- Nick Wagoner, ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter
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In mid-March, as Saffold finished up a physical with Oakland doctors, the Rams were hosting free-agent guard Davin Joseph. A Rams contingent and Joseph were out to dinner discussing his possible fit with the team when the news came that Saffold's deal with the Raiders had been nullified by a failed physical.
The Rams still wanted Saffold and found themselves in what could have been an awkward situation were it not so confusing.
"I really didn’t quite understand quite what was going on at the time," Joseph said. "I don’t think anybody really did."
When the situation finally crystallized, the Rams managed to re-sign Saffold and Joseph left St. Louis without a contract. The Rams had their starting right guard and the fit for Joseph became muddled.
But just because Joseph didn't necessarily have an obvious fit didn't mean the Rams lost all interest.
In fact, with Joseph working his way back from a knee injury and a staph infection which left him looking like a shell of his former Pro Bowl self, the market for Joseph figured to take time to play out. It allowed the Rams to maintain interest but go through the first waves of free agency and the draft first. In doing so, the team could re-assess it's offensive line depth and determine if there was still a fit for Joseph.
After selecting Greg Robinson with the No. 2 overall pick with the idea of playing him at left guard right away and failing to move back into the first round for offensive lineman Zack Martin, the Rams had a glaring need for experienced depth on the interior. Assuming Joseph would agree to such a role, he was a logical solution.
Joseph was originally a first-round pick in 2006, earning trips to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2011. But he suffered a severe knee injury that cost him the 2012 season, followed by a staph infection last spring and he struggled to get back to his former production last season.
After weighing interest from Dallas and New England, Joseph decided on a one-year deal with the Rams on May 28.
“We really liked the visit, were really excited about what we thought he could do for us from a depth standpoint and all that stuff," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We gave him an opportunity to come in and compete, but Davin, I think, is at a point now where you know he just wants to have fun. We hit it off well, so we decided to wait until after the draft and we got things put together.”
Although Joseph has only been in St. Louis for little more than a week, he's already making a positive impression on the coaching staff and his teammates. It's impossible to know how he's coming along as a blocker without wearing pads in organized team activities, but it's clear the Rams will piece together that plan as they go.
As it stands now, Joseph is the most experienced option the team has on the interior (he's played in 100 NFL games) but Saffold and Robinson are all but certain to start at the two guard spots. That figures to put Joseph in position to be the top option should something happen to either of them or perhaps step in at guard if Robinson or Saffold has to kick outside to tackle.
With the knee injury nearly two years behind him and the staph infection about a year in his past, Joseph at least appears to be healthy.
“He really is much better than he was when he came in for the visit," Fisher said. "He’s a pro. He knows how to rehab. He knows how to prepare for camp, and he’s doing fine right now.”
Joseph signed just a one-year deal, a contract commensurate with a player who doesn't have his history of success. And Joseph is only 30 years old. The chance for a bounce-back season would seem more reasonable for Joseph than many players signing a one-year "prove it" deal.
"I do feel like I have a lot left," Joseph said. "I feel like I can contribute to this team. I don’t know how big or how small my role will be, but I feel like I can contribute. If it’s just coming out here and really working to make the guys better then that’s my job and I’ll do it the best that I can."
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- With Rodger Saffold all but signed to a lucrative free-agent contract with the Oakland Raiders, the St. Louis Rams had already begun working on contingency plans.