With Tuesday’s revelation of the Rams acquisition of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Davin Joseph (via Fox Sports’ Alex Marvez), St. Louis now has an offensive line issue that is much more welcome than the one they had just a couple short months ago.
As you’ll remember, depth questions loomed as the team approached the 2014 free agency period with a handful of offensive linemen poised to exit St. Louis. The impending issue made the team’s ability to re-sign guard/tackle Rodger Saffold the key to the remainder of their offseason as he looked set for free agency. Ultimately he’d return to St. Louis, but not after enduring one of the more puzzling free agent mix-ups in recent memory with the Oakland Raiders. However, as guards Shelley Smith and Chris Williams picked up free agent deals with Miami and Buffalo respectively and the team’s restrictive cap situation ushered Harvey Dahl out the door, depth among the interior offensive line became one the teams very immediate needs.
Head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead recognized this need and originally visited with Joseph (among others) in March as it appeared more and more likely that Saffold would leave. Joseph and the others would leave Rams Park with out signing contracts. Despite not making any initial outside free agent signings to bolster the line, the team would eventually find it’s depth in the draft.
The Rams used the second overall pick to secure the services of Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson – who figures to slide in at guard barring the health of left tackle Jake Long – and added tackle Mitchell Van Dyk and center Demetrius Rhaney in the seventh round. Combine their selections and the eventual signing of Joseph with the competition from returning young players in Tim Barnes, Barrett Jones, Travis Bond and Sean Hooey, and all the sudden the offensive line will be a very interesting group to watch in OTAs and training camp.
Joseph has had a rough couple seasons – his return last year from a 2012 knee injury that cost him his season was forgettable – but he’s still a two-time Pro Bowler and former first-round pick. At worst, he’s training camp competition to help push the younger members of the unit. The one-year deal he’s set to sign makes it easy for the team to part ways with the veteran if that’s all he can muster. At best, he’s a starting-caliber talent that makes the Rams interior line rotation that much stronger. Realistically, he’s somewhere in between.
The sudden abundance of linemen is great, but the question worth considering is how much Joseph’s signing has to do with the health of Jake Long as it pertains to his ability to start at left tackle from Day 1. Long was a revelation last season and was one of the top-performing tackles in the league prior to his Week 15 ACL and MCL tear. All indicators are that he’s on track to return on time, but Joseph’s signing provides the team with an experienced option to slide in should Saffold have to shift outside in Long’s stead. The newfound depth that the team boasts obviously takes a big hit if a player of Long’s quality is unable to take the field.
Regardless, Joseph’s signing (coupled with the draftees) puts the Rams in a much better position from a depth standpoint than they were two months ago as they head towards OTAs.