NFL free agents: Jake Long, Rodger Saffold and the Rams' tackle situation

Dilip Vishwanat

Jake Long would make a good fit for the Rams, right?

On Friday, Peter King took a break from his travelogue, to share his musings on free agency, and names Jake Long as the best fit for the St. Louis Rams.

(Aside: Just how under-served are NFL fans, from a media standpoint? Peter King is the sport's most recognized writer. Not even his cool kid collection of baseball clothing can contain the odor of dullness and coffee that seep from his pores. Nevertheless, King is who is, and there's usually something notable in the 1.5 columns per week he writes, which translates to about 500 words if you cut out all the Paul Harvey bullshit he wedges in there).

The biggest question on Long is his health, as he gets over a torn triceps and a host of other cascading dings that come with life in the NFL. He played in just 12 games last season. However, he recently got a clean bill of health from Dr. James Andrews (yes, that guy), according to Jason Cole from Yahoo.

Still, it's curious that a team like the Dolphins, or any team, isn't interested in bringing back a franchise left tackle. They could also be waiting out the market a bit. This year's free agent class is rife with tackles, and the draft is well-stocked with protectors too.

So how much is Long worth? King suggests $8 million per year, assuming a team can get him to sign for that. It's not a bad price, all things considered. The franchise tender for tackles this year was $9.8 million.

Signing a free agent tackle depends entirely on how the organization views Rodger Saffold's future here. As a left tackle, Saffold could be due for a big raise in 2014, when he reaches free agency. If the Rams move him to the right side, they can probably forget about keeping him because he can go look for left tackle jobs and contracts in free agency.

Keep Saffold at left tackle in the 2014 plans and beyond, and the Rams have to make a significant financial outlay for him. That's potentially a lot of money on two tackles. It's not unheard of, but it means less money elsewhere on the roster.

You also have a situation, if the Rams signed Long, where both starting tackles have some notable recent struggles with injury. It makes depth that much more important, especially if you ever want to see Sam Bradford reach that potential everyone keeps talking about.

A better move might be finding a right tackle on the market, which tend to come at a lower price point than left tackles (that's changing though because pass rushers work all over the field these days, just ask Chris Long).

The best move would probably be finding a player in the draft, a guy who can replace Saffold if he gets away in free agency or allows the Rams to re-sign Saffold without having oodles of money tied up in both tackles.

Here's the thing to remember in free agency, a manta Kevin Demoff repeats over and over again: the moves you make now, will impact the moves you can make in 2015 or 2016. The Rams are a young team. In the immediate future, those young players will be stars that the Rams don't want to lose.

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