The St. Louis Rams came into the off-season needing two things: weapons for Sam Bradford, and a wall offensive linemen to protect him . The Rams acquired Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, and Stedman Bailey; finally giving Bradford some offensive weapons. To help build a wall in front of Bradford, they brought in Jake Long, with a contract worth $34 million on 4 years.
The forgotten man is Rodger Saffold, or he would be if there wasn't reports of his displeasure with the Rams adding Jake Long. Saffold was the left tackle for the last three season's after beating out Jason Smith. Honestly, besides the 2011 season where the whole team played horrible, Saffold has had a solid career.
So why did the Rams bring in Long? It's simple, they figured he was an upgrade, and they got him at a big discount. If you think about the other left tackle deals over the years, Long's contract is easily manageable.
What is unknown however, is what will happen in the future with the Rams and Saffold. He might want to leave the Rams and become a starting left tackle elsewhere, because it's the position that gains the most respect and money on the offensive line. Is it possible the Rams can sell Saffold on the future of being a right tackle?
The future of right tackles
Left tackle was a big deal when pass rushers mostly came from that edge. Now they come from everywhere.— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) May 6, 2013
Once LTs became so good, defenses began finding other ways to get to the QB. Started sending blitzers from everywhere. Now RT = LT.— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) May 6, 2013
RT @youngbr2002: Are you saying the Jags are ahead of the curve... >>Shhh. People might think I'm crazy.— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) May 6, 2013
During the NFL Draft a few weeks ago, the Jaguars and Chiefs may have started a new trend. The current value of left tackles is changing. Drafting another left tackle - when you already have a good starter at the position - wouldn't have happened a couple of years ago. But like the tweets indicate, the days of left tackles being the most important piece on offensive lines are slowly disappearing. It will always be an important position, but soon teams will be paying more attention to right tackle than they have in the past.
The reasoning behind right tackles being more valuable
Is the time is already here? PFF has an article discussing this very topic. Basically stating that it makes more sense to have two good pass protectors, instead of just an elite LT and a poor RT.
"Perhaps a better way to go about building your LT/RT combination is by way of Good/Good rather than Elite/Poor. It may be unrealistic to go Elite/Elite and spend "left tackle money" on both positions, especially when the interior positions need not be neglected, but finding two competent players to play tackle is likely better than paying 10 times as much for a left tackle while paying minimally for the right side.
There’s one other factor to consider: division strength. I’m not sure it’s the best idea to base all team-building decisions on the three teams competing in your division, but perhaps as a tie-breaker when determining how to invest in left and right tackles, it makes sense.
In the Jaguars’ situation, for instance, the right tackle has to go up against Derrick Morgan in Tennessee, J.J. Watt in Houston (in base packages), and Robert Mathis in Indianapolis. Neglecting the right tackle in their case would be a bad move. On the other hand, if you’re the Detroit Lions, your left tackle has to go up against the likes of Clay Matthews in Green Bay, Julius Peppers in Chicago, and Jared Allen in Minnesota."
Why the Rams should re-sign Saffold
Saffold might not have been an elite left tackle, but he was a good pass blocker last season. He played 10 out of 16 games, but only allowed 2 sacks, 5 QB hits, and 9 QB hurries. Not horrible, but his play isn't the issue - it's the injuries.
Considering how much money the Rams gave Jake Long - a "franchise left tackle" - it would seem like the Rams believe PFF to a certain extent. The Rams didn't break the bank with Long, which is smart. They may have to give a bit of money to Saffold to re-sign him after the 2013 season.
If Saffold can avoid being injured - and have a good year at right tackle - it wouldn't be a surprise if the Rams offered Saffold in the range of $20 million for 4 years.The key things to remember is Saffold is still young, and he has years of experience at left tackle. It could be smart to have Saffold and his pass blocking skills on the right side. Plus, if Long get's injured, Saffold could play on the left until he returns.
If Saffold accepts the deal or not, it's up to him. But the days of right tackles being underrated could be over sooner than he thinks.