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Thread: Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

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    Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

    Rams must consider offensive line options
    5 hours ago • By Jim Thomas

    The Rams have taken major steps rebuilding the roster in two seasons of wheeling, dealing, and drafting under coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead.

    But just when it looked like much of the heavy lifting was done, the Rams could be facing a major renovation project on the offensive line.

    It all begins with Rodger Saffold, the tackle turned guard, whose original four-year contract is up. He’s scheduled for unrestricted free agency on March 11, the first day of the free agency-trading period, aka the start of the league year.

    Back in March, neither Saffold nor his agent were happy about Saffold being switched to right tackle after the signing of Jake Long in free agency. But Saffold uttered no discouraging words once he arrived at Rams Park for the spring practice period and over the course of the just-completed 2013 season.

    Before Saffold’s wild ride of a season ended with a possible concussion in Seattle, he had made only three starts at right tackle, started five games at right guard, and started the Seattle finale at left tackle in place of the injured Long.

    That’s nine starts. After suffering a knee injury in Week 2 in Atlanta, Saffold missed the next four contests. He returned from the injury Oct. 20 in Carolina and rotated with starter Joe Barksdale in that game as well as the next two contests.

    But it was those five starts at right guard, beginning with the Nov. 10 rout of Indianapolis, that got everyone’s attention. Before the start of this season, there were some at Rams Park who felt Saffold could be an elite performer at guard because of his combination of size, strength, footwork, and athleticism.

    Saffold’s play in those five starts did nothing to dispute that notion. There were times as a puller when he struck linebackers with such force they looked like they were going backwards on skates. He usually got from Point A to Point B quickly for a 330-pounder when pulling.

    Saffold was unavailable to the media after the Seattle game and on Monday at Rams Park because of the potential injury, which turned out not to be a concussion.

    He has a sunny-side-up personality. He’s optimistic by nature, enjoys playing for the Rams, and likes what the team is building here. But with all the switching around over the second half of the season, mainly as a result of injuries by others, he didn’t get a good sense of where he stood with the Rams. Was he a deluxe utilityman? Or a potential centerpiece of the line?

    With the Rams’ season over, the business season begins. Deciding Saffold’s worth will be tricky. Is he a tackle? Is he a guard? The Rams obviously think he’s a guard. Fisher said as much 10 days ago.

    “Rodger’s a tremendous athlete, and when healthy you could put him up there with some of the best in the league,” Fisher said at the time. “You would like to think his future’s probably at right guard. Or even left guard for that matter. But he plays the tackle position very well.”

    As impressive as he played in those five starts at guard, that’s a small sample size. How much is that worth for the Rams, or somebody else?

    “We think Rodger can play four different line positions at an exceptionally high level, as he proved this year,” said Alan Herman, Saffold’s agent. “He was absolutely dominating whenever he played guard. I think this puts him in an attractive situation as far as free agency.”

    The Rams haven’t opened negotiations with Saffold. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see Saffold test the market.

    “We look forward to exploring the market, and finding a spot where Rodger can contribute on a regular basis, play a specific position, and work to become an all-Pro player at that position,” Herman said.

    Saffold obviously is the top priority among the Rams’ pending unrestricted free agents, and the Rams are the only ones who can negotiate with him until March. It would be extremely surprising to see the Rams place a franchise or transition tag on Saffold as a one-year stop-gap measure. Last year, the franchise tag was $9.8 million and the transition tag $8.7 million for an offensive lineman. That’s a ton of money.

    In addition, Fisher mentioned two key words when he talked about Saffold’s athletic ability: when healthy. After playing and starting all 16 games as a rookie in 2010, Saffold missed 17 of 48 games from 2011 through 2013 because of injuries: seven games in ‘11, six games in ‘12, and four games this season. That must be factored into any contract discussions.

    Saffold’s not the only issue on the offensive line. Left guard Chris Williams, the only member of the unit to start all 16 games this season, is scheduled for unrestricted free agency. So is Shelley Smith, a handy backup who started two games at right guard this year, and six games at guard (four left, two right) in 2012.

