed. But he was also a very productive member of one of the game's most talented defensive lines, totaling 26½ sacks in his five-year stint with the Rams.

"Will has been an integral member of our defense since he became a Ram in 2012," Rams general manager Les Snead said in a statement. "His passion set the tone for our defense and served as an example for his teammates. Off the field, he showed compassion as he was a major contributor to the St. Louis and Los Angeles communities, working to improve the plight of the homeless. We wish Will and his family the best of luck in all of his future endeavors."

With the Hayes trade, the Rams enter the 2017 draft with eight selections, though only one of them will come within the first 68.