Monday, March 10, 2014
With Saffold out, Rams could chase Verner
By Nick Wagoner
Although nothing can be official until 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, the past 24 hours have offered some interesting possible permutations for the St. Louis Rams' sojourn into the 2014 free-agent market.
On Sunday, reports surfaced that the team's top priority, offensive lineman Rodger Saffold, is headed elsewhere. Whether that ultimate destination is Oakland, Tampa Bay or somewhere else, it looks almost certain he won't be back in St. Louis.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch offered quotes from Alan Herman, Saffold's agent, saying Saffold would not be returning to the Rams. That story corroborates reports from earlier in the day in which the Baltimore Sun reported that Saffold is likely headed to the Raiders on a rich free-agent contract, though Tampa Bay remained in the mix.
Whatever Saffold's final destination, the Rams can at least begin working on alternate plans knowing he's out of the picture.
In the lead up to free agency, the Rams had repeatedly made it clear Saffold was the top target but also offered the sense that should Saffold depart, his money could be funneled somewhere else. That somewhere else could be spent on one of the league's top available defensive backs.
Headlining that list is Tennessee cornerback Alterraun Verner. League sources have confirmed that the Rams' interest in Verner is very real and with Saffold out of the picture, the Rams can probably find a way to work him on to the pay roll.
Make no mistake, Verner won't come cheap nor does he lack for suitors. Both New York teams, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Minnesota are also known to have expressed interest in Verner. Some believe the Vikings, in particular, will give strong chase.
After Green Bay signed cornerback Sam Shields to a four-year, $39 million contract with a $12.5 million signing bonus Saturday night, it became clear the market for top corners is going to be costly. The Rams just parted ways with Cortland Finnegan, who received a deal even bigger than that in 2012, which could give the Rams pause to spend that type of money again on another corner so soon.
Beyond the financials, Verner is an obvious fit for the Rams. Although he doesn't fit the profile of the press corner that many believe defensive coordinator Gregg Williams would covet, Williams clearly knows how to use him best after coaching Verner in his breakthrough 2013 season. Adding to the connections, Rams coach Jeff Fisher was in charge of the Titans when they drafted Verner in 2010.
At Williams' introductory news conference last month, he even mentioned Verner by name.
"It was fun to go back there and all of a sudden a guy that there wasn't a lot of like for Alterraun Verner when I walked in the building, he didn’t do too bad this year, did he?" Williams said then. "He made his first Pro Bowl and there was a lot of people that were wondering whether he would even make the team."
Given the type of contract Verner will land in the next couple of days, it's safe to say his days of worrying about making a roster are long gone.
Elsewhere on the free-agent front, as we mentioned Sunday afternoon, there were reports that the Rams reached out to Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd over the weekend. It's unclear how much interest the Rams have in making a serious run at Byrd, however.