Strange turn of events has Saffold back in St. Louis

By Howard Balzer

(KSDK Sports) -- Not so fast.

That was the atmosphere at St. Louis Rams headquarters Wednesday night when the team shockingly learned guard Rodger Saffold had failed his physical in Oakland and the Raiders had voided the five-year contract he had agreed to Tuesday afternoon.

Saffold was pursued by several teams and agreed to the Oakland offer that totaled $42.5 million over five years with $21.5 million guaranteed, $16 million of which was to be paid this year.

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Once the Raiders backed out, there weren't many options for Saffold because linemen signed quickly Tuesday: Oakland tackle Jared Veldheer to Arizona, Kansas City tackle Branden Albert to Miami, Baltimore re-signed tackle Eugene Monroe, Denver guard Zane Beadles went to Jacksonville, and Kansas City guards Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz signed with Atlanta and the Giants, respectively.

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Some Rams personnel were actually having dinner with free-agent guard Davin Joseph Wednesday night when they heard the news out of Oakland.

It wasn't long before chief operating officer Kevin Demoff was on the phone with agent Alan Herman and began working to finalize a deal with Saffold. The Rams had been offering around $30 million over five years before he chose the Raiders, but the guarantees for now are unknown. It is believed the Rams were fine with still paying Saffold their final offer.

All that's left to make it official is ironing out some incentives that would increase the potential value of the deal. There was more urgency on the Rams' part after left guard Chris Williams signed with the Buffalo Bills Wednesday morning. Williams was the only Rams lineman last season to start all 16 games.

Saffold started five games at right guard last season when Harvey Dahl was sidelined because of an injury, and the coaches became quickly convinced guard is his best position. Line coach Paul Boudreau prefers Saffold at left guard and that spot is wide open after the departure of Williams.

As for Saffold's shoulder issue that prompted the failed physical, NFL Network's Michael Silver said a Rams official told him they were "puzzled" by the Raiders' decision.

Saffold suffered a shoulder injury against Cleveland in the first preseason game last summer, but he was ready for the season opener and the four games he missed last season were because of a knee injury. He passed the Rams' exit physical.

Silver also reported it was Raiders owner Mark Davis that vetoed the deal even after being told Saffold would be ready for training camp if he had shoulder surgery.

ESPN reported that Herman had Dr. Frank Cordasco from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York study Saffold's MRIs and he concluded that surgery wasn't necessary.

While Saffold's durability has been a concern for the Rams - he's missed 17 games over the last three seasons after starting all 16 games as a rookie in 2010 - his return is welcome. He provides versatility should left tackle Jake Long not be ready to start the season, but the Rams' goal is to place Saffold at guard and have him stay there.

Boudreau told Saffold when he made the switch during the season that he could be in the Pro Bowl as a guard.

Meanwhile, with Dahl having been released, there still could be interest in Joseph or Daryn Colledge, who was released by Arizona and was scheduled to visit the Rams Thursday.

There is also the possibility Dahl could be re-signed later in the offseason after he has recovered from offseason ankle surgery.


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