What is the most important piece to winning a football game?
No matter what anyone tells you, the most important piece to victory is not the quarterback. It is, always has been, and always will be the controlling the LOS. You win the battle in the trenches and your chances of winning increases substantially.
To do this you cannot just have a good defensive line or offensive line, you have to have both. Defensive linemen get sacks, and offensive lineman get nothing. Nothing the average fan will notice anyway. It is crazy that the most important people on the team is the least glorified, by the general public that is. The teams that have half a brain, make creating a strong front, a point of focus.
How did the Giants beat the Patriots when they were undefeated and seemed destined for a championship? How did the Seahawks shutdown one of the most prolific offenses in recent memory? How did the Bucs make the Raiders look like they had never played the game of football before? What did the Saints do to force a game sealing interception against the Colts? All of these teams did two things.One: their defensive of line beat the opposing offensive line. Two: their offensive line controlled the opposing defensive line.
The Rams have shown an understanding of this concept since the arrival of Jeff Fisher. Many are bothered by the fact that he does not have a track record of drafting offensive linemen in the first round. But how can you blame him when his way has worked so well? Fisher and his staff has always done a good job of protecting his QB's. That was never more evident than in year one here in St. Louis, when there was an extreme decrease in sacks and QB pressures allowed, with a patchwork line. And it only got better the following year.
The Rams number one focus in free agency is Roger Saffold. But there is no other Saffold's on the market. There are a few in the draft though. The Rams have gotten better in each of the first two seasons of the new regime. The goal is to continue that progress forward and not go backwards or remain the same. Losing Saffold and signing someone in free agency will almost certainly result in one of those scenarios.
Saffold is demanding a lot of money, and he is getting a lot of attention. He literally is the key to how the Rams free agency and draft will play out. If he is lost he MUST be replaced by someone of equal or greater talent. There are a few players in the draft that can do this but not many, and all will require a selection in the first two rounds. It is possible to find a gem later, but the only way to really be certain that they will receive equal or greater value to Saffold is to get one of the early one's.
Now, how is Saffold the key to free agency? He is going to demand something in the the neighborhood of $7 million annually. The Rams have something around $10. If resigned the Rams will be very short on funds and the need for Harvey Dahl has been erased. I know a lot of you are wondering why he has not been cut yet. Well ask yourself this, how much sense would it make to cut him without knowing if you have a starting guard to replace him? Now if Saffold signs elsewhere than he stays. If he comes back Dahl will likely be cut within 24 hrs.
Then there is the available money for other free agents. If Saffold is resigned than even with the cutting of Dahl the rams would still only have about $6 million to their name. They will still have to keep some funds available for their draft class and UDFA's. They may be able to sign one low price FA like bringing Dunbar back or something like that. If they do not sign Saffold then they can really attack a free agent like Alterraun Verner or Jairus Byrd. But guys like that will demand even more money than Saffold, meaning they will more than likely be the only signing from free agency. To sign one of those players will also require more cuts than just Dahl.
As far as the draft goes. If Saffold is resigned no one should expect to see a lineman drafted before half way through the second round (the need drops tremendously). Might not see one come off the board for us until the third round just because of who is a available and fits. This is important information to consider. You don't just draft any lineman available because you have a need, you take the right fit. If there are none available at a certain time and is worth that pick you wait. But this is all if Saffold is resigned. Which would also allow the rams not have a more "luxurious" pick like a Sammy Watkins, Justin Gilbert, Calvin Pryor, ect. Now if he is not resigned then the Rams will have to have a bigger focus on the line to continue that oh so important trend of steady improvement trend for which we have been practicing. Because whether he is resigned or not, the Rams still have a need at LG. To lose Saffold and with Dahl, getting older (his production slipped a little each week), the Rams will have to strongly consider finding two starting guards, and one of which will HAVE to be equal to or better than Saffold.
So you see, there is no anyone that should demand more of your attention than Saffold. What happens with him, will play a bigger role in how this roster for next season shapes. He will impact more than the position he plays, but multiple positions and upgrades through the team. So depending on what you value most, you may be happy if he is not resigned, or the idea may be very disturbing. Just a little food for thought