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Rams offensive line is a hefty investment

The St. Louis Rams have a lot of money invested in their offensive line.
The St. Louis Rams have a lot of money invested in their offensive line.

With a first round pick and two marquee free agents, we've said on more than one occasion that the St. Louis Rams have a lot of money invested in their offensive line. So just how much do the Rams have invested in their offensive line and how will that shape their offseason plans?

Let's take a look.

Working down the line from left to right, the first player on the list is also the best bargain. The Rams grabbed LT Rodger Saffold with the first pick of the second round in last year's draft. After some debate about whether or not he'd be the team's right tackle, head coach Steve Spagnuolo slipped him in as the starting LT early in camp and he stayed there for 16 games. The Rams signed Saffold to a four-year, $6.3 million contract with $3.9 guaranteed. His 2011 salary is a league minimum $405,000.

Next to Saffold is G Jacob Bell, a free agent addition in 2008 when he signed a six-year, $36 million contract. His 2011 salary is $6 million. 

In the middle is another free agent, C Jason Brown who was signed to a five-year, $37.5 million contract in 2009. His salary for this year is $4 million. 

At right guard is Adam Goldberg, a usable backup offensive lineman who was over-matched as a starting RG. That position is one of the Rams most pressing needs this offseason. Goldberg is scheduled to be a free agent this year. 

Finally, at right tackles is Jason Smith. The second overall pick in the 2009 draft, he signed a six-year, $61.775 million deal with $33 million guaranteed. Though it's been fits and starts in his first two years, he did start to play like a first round pick this year. Some argue that Smith is paid too much for a right tackle, but when you're left tackle is paid to little for a right tackle it all evens out in the end. Smith's 2011 salary is $8.5 million.

Let's run the numbers. The Rams have a total of $18.9 million in salaries for four starters on the OL; that's just salary money which doesn't include bonus money that gets spread out over the life of a contract and counts against the cap. That's a pretty substantial investment, but a necessary one to protect another substantial investment in QB Sam Bradford who'll make more than $18 million this year because of a deferred signing bonus. 

All of this, you understand, is subject to the CBA. With no CBA, there's no football; with no football, the total cost of the Rams OL is zero. 

The size of the investment in the offensive line probably rules out another big free agent signing to fill the need at right guard. Of course, with Logan Mankins likely to get the franchise tag (again, CBA pending) the top of the FA class at guard is pretty thin on players under 30 and without injury questions. Some of the second tier possibilities include: Baltimore's Chris Chester, Tampa's Davin Joseph or...

Drafting a guard seems the most likely course of action. If they want to make a move for a guard in the first round, it could mean trading down. Mike Iupati and Maurkice Pouncey were drafted at #17 and 18 last year, but are still relative bargains with five-year contracts for around $18 million each. 

mock draft we looked at yesterday had the Rams drafting Rodney Hudson in the second round. Danny Watkins is another possibility there, but his stock might get bumped to the late first round. Then, of course, there are the middle rounds were guard values can be had for teams that draft well. 

I would say that John Greco seems like an answer, but the Rams apparently didn't think he was good enough to play last year, or even keep active late in the season. Greco is scheduled to be a restricted free agent this year. 

All contract info comes via Rotoworld