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Thursday, March 13, 2014
Saffold offers flexibility in many ways

By Nick Wagoner

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A wild Wednesday evening that resulted in the St. Louis Rams keeping Rodger Saffold on a five-year contract gives the Rams much more than just a talented, if injury-plagued, offensive lineman. It offers them flexibility in shaping the offensive line and in ways they can approach the rest of the offseason.

Rodger Saffold
The versatile Rodger Saffold can play at either guard or tackle spot on the offensive line.
Versatility has long been one of Saffold's greatest strengths, his ability to shift from either tackle spot to both guard spots is one of the primary reasons the Rams coveted him in the first place. The on-field portion of Saffold's return means he'll jump in as a guard, the position where he was best in 2013. It's also a position where many believe Saffold offers Pro Bowl potential.

But in the event left tackle Jake Long isn't recovered from offseason knee surgery, Saffold has the ability to step in at tackle and play well as he did the final two games of last season. While the Rams still have plenty of work to do in reshaping the offensive line, keeping Saffold can cover up multiple leaks that might spring up in the meantime.

Perhaps more important in the here and now is what Saffold's return means for the Rams as they move toward the NFL draft.  There's no way of knowing whether the Rams' draft plans were significantly altered by Saffold's expected departure. The same can be said of guard Chris Williams' contract with the Buffalo Bills. Or the likely exit of guard Shelley Smith.

If nothing else, those moves offered a clear indication that something, actually many things, would have to be done to patch up the offensive line. On the same token, Saffold's return isn't a cure-all either. He clearly has an injury history of his own but he at least offers some comfort because of that aforementioned versatility.

One of the worst things a team can do in the draft is make picks solely based on need but without Saffold the Rams likely would have been backed into a corner of needing offensive linemen, maybe earlier than ever.

Bringing Saffold back certainly won't preclude the Rams from investigating options on the line and one can make a good argument that adding another elite piece to the line early in the draft would be the boon needed to make the line ready for the rigors of the NFC West.

But if the Rams do opt to go a different direction with the second overall pick, it's a decision much easier to comprehend now than it was before the words "failed physical" took Twitter by storm.