The St. Louis Rams could be sticking with Scott Wells at center, according to a Wednesday report from ESPN's Adam Caplan.
While rumors persist and things could always change, indications are that the #Rams will keep C Scott Wells for next season.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) March 5, 2014
Nothing's for certain yet, but that runs counter to the widespread belief among league insiders during the offseason so far that the Rams would cut ties with Wells and his hefty contract. Wells, 33, signed a four-year, $24 million deal with $13 million guaranteed in 2012, making him one of the highest paid centers in the NFL. In two seasons with the Rams, he's played just 19 out of 32 games, sidelined with a long list of injuries that began in offseason activities two years ago.
Wells' deal carries a cap hit of $6.5 million this year and next. Releasing him would save the Rams a total of $4.5 million in cap space this year. Thanks to a surprise bump in the cap amount to $133 million, the Rams are currently projected to be roughly $9.5 million under the cap on March 11.
Injuries and shaky run blocking stripped whatever surplus value the Rams hoped to get out of the veteran center. Using a contract/performance value calculation called Dollar Value Performance, Jason Chilton calculated the on-field contributions versus cap costs for free agent centers (and guards and tight ends) as well as the total surplus value those players created, if any, in a piece filed at SB Nation on Wednesday. The numbers for Wells were not good.
Here's Wells along with the other two free agent centers signed in 2012, starting with performance measures and followed by valuations:
|Player||Run Snaps||Run Rating / Snap||Pass Snaps||Pressure Allowed / Snap||Run Snaps||Run Rating / Snap||Pass Snaps||Pressure Allowed / Snap|
|Jeff Saturday||426||-3.3||554||1.8%||N/A (Not in football)|
|Signing Team||Player||2012 Cap Hit||2012 Value||2012 Surplus||2013 Cap Hit||2013 Value||2013 Surplus||Remaining Dead Money||Total Surplus to Date|
|GB||Jeff Saturday||$4000000||$3458103||-$541897||$825000||N/A (Not in football)||-$825000||$-||-$1366897|
In two years, Wells has cost the Rams $5.59 million in surplus value. Compare that with last year's top center, Jason Kelce of the Eagles, who generated $5.7 million last year alone in surplus value. But that's not really a surprise, Wells can't really generate value when he's not on the field, and he's been on the injured list for 40 percent of his games since signing with the Rams.
On the surface, keeping Wells would seem to help with the flux on the offensive line the Rams are facing this year. However, center is the one position where the Rams do have some depth.
Tim Barnes, who was just given an exclusive rights free agent offer, played four games in place of Wells last year, earning a -2.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, versus a -4.0 grade for Wells in 12 games. Barnes was a better run blocker, but Wells was better in pass protections. They also have Barrett Jones, a fourth-round pick out of Alabama last year.
Part of the answer for who can take over the center job is what kind of offense the Rams want to run, something that the Rams don't really seem to know. The switch to a run-first offense built around Zac Stacy proved to be far more successful than anything else the team has done on that side of the ball going all the way back to 2006.
Spending money you're not getting a return on for the sake of having stability and depth doesn't really benefit a team ... it just takes away resources from other areas of need and leaves an overpaid, marginal player in the middle of an offense line that desperately needs talent.
There's a saying that the best free agent signings a team can make is to keep their own free agents from slipping away. Like any rule, that one has exceptions.