Rams, Saffold talk new contract

22 hours ago • By Jim Thomas jthomas@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8197

INDIANAPOLIS • The attempt to keep offensive lineman Rodger Saffold in a Rams uniform next season and beyond is about to reach a critical stage. With the start of the free agency period less than three weeks away, the Rams are scheduled to meet with Saffold’s representatives today in Indianapolis at the NFL scouting combine.

“Obviously we have a serious interest in getting Rodger back,” coach Jeff Fisher said Friday. “It’s important for us to get that done. He’s expressed serious interest in coming back at well.

“He’s going to be an outstanding guard in this league. Now, that doesn’t mean to say that he could not play either tackle because this year he did. He stepped in when Jake (Long) went down. And he stepped in here and there and played some really good football at the tackle spot.”

Saffold wasn’t happy when the Rams signed Long in free agency last March, meaning Saffold had to switch from left to right tackle. After missing four early-season games with a knee injury, Saffold rotated with Joe Barksdale at right tackle when he returned to action.

But Barksdale remained the starter and played about twice as much as Saffold in those games. Saffold wasn’t happy about losing his starting job. And when he was switched to guard, he was puzzled by what appeared to be a utility role.

However, Saffold played so well at guard that neither he nor his agents are opposed to Saffold playing that position on a regular basis. But will it be in St. Louis?

The advantage with the Rams at this point is they are the only team allowed to negotiate with Saffold until just before the start of free agency March 11. (There is a three-day window to contact and negotiate with players from other teams on March 8, 9, and 10.)

Already there are rumblings of potential interest from other teams, including NFC West rival Arizona.

WILLIAMS, TOO

Fisher said the Rams are interested in re-signing left guard Chris Williams as well. Williams, who’s also scheduled for unrestricted free agency, was the Rams’ only offensive lineman to start all 16 games in 2013.

“Yeah, we had a really good visit when he left (for the offseason),” Fisher said. “He’d like to come back and it makes sense that we would try (to re-sign him). He played good; he was solid. When you don’t hear his name, you don’t talk about him.”

WHAT ABOUT FINNEGAN?

Although speaking optimistically, Fisher and general manager Les Snead were less definitive about the future of Cortland Finnegan in St. Louis. The cornerback has three years remaining on a five-year, $50 million contract. It seems unlikely the team would want him back at his current cap figure of $10 million for 2014.

Short of releasing Finnegan, there’s the possibility of a contract restructuring or pay cut that would lower Finnegan’s cap count.

“Cortland’s had a great career,” Snead said. “He had an injured eye last year, really a broken eye. I don’t know if you can break your eye (but) he continued to play through that, and it was causing him some issues with headaches and vision.

“First of all, get him healthy and then with Gregg (Williams) coming in (as defensive coordinator) figure out where we all fit. In this league, corners that can go inside and play nickel, you can’t have enough of those people.”

FISHER ON L.A.

Fisher was part of a difficult franchise move in the late 1990s when the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee. In light of owner Stan Kroenke’s recent purchase of a stadium-sized plot of land in Los Angeles, is Fisher concerned about a possible Rams’ move?

“No. No concern,” Fisher said. “There’s probably a pretty good chance he’s purchased a property between now and the time he purchased that (Los Angeles) piece of property. That’s what he does. So there’s no concern whatsoever.”

“I think the Commissioner (Roger Goodell) made a statement with respect to that when it was announced that he purchased that piece of property in Los Angeles.”

Goodell told Rams fans in St. Louis not to overreact to the Kroenke land purchase in L.A. at his annual state of the NFL news conference during Super Bowl week.