With free agency right around the corner, the Rams have started to clear the decks financially. The team released offensive tackle Wayne Hunter on Wednesday, freeing up $4 million of much-needed salary cap space.

Hunter, 30, was acquired in the Aug. 28 trade that sent former No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith to the New York Jets. Smith was released by the Jets on Feb. 19, so the deal was hardly a trade for the ages. Hunter appeared in 14 games for the Rams last season, missing the Green Bay and New England contests because of back issues.

Following Rodger Saffold’s knee injury in Game 2 against Washington, Hunter started the next four contests at left tackle — against Chicago, Seattle, Arizona and Miami. He had some rough moments against the Dolphins but didn’t play badly in the three other games.

Hunter, at best, would’ve been a third tackle for the Rams in 2013. And $4 million is a lot of money for a backup or spot starter, which is the money Hunter would have been due in 2013 in the form of a $3.95 million base salary and a $50,000 offseason workout bonus.

So Hunter’s release was expected for some time. It was just a matter of when it would happen.