Offseason Outlook: Longest-tenured Ram Rodger Saffold enters free agency

The last time left guard Rodger Saffold was a free agent, he planned on signing with the Raiders.

In fact, he and Oakland had a lucrative deal in place for five years in March of 2014. But the Raiders said they had concerns about Saffold’s shoulder, and the agreement unraveled. So the Rams brought Saffold back on their own five-year contract.

While Saffold had moved around the Rams’ offensive line for much of his career — especially late in the 2016 season — he’s settled in at left guard under head coach Sean McVay and excelled at that spot over the last two years. Saffold was a first-alternate to the 2019 Pro Bowl after a particularly strong 2018 season, where he helped the Rams reach No. 2 in total offense and No. 3 in rushing.

Saffold has particularly excelled blocking in space on screens, using his athleticism to pave the way for players like running back Todd Gurley to gain chunk yardage down the field.

But the five years on Saffold’s second contract with the Rams have run their course, which means the veteran offensive lineman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year hits on March 13.

Saffold was clear after the conclusion of Los Angeles’ playoff run that he would like to return to the club next season.

“Of course,” he replied when asked if he’d like to be back on Feb. 5. “I’ve said that all throughout the year, so I don’t think it’s any surprise that I want to be back. At the end of the day though I need to make sure it’s something fair for me, something I can not take advantage of, but something that I can feel that I was treated fairly.”

Check out the top photos of the Los Angeles Rams offensive line and quarterbacks from the 2018 season.

If, however, Saffold is not re-signed, the Rams have a couple internal candidates they could turn to in order to replace him. One could be Joseph Noteboom, who the Rams selected in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of TCU. Noteboom played in spot duty at left tackle as a rookie — and that’s more where he projects out as a future pro. But if, for example, left tackle Andrew Whitworth elects not to retire and Saffold is not re-signed, Noteboom could potentially slide in as a guard.

Rising second-year player Brian Allen could also potentially play guard for Los Angeles, as he has some position flexibility with all three interior spots on the offensive line. L.A. also has sixth-round pick Jamil Demby, who did not play during the regular season in 2018, but has a year of experience in the offensive system. Demby did spend much of the 2018 season with Detroit after he was claimed off waivers in mid-September. The Rams re-signed him off the Lions’ practice squad in December.

Still, because Saffold will turn just 31 on June 6, he appears to have more good years of football in front of him. That could make a potential return to L.A. favorable for both the player and the organization.

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