No, Rodger Saffold isn’t happy about his impending switch to right tackle for the Rams. But those close to Saffold insist he won’t be a malcontent and won’t be a holdout.
Saffold will participate in the Rams’ official offseason conditioning program, which starts Monday, although technically participation is “voluntary.” And as long as he’s a Ram, he’ll be there for minicamps, OTAs, training camp and the preseason.
He will do what he has to do to protect his contract, which means playing out the 2013 season to the best of his ability under the last year of the contract he signed as a second-round draft choice out of Indiana University in 2010.
It’s unclear if Saffold has formally requested a trade from the Rams. But at the very least, Saffold’s representatives have let the Rams know that Saffold wouldn’t be opposed to a trade, according to league sources.
At the moment, however, the Rams have all the leverage and Saffold has none. If the Rams have no desire to trade Saffold, he has no option but to play out the 2013 season and finish out his contract. And that could very well be how things end up.
Long before the Rams brought in free-agent left tackle Jake Long for a visit and ultimately signed him, the Rams have consistently indicated that re-signing Saffold was a priority. They like him as a player, and like how he played down the stretch last season.
But business is business, and when the Rams saw an opportunity to add a four-time Pro Bowler (Long) to help protect quarterback Sam Bradford, they leaped at the chance. Those close to Saffold said he felt blindsided by the news that Long, the former Miami Dolphin, was visiting St. Louis. Saffold didn’t know about the visit until Long had arrived in St. Louis for his visit.
Saffold knew he would be switched to the right side if Long signed with the Rams. Long, of course, ended up signing a four-year, $34 million contract. So barring injury, Saffold will not have the opportunity to play the position of his choice in 2013.
Early indications from the Rams are that they are not interested in trading Saffold. Interestingly, the Rams have had visits or have visits scheduled with three draft prospects that play offensive tackle: Alabama’s D.J. Fluker was in last week, Florida State’s Menelik Watson was in Tuesday and Virginia’s Oday Aboushi has an upcoming visit.
All three are projected as right tackles.
If the Rams drafted any of those three, would that make them more likely to trade Saffold? Almost all of the top free agents at tackle are off the market. That leaves a half-dozen or so NFL teams possibly looking for help at left tackle: Arizona, Buffalo, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans and San Diego. Once the top three or four tackles are gone in the draft, there may be a couple of teams still looking for help as the first round winds done.
Assuming the Rams take Fluker or even Watson at No. 22 overall, they could then seek to trade Saffold after making that pick, potentially getting a pick or picks in return in this draft that could help the team this year. That’s a scenario to think about on the first day of the draft – April 25.
What could the Rams get for Saffold? A third-rounder is probably optimistic considering Saffold has just a year left on his contract. Maybe a fourth-rounder.
If not and Saffold stays, the Rams could have the makings of a formidable offensive line in 2013 with Long at left tackle, Scott Wells at center, Harvey Dahl at right guard, Saffold at right tackle and a starter to be named at left guard.
Saffold has preferred to lay low on the subject. He has done no interviews since one of his agents – Alan Herman – first told the Post-Dispatch about Saffold’s unhappiness over the switch nearly a month ago.
Joining Watson as pre-draft visitors to Rams Park on Tuesday were linebackers Arthur Brown of Kansas State and Gerald Hodges of Penn State, as well as running back Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina. That brings to 21 the number of so-called “top 30” visits for the Rams this draft season.
Lattimore may have been the top running back prospect in the draft were it not for a severe knee injury suffered last season against Tennessee. It’s questionable whether Lattimore will be healthy enough to play at the start of the season, and he may not get drafted until the middle rounds.