By Christopher Daniel
The St. Louis Rams have eight pending free agents on their roster heading into the new league year, which begins March 11, 2014. Several of those players, including outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar and, dare I say, quarterback Kellen Clemens, have made their cases for a new (yet, salary cap friendly) contract with the Rams. With that being said, the top priority in free agency for the St. Louis Rams should be resigning T/G Roger Saffold.
Roger Saffold's proven ability to play both tackle spots and right guard at an exceptional level has undoubtedly elevated his stock. Jake long's season ending ACL and MCL injury has also increased Saffold's value tenfold.
Resigning Saffold will help the Rams’ offensive line continue to build on their all-important continuity and chemistry. The 2014 offseason will either fortify that unit as a strength or expose it as a weakness.
Starting left tackle Jake Long will be coming off of ACL surgery (Long delayed his operation so his MCL could heal without surgery). Although he will be cleared to play at some point during the Rams’ 2014 campaign, it should be expected that Long will struggle against live bullets when he does return to in game action. Do not let Adrian Peterson fool you. It is still a rare event for a player at any position to return from a torn ACL in mid-season form.
Often injured and rapidly aging center Scott Wells and right guard Harvey Dahl are clearly on the downside of their respective careers. Their combined salaries will count $10.5 million against the cap, making them both potential cap casualties.
Although Roger Saffold has missed 26.5 percent of games over his career and misses 4.25 games per season, he has proven that he is a reliable starter when healthy. Thus far, Saffold has only allowed 3.1 sacks per season in 47 career games.
|Roger Saffold's Sacks Allowed|
|Sacks allowed per year in terms of games played||3.1|
Both Saffold’s representatives and the Rams front office should take that into consideration. Saffold has earned a competitive salary but his contract should be laced with playing time incentives and injury clauses. The Rams have already set the precedence with these types of contracts, including adding some injury clauses in Jake Long’s contract.
In order to gauge Saffold’s potential contract, consider ten of the top offensive lineman contracts signed during last off-season’s free agency period.
|Name of Player||Position||Years||Total Amount in Millions||Average Salary Per Year in Millions|
Those contracts averaged out to 32.5 million dollars over 4.6 years, which is roughly 7 million dollars per year. It would be fair to assume Saffold’s contract should fall in that range.
Resigning Roger Saffold would at the very least stabilize both tackle positions. Without considering the multitude of offensive line options in the draft, Saffold would be the best choice to fill in at left tackle if Jake Long is not ready for the start of the season. If Long is indeed ready by week one, then Saffold will more than likely start at right guard while Joe Barksdale will man the right tackle position.
The offensive line's production and stability will be of the utmost importance in the 2014 season, as they must create a secure pocket for Sam Bradford, who is coming off of a torn ACL. Marinating the core of that offensive line is paramount. The first step in that process may very well be resigning Roger Saffold to a long term contract.