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Rodger Saffold, Shelley Smith attracting suitors as free agents

The Rams may need to spend some of that extra cap space rebuilding the offensive line ... again.


Offensive line is arguably the St. Louis Rams' biggest need of the offseason. The front office hoped to mitigate some of the flux up front by retaining Rodger Saffold, but with teams itching to write checks next week, that appears less and less likely. In fact, Saffold might not be the only free agent lineman the Rams leaned on last season who could find a new home this month.

Let's start with Saffold. The Rams want him to stick around for his versatility, but mostly to play guard. Other suitors want him to play a more prized left tackle spot ... and they're willing to pay him for it.

Saffold is a backup plan for every team that doesn't land Branden Albert or Eugene Monroe. He won't get the same kind of offers those two get (maybe), but any team wanting to make him a left tackle will certainly be willing to pay him more than a team wanting him to play on the inside.

The Rams picked up Smith off the scrap heap in 2012, a former sixth-round pick whose early career was limited because of injuries. He was depth, and ended up starting six games in 2012. Last year, he only made two starts but played in 10 games, usually the run-blocking half of a rotation with Chris Williams. His play was enough of a revelation to make teams look ... just not the Rams apparently.

Shelley earned a 12.3 run blocking grade from Pro Football Focus, the second-best mark on the team behind Jake Long. The Rams also have an offense that leans heavily on the running game ... it might be wise to try and hang onto to Smith, especially if keeping Saffold is unlikely.

And this is where we have to talk about the other free agent rumors the Rams have been involved in so far: interested in big ticket free agents Jairus Byrd and Alterraun Verner.

The interest in Byrd is understandable. The Rams need a free safety, and the draft hasn't yielded much at that position since 2012. Verner's a different story. The Rams have drafted three defensive backs in the last two years and signed another one to a five-year, $50 million deal. Cortland Finnegan and his contract are gone now. Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson should be starting, but the Rams are still interested in possibly spending more than $10 million per season on a starting corner.

Verner would definitely make the defense better, but the point here is that the Rams would be spending money to address a position that shouldn't need more big bucks. That takes away money from the offensive line, which is in flux once again and may be forced to rely on players well past their prime.

That offensive line is tasked with protecting a quarterback who counts $17 million against the cap this season, a quarterback who the team desperately needs to reach at least 75 percent of his potential in order for the offense to score something more than 22 points per game for the first time since 2006, which also happens to be the last time the team won more than seven games.

What I'm trying to say is that rumors of the offensive line losing quality players is concerning. Juxtaposed with spending that money to correct past mistakes is especially concerning.