Rams have offensive line questions to answer

By Howard Balzer

(KSDK Sports) -- The Rams will have some intriguing questions to answer on the offensive line when the season ends thanks to young players receiving opportunities because of injuries.

The latest is center Tim Barnes, who will likely be the starter for the rest of the season after Scott Wells suffered a fractured fibula in this past Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Wells will be 33 in January and is scheduled to be paid $5.5 million in 2014. Barnes will be 25 in May and will be an exclusive rights free agent in 2014. In addition, the Rams selected center/guard Barrett Jones in the fourth round of this year's draft, and he is expected to be active this week against Arizona for the first time this season.

Of Barnes, who played 44 snaps against San Francisco after Wells was injured, coach Jeff Fisher said, "He played pretty well. Tim, he's a pro, he prepares. He gets a minimal amount of reps on the practice field, and he played well with Scott being down. Scott's going to be down for four to six (weeks) now, so Tim will be our guy."

Barnes isn't the only young offensive lineman that has played extensively this season. Joe Barksdale has become entrenched at right tackle after Rodger Saffold suffered a knee injury and missed four games earlier this season.

When Saffold returned, he and Barksdale were sharing snaps. But when right guard Harvey Dahl suffered a knee injury, Saffold moved to Dahl's spot and played well.

The Rams have offseason decisions to make on both Saffold and Dahl. Saffold will become an unrestricted free agent unless he signs a new contract with the Rams before the league year begins March 11.

Saffold would seemingly want to test the market as a free-agent tackle unless the Rams made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Dahl, who will be 33 in June, restructured his contract in September and along with a $2 million base salary in 2014, he is due a $2 million roster bonus on the third day of the league year.

Barksdale will be a restricted free agent, while left guard Chris Williams will also be an unrestricted free agent.

The numerous questions might take several months to answer.

Howard Balzer will be contributing

to KSDK Sports throughout the 2013 season. Howard hosts "H and Friends" Monday-Friday from 9-11

on Fox Sports 1490 The Champ. He is also a host on SiriusXM NFL radio and one of 44 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


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