    And what happens with veterans Scott Wells at center and Harvey Dahl at right guard? Wells, who turns 33 Jan. 7, missed the last four games of this season and nine last season because of injuries. He’s scheduled to count $6.5 million against the cap in 2014.

    Dahl, who turns 33 in June, missed four games this year and two a year ago with injuries. In a contract renegotiated in September, he is scheduled to count $4 million against the salary cap in 2014, with $2 million coming in the form of a roster bonus payable at the start of the league year.

    RAM-BLING

    The Rams signed five players Tuesday to their offseason roster: WR Emory Blake, DE Mason Brodine, TE Justice Cunningham, OT Sean Hooey, and CB Darren Woodard. All were members of the team’s 2013 practice squad.


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    Re: Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

    I would love to see Saffold back in a Rams jersey. At the right price. 100% agree with Fisher to include those two key words whenever he's asked about him "when healthy". After starting all 16 games his rookie season Roger has been active for thirty one of forty eight games. Three of the games he was active this year he didn't start. He was truly dominant in the run game at guard and would really like to see him staring at LG next year. The run blocking from him and Long when they're healthy would be second to none. But just like Fisher says he's gotta be healthy. So does Jake for that matter.
    ManofGod likes this.

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    KoaKoi is offline Registered User
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    Re: Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

    I seem to remember Fisher using the "when healthy" phrase about Amendola when he was soon to be FA. If memory serves, that just about exactly when DA STOPPED being a Ram

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    Re: Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

    My dream would be to see Saffold a Ram at the RG spot for at least a few more years.

    Unfortunately, I'm just not sure if the Rams want to compete with what other teams may offer him. I think he'll be a pretty hot FA, he's played well when healthy. But, we know how oft-injured he is, and that's why I'd be skeptical to hand him a big contract.

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    Re: Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

    The durability thing is big for the longterm but I think a tag would be wise for once. FA tackles are rare & any one decent would cost as much, like Long himself.Sounds like JL won't realistically be back until the second half of the season. Draft someone, by all means,but don't ask him to protect Sam's blindside and rebuilt knee out of the gate and see what you have in Barrett Jones and Barnes for another year .I think the greybeards and Williams are out and Darwin rules the rest. One year, get 'er done or get gone.

    Good for Saffold as well; his record isn't nearly as strong as Amendola's was. He needs a full good year at whatever spot to really get paid in STL or elsewhere,imo. Call the fat one year deal backpay for being a solid starter right out of the draft and a doozy insurance premium for Sam. With his rash of injuries and position swaps, it's easy to forget how good a find we thought Saffold was.

    ps: The Rams certainly have a lot of wheelin' & dealin' to do. I think Ol is like a Rubik's cube. You can't separate the parts or move them without an awareness of each and the big picture, as a game and a business, so hard to say how the RS issue will be resolved.

    I can say that the OL, while certainly needing stability and health, is light years ahead of two years ago. This year 8th fewest QB hits allowed. In 2011,dead last. Also gave up the most sacks in 2011. This last season, up 13 spots to 19th. The run game numbers jumped quite a bit as well, esp TDs, and I'm sure a full season of Stacy would have helped even more. We're getting there...
    Last edited by Azul e Oro; -01-08-2014 at 03:03 AM.

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    Re: Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

    Does the phrase "Next Man Up" mean anything?

    I would like to see us keep all the OL players we have but it's the GM and Coaches job to fill any and all holes.

    Get er done!

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    Re: Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

    If I remember correctly, Saffold has only had significant injuries at either tackle spot. I think he had an injury at RG, but he only missed a play or few. If that is the case, and IF Saffold could see that, maybe he would take a 'FAT' RG deal. That I think is acceptable.


    gap

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    Re: Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

    Even if the Rams don't resign Saffold, someone will. But as pointed out at what price? Durability issues or lack there of them is a killer to O-lineman's career. Most teams are always strapped for cash one way or another and building a unit where its hard to pay for someone else to step in and give a team the same quality is near impossible in today's NFL.

