It may be cold outside, but it's heating up inside Rams Park! (See what we did there?) Contract talks between free agent tackle/guard/injured reserve list frequent flyer Rodger Saffold and the St. Louis Rams are expected to "intensify" this week, according to Pro Football Talk.
The Rams, and only the Rams, are allowed to talk contract with Saffold and his agent ahead of the March 8 opening of the so-called "tampering window," i.e. the three-day period in which other teams can talk deals but not make one with free agents from other teams.
GM Les Snead made it clear at the Combine that re-signing Saffold was one of the team's top priorities for the offseason. Making that happen is all about finding a reasonable deal for a versatile offensive lineman.
Finding a deal that both the Rams and Saffold can live with will depend on what he and his agent think they can get on the open market. They may already have a sense of that, because teams don't wait until March 8 to "tamper" with free agents.
The Rams have about $10 million in cap space right now, without making any cuts or restructuring contracts. They also have other needs to fill on the roster, and will probably need to find some bridge players or two to get them by until younger players develop or they find another answer in future drafts.
The real question is what kind of money Saffold can fetch on the market. With the salary cap getting an unexpected bump of almost 10 percent, teams have more money to spend this year than they did over the last two. That means contract amounts for guys getting their first taste of free agency are also likely to rise, making it harder to predict what the market will pay for a player like Saffold.
On the one hand, he's incredibly versatile, capable of playing left tackle at an above average rate. His best spot might just be guard, based on a productive, but limited six-game sample size last season. On the other hand, he hasn't played a 16-game season since 2010.
My guess is that he could get a deal between $23-26 million over five years with $7-10 million guaranteed. The Rams aren't the only team in desperate need of offensive linemen.