It appears the first and heaviest domino of the Rams’ 2014 offseason has finally fallen.
Late Sunday evening, reports speculated that guard Rodger Saffold was on the brink of signing a deal with the Oakland Raiders worth somewhere in the range of $7 million to $8 million annually. According to STL Today’s Jim Thomas, Saffold’s representatives informed Rams’ COO Kevin Demoff that they were “probably going to move in another direction.”
The move isn’t completely surprising, as Thomas and others have floated reports of Saffold’s interest in testing the market since the Combine finished.
On the bright side, the team will be happy that they didn’t break the bank for a player who has only started 28 of a possible 48 games in his career. However, his departure does leave the Rams with some serious questions to answer regarding quality offensive line depth.
They may now have no option but to bring back guards Chris Williams and Shelley Smith, both at costs significantly less than Saffold demanded, despite their relative inefficiencies. Center Scott Wells has been a subject of re-signing conjecture as of recently as well, and the Rams can afford to do so if that’s the route they choose to go. However, the Rams still seem to be ready to cut aging veteran Harvey Dahl for salary cap purposes.
What this means is that the money that could have originally been allocated to Saffold can now be allocated towards top-tier help in either the secondary or along the offensive line if they deem it necessary. The cries for cornerback Alterraun Verner and safety Jairus Byrd will get a bit louder now, and the Rams figure to be major players in their respective free agent negotiations. Verner seems the more likely of the two to wind up in St. Louis given his ties to both head coach Jeff Fisher and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Verner might also fetch a salary a bit more modest than Byrd, who is reportedly seeking a deal worth $9 million a year.
If the Rams indeed decide to part ways with Dahl and bring in some outside help at guard, there will be some solid talent available when the window opens up tomorrow. Kansas City’s pair of Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz will hit the market, as will Denver’s Zane Beadles and Carolina’s Travelle Wharton, who could likely be had for cheap.
What was shaping up to be a relatively uninteresting free agency period barring Saffold’s re-signing has become one filled with some pretty serious question marks. Will the Rams now make offensive line a serious priority in the first round of May’s draft? The tackle trio of Auburn’s Greg Robinson, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan have been on their list for months, but they’ve had to compete with the flashier appeal of defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans.
I expect the Rams to lock up the majority of their remaining free-agents-to-be along the interior offensive line, but they should be seriously considering some talented reinforcements at this point.