After losing their two best linemen -- offensive tackle Jared Veldheer to the Arizona Cardinals and defensive end Lamarr Houston to the Chicago Bears -- to the vagaries of free agency, the Oakland Raiders have tried to spackle an offensive line that has been fairly disastrous for years by agreeing to terms with former St. Louis Rams tackle Rodger Saffold on a five-year, $42.5 million deal. It's possible that Saffold may play guard for Oakland, which he did fairly well for the Rams in a pinch last season, but no matter how you slice it, this is a lot of money for a player who still hasn't proven that he can play at an elite level.
Selected in the second round of the 2010 draft out of Illinois, Saffold started all 16 games in his rookie year, but hasn't been able to match that since. He's been waylaid by a number of injuries and played 12 games for St. Louis in 2013, switching between tackle positions and excelling inside when he needed to. Despite Saffold's injury history, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher believed at the scouting combine that re-signing him was a priority.
"Obviously it's important for us to get that done," Fisher said. "He's expressed serious interest in coming back at well. So it does give us flexibility. He's going to be an outstanding guard in this league. Now that doesn't mean to say that he could not play either tackle, because this year, he did. He stepped in when Jake [Long] went down. And he stepped in here and there and played some really good football at the tackle spot."
But with Veldheer signed by Arizona to a five-year, $35 million deal, it's well worth wondering just what the Raiders are thinking. Veldheer was a player who knew the system and played well in a bad offense, and Saffold is still trying to establish himself.
Grade: C. General manager Reggie McKenzie was tasked this year with rebuilding the Raiders after he was caught in salary cap purgatory for years. With over $60 million available to him this league year, McKenzie has no more excuses, and his moves so far have been questionable at best. If Saffold continues his injury history, the Raiders' 2014 offense could be even worse than their 2013 offense... and that's a daunting task. The only thing that saves this move from the "F" pile is that Saffold might live up to his physical potential and actually make this deal palatable.
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