Two years of anticipation has culminated in a lackluster start to free agency for the Oakland Raiders. Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston are signing elsewhere, and their first signing in free agency is former St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Rodger Saffold.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN and widely speculated for the last two days, Saffold will sign a five-year deal with the Raiders. The contract is worth $42.5 million over five years with $21 million guaranteed.
It’s an uninspiring start for the Raiders. Saffold is a good player who can play four line positions, but he’ll be paid a lot for that ability. Veldheer would have cost a lot less. Per Schefter, Veldheer will sign with the Arizona Cardinals for $35 million over five years.
Saffold spent his first three years in the league at left tackle before moving to right tackle and guard last season. According to the Rams’ sideline reporter Tony Softli, Saffold will play offensive guard in 2014—changing the perception of the deal.
|Saffold vs. Veldheer, Brisiel, Nix|
|Player||Snaps||PFF Grade at G||Snaps||PFF Grade at T|
|Rodger Saffold||353||+9.4||621||+8.6 (2012)|
The Raiders need a left guard and potentially a right guard if Mike Brisiel retires as Paul Gutierrez of ESPN has suggested, so there was certainly a need at the position. The Raiders’ worst starter last season was left guard Lucas Nix, which is saying something on a team without much talent.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave Nix a grade of negative-44.3 last season. Nix was the worst guard it graded in 2013 and it wasn’t very close. Saffold was very good at right guard last season despite missing some time with an injury.
Saffold’s Pro Football Focus grade at guard was 9.4, good for 18th in the league. Saffold played just 353 snaps at the position. By comparison, the guards around him with similar grades all played around 1,000 snaps or more.
At guard, signing Saffold is a very good move that makes sense for the team. The Raiders had a need, and he was perhaps the best guard available. The issue is the contract for a player who hasn’t been able to stay healthy for the last few years.
It’s a big chunk of coin, but the Raiders have a lot to spend. The success of the deal may ultimately depend not on the amount, but if the young Saffold can stay healthy and continue to produce.
Saffold’s age is certainly in-line with the type of players the Raiders should be targeting. Saffold will be 26 in June, and the deal will expire when he is 30. As with most NFL contracts, odds are he will not play out his contract. The Raiders are paying for Saffold’s prime years and nothing more.
If Saffold is penciled in as a guard, it also has ramifications on what the Raiders might do with the No. 5 overall pick in the NFL draft. Unless the Raiders sign a left tackle, they would have a huge need at the position. Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson and Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews could be potential targets.
Grade: B+ as a guard, but C- as a left tackle.