- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Even after spending four draft picks, including second and third-round selections on offensive linemen, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher says the team retains interest in bringing back incumbent right tackle Joe Barksdale.
"We still have interest in bringing Joe back,” Fisher said on Friday night and confirmed again Saturday.
But having interest and re-signing Barksdale are two very different things. And looking at it more critically, it seems fair to wonder if Barksdale has played his final game in St. Louis.
Immediately after the second and third rounds, Fisher and general manager Les Snead pointed out the possibilities for second-round offensive tackle Rob Havenstein and third-round guard Jamon Brown. They didn't speak about either player, especially Havenstein, as though they were going to do anything but come in and contribute right away.
"With big Rob, he is ready to play," Snead said. "He’s a right tackle, started a ton of games – never missed any. They run the ball well up there. All of that translated to the Senior Bowl. He’s just a guy that knows his strengths and weaknesses and how to use them."
That doesn't sound like the description of a player who is going to warm the bench upon his arrival in St. Louis, which would leave the pressing question of where Barksdale fits in?
One could argue that Barksdale would be a high-quality swing tackle or could come in to compete for a starting job. But it's hard to imagine that a player who remains unsigned would not only accept the salary of a swing tackle or be all that enthusiastic about competing for the job he's held down for the past two seasons.
Making it more unlikely is the presence of Garrett Reynolds, the free agent the Rams signed from Detroit. Reynolds is already penciled in as the swing tackle to back up Greg Robinson and, likely, Havenstein.
From a financial standpoint, bringing Barksdale back also probably wouldn't make much sense. When free agency started, his camp overvalued his market and while the Rams have held steady to a salary in the range of $3-4 million, that hasn't sufficed. The Rams aren't exactly in a good position to pay that kind of money to a player who might not even start.
And all of that assumes Barksdale even wants to return, which at this point is no sure thing. He's remained quiet throughout the process despite multiple attempts to reach him. At the March owners meetings, Fisher made reference to Barksdale's price not falling in the range of what he'd hoped at the start of free agency.
It's not unusual in situations like these for a player to hold out for a certain price, not get it and then find himself upset enough with his original team to want to move on to something new. The Tennessee Titans showed interest and are believed to have put forth an offer, but Barksdale didn't accept and they moved on to Byron Bell.
If the Rams do indeed bring Barksdale back, it certainly wouldn't be a bad thing for a line that lacks experience. Reading between the lines, it seems entirely possible, if not probable, that both sides are ready to move on.
Jeff Fisher says the door remains open to bringing back the offensive tackle, but the Rams' draft strategy indicated they're moving on.