Suddenly, Saffold reunited with Rams

2014-03-13T14:00:00Z 2014-03-13T16:37:06Z Suddenly, Saffold reunited with RamsBy Jim Thomas jthomas@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8197 stltoday.com

If the guard situation gets any crazier in St. Louis, it will have the makings of a must-see reality series. Roughly 30 hours after Rodger Saffold officially agreed to terms with the Oakland Raiders, he’s now headed back to the Rams.

In a frantic couple of hours Wednesday evening, the Raiders announced that Saffold had failed his physical, meaning there was no deal in Oakland. The Rams, with no concerns over Saffold’s health — the condition of his shoulder is what bothered the Raiders — immediately went about the task of re-signing Saffold and bringing him back to St. Louis.

After all is said, the Rams’ oft-stated No. 1 free-agent priority is coming back to St. Louis. The parties reached an agreement in principle late Wednesday evening, with some language on incentives remaining to be finalized.

Saffold and his agents headed back to St. Louis and the contract should be signed by this afternoon. Saffold will return to St. Louis with a deal similar to the last offer by the team before he opted for Oakland.

That deal was five years at just under $6 million a year, with playing-time incentives that could add substantially to the total. So Saffold should be making in excess of $30 million with the Rams.

Not exactly the $42.5 million he was going to make with Oakland, but still pretty good money. For Saffold, it will be like falling out of a 10-story building and landing on a plump, soft mattress. A mattress stuffed with crisp dollars.

Adding to the insanity, all of this unfolded as some Rams officials were dining with former Tampa Bay guard Davin Joseph in Clayton. Joseph was in town on a free-agent visit following his release late last week from the Buccaneers.

Another free-agent guard, former Arizona Cardinal Daryn Colledge, was scheduled to arrive late Wednesday for a Rams visit.

Saffold almost certainly will be plugged back in at the right guard spot he had manned so well for most of the second half of the 2013 season following Harvey Dahl’s knee injury.

As for Joseph, who knows?

Shortly after newly hired coach Lovie Smith arrived in Tampa, he said some of the Buccaneers’ offensive linemen weren’t earning their money. One of the players Smith was talking about was Joseph, who was released March 8.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Joseph was considered one of the NFL’s most dominant guards not long ago. But that all changed the night of Aug. 24, 2012, against New England, when teammate Donald Penn blocked a Patriots defender (Chandler Jones) into Joseph’s legs during a preseason game.

He suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee and missed the entire 2012 season. Joseph, named a team captain in 2013, started all 16 games this past season but admittedly played below expectations. Besides the recovery from knee surgery, Joseph was slowed by a staph infection last offseason.

The Buccaneers slipped to 22nd in rushing offense and yielded 47 sacks; Joseph didn’t play with his usual power and movement skills. After trying to trade Joseph, the Bucs decided to release him. He was three years into a seven-year, $53 million contract when released, and had been scheduled to make $6 million this season for Tampa.

Even with Saffold back, the Rams did lose another starting guard — Chris Williams — on Wednesday. He signed with Buffalo. Yet another Rams free agent guard, Shelley Smith, visited with the New York Giants on Wednesday but left without a contract. He arrived in the Boston area Wednesday evening to meet with the New England Patriots and also has a visit scheduled with Miami.

Williams started all 16 games at left guard last season — in fact, he was the only Rams offensive lineman to start every game. Coach Jeff Fisher said at the NFL scouting combine last month that the team wanted to re-sign Williams. But it was clear it wasn’t a big priority, not even after (temporarily) losing Saffold.

Williams’ best moments with the Ram were as a run-blocker. Sometimes he had trouble getting leverage, playing too high on his 6-6 frame. He received a healthy amount of attention at the start of free agency, with at least three teams interested. Obviously, it turned out to be sincere interest since he was off the market early on Day 2.

“The Rams were interested,” Williams told reporters in Buffalo. “We had some other teams interested as well, but this seemed like the best fit for me and the opportunity that I was the most excited about. So I didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger to come to Buffalo.

His four-year contract with the Bills was worth a reported $13.5 million with $5.5 million guaranteed.

Williams praised Rams offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, saying, “I think it helped a lot working with Coach Boudreau down there (in St. Louis). He helped me develop my game as a guard.”

Williams arrived in Buffalo just in time for a blizzard, but said wintry weather doesn’t bother him, having begun his NFL career in Chicago.

“I would go to Antarctica to play for an opportunity,” Williams said. “Buffalo is a lot better than Antarctica, and I’m just excited to be here.”

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