After crazy few days, Saffold welcomed back by Rams ..
By Joe Strauss
He was leaving for the money and Rodger Saffold made no apologies for it.
Actually, Saffold wasn’t leaving as a free agent. He was gone. The dysfunctional Oakland Raiders offered him $42.5 million over five years because the only way the Raiders get players nowadays is to draft them, overpay them or scrape them off the street.
Saffold was leaving the Rams for the money. Or, as he further explained Friday morning, doing it for his family, especially his young daughter.
Saffold was in East Bay last Tuesday. He had discussed his decision with friends, including several former teammates, and had said goodbye to the Rams. Set to formalize the deal, Saffold was told to go into a room to take a call from his agent, Alan Herman, who informed Saffold he had flunked the Raiders’ physical due to concerns about a left shoulder that lifted 400 pounds 10 days earlier.
Before speaking to his agent, Saffold thought he was guaranteed $21 million. Afterward, he had nothing.
An organization reveals itself in different ways. If professional sports are cold, the National Football League carries a reputation as downright arctic. Players are commodities who rarely see the end of partially-guaranteed contracts. The Raiders emerged from last week wearing another level of stink.
Rejected, the Rams could have wiped their hands of him, chuckled and classified Saffold’s misfortune as his comeuppance.
Saffold described his decision to leave St. Louis as “business.” The Rams could have used his description to take its money elsewhere.
Blast the Rams for their slow drift within this month’s free-agent market. They’ve yet to address a vulnerable secondary and a receiving corps that appeared to plateau last season. They appear wedded to developing players selected in the last two drafts. If they move for a free agent, they could add bad actor wideout Kenny Britt.
But in Saffold’s case the organization showed something else.
As Saffold twisted in limbo, Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff repeatedly assured Herman he would personally vouch for Saffold’s medicals. Demoff was even willing to speak directly to the Raiders on his ex-player’s behalf. (Such a conversation never took place.)
It’s unclear if the Raiders harbored real concerns about Saffold’s shoulder or merely experienced buyer’s remorse over a deal widely lampooned within the league.
Saffold’s reaction, however, was obvious: Return home. Return to St. Louis.
“It was a slightly embarrassing feeling because I just didn’t want the Rams to feel a certain way,” Saffold explained at Rams Park Friday, adding that he would have had no issue accepting the Rams’ standing offer if not for the Raiders’ outrageous bid. (No, Saffold didn’t use the word “outrageous.”)
“Like I said, this is what I know. This is what I’ve been through the last four years,” Saffold said. “The fans have always been loyal. The coaches have always looked out for me. So it’s a simple choice.”
The embarrassment factor was real. Asked about the difficulty of reaching out to the Rams, the big man quipped, “Well, that’s why we have agents because I didn’t make the call.”
The Rams have big needs on the offensive line. Left tackle Jake Long remains an early-season question after shredding his knee late last year. The Rams didn’t act out of altruism when they accepted Herman’s call when the circus ended in Oakland. But neither did they out of spite.
The organization well remembered Saffold shifting last season from right tackle to left guard at the request of line coach Paul Boudreau.
Knowing what he had asked, Boudreau withdrew the suggested position shift after Saffold initially hesitated. Boudreau realized Saffold’s first love was left tackle before Long signed last March 18. Now the organization was asking him to make a massive adjustment in Week 10 of a walk season. The club interpreted the 25-year-old’s eventual willingness to move as something more than a show of versatility. (It didn’t hurt that Saffold graded out higher at guard.)
Only hours separated Saffold’s rejection by the Raiders from his return to the Rams, who guaranteed $19.5 million of the potential four-year deal’s $31.7 million.
“The initial decision to move inside, he welcomed with open arms,” said head coach Jeff Fisher. “Obviously, I think over the big picture it helped him. It gives us some confidence now. He’s a very important piece of our offensive line.”
Maybe the Rams should have played hard ball. Just because Saffold reached to them in the wake of an admittedly embarrassing situation didn’t mean the Rams had to return the embrace. There is sizeable risk attached to a lineman who has started just 28 of the team’s 48 games over the last three seasons.
Saffold will be here if the current regime fulfills its promises to a long-suffering fan base. And if Saffold’s not able to post consistently, the probability that promises go empty increases big time.
But listening to Saffold was to hear how someone could lose a lottery ticket Wednesday and happen upon something just as valuable Thursday.
“The crazy thing is, I would think everybody would be kind of mad at me,” Saffold reflected. “But I’ve gotten great news from fans and everything like that. I’ve gotten great feedback.”
And, yes, he got paid.
Re: After crazy few days, Saffold welcomed back by Rams ..
No reason for the Rams to play hardball with Saffold.
Would've just reminded us all of the Frontiere years.
This is a new regime and a new day for Ram fans everywhere.
Gone are the shenanigans of yesteryear.
We're Rammin' full speed ahead!!!
Re: After crazy few days, Saffold welcomed back by Rams ..
I cannot see how you can be angry or upset with Saffold's decision to accept Oakland's offer.
I'm also very very happy that we have guys like Kevin Demoff running the operations behind the football team.