    Saffold is better off where he is at even if he signs just a 2 year deal and come at it again in a short time. Its a huge risk either way, either for him or the team he plays on. IF he takes the 2 year deal and proves he isn't worth serious $$$, then he is stuck going from team to team with little certainty. Where as is there a team out there that will give him the $$$ and hope he works out--about the only way that happens is if he finds himself on a team in the middle of a rebuild with plenty of cash available. But once that team gets its pieces together Safforld is back to square one with an uncertain future since likely that team would like to restructure or just cut him

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    Re: Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

    We do not have the luxury of unloading Saffold- not with the question marks surrounding the other guys on the line. He is certainly not the picture of durability, but he is a valuable commodity and a decent player. He also keeps his mouth shut and has performed admirably despite being bounced around.

    It is frustrating to see our struggles with this unit, which have been ongoing since the Devaney/Spags regime. It is not for a lack of trying. Billy D. spent a lot of money trying to upgrade the line and it just didn't work. Jason Brown, Jacob Bell, Jason Smith, etc. and so forth. I DO think this year's performance was decent, but certainly upgrades are needed. You cannot win in this league if you don't keep your QB upright. And the late season injury to Jake Long is a huge concern.

    There is no question in my mind the Rams will look to once again target a lineman or two high in the upcoming draft. It's not the way I was hoping we'd go, but it is critical for the offense that we do so.

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    Re: Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

    Personally, I'd give Roger a deal like this:
    2 years
    signing bonus: 4M
    Base Salaries: 1.5M, 3.5M, First year only guaranteed.
    Incentive: 500K each year for 70% of snaps, additional 1M for 90%

    Cap hits of 4M(with additional 1M not likely to be earned) and 6M(again, 1M NLTBE).

    Probably a bit more than I'd like to give him, but it at least protects us against further injury. He has the potential to hit 6M/year if he's a starter and healthy, which would put him in the same ball park as the tackles this past year. Don't like the 2M cap hit if we cut him after this year, but we'd save double that if he doesn't pan out, and we'll have the new TV money anyway.
    I believe!

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    Re: Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

    Sneed and Fisher let Amendola go last year. He was a fan favorite and a big part of Sams success in 2012.
    Sneed and Fisher let Jackson go last year. He was the fan favorite and our only good player for many years.

    Both received money that Rams fans thought was fair compensation and they felt that the Rams made big mistakes not matching. Given Saffolds injury history, lets not forget this guy missed one of every three games the last three years, and the NFL's habit of throwing band-aids at their tackle problems, Saffold is very likely to be over paid. I think it's more likely we retain Wells or Dahl than resign Saffold.

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    Re: Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey View Post
    Sneed and Fisher let Amendola go last year. He was a fan favorite and a big part of Sams success in 2012.
    Uuuuhhhh, Injury history?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey View Post
    Sneed and Fisher let Jackson go last year. He was the fan favorite and our only good player for many years.
    In all due respect, the RAMS gave SJax the decision to do what he wanted, something he earned by his commitment to the RAMS. This will also pay dividends to the RAMS in the long run, as it shows that the RAMS are a team that treats players with respect. Quality players will take less to play for an organization like that.


    gap

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    Re: Thomas: Rams must consider offensive line options

    Quote Originally Posted by gap View Post
    Uuuuhhhh, Injury history?



    In all due respect, the RAMS gave SJax the decision to do what he wanted, something he earned by his commitment to the RAMS. This will also pay dividends to the RAMS in the long run, as it shows that the RAMS are a team that treats players with respect. Quality players will take less to play for an organization like that.


    gap
    I agree with both points. Not sure if you think I was complaining or not. I wasn't complaining about either player not being on the Rams this year. Didn't want the Rams to spend money on either player. Yes I know Danny has an injury history that's why I'm glad they didn't resign him.

    I was simply pointing out that the Rams with the current leadership isn't going to over pay one of their own free agents. They only do that to other teams free agents.

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