Take Rodger Saffold’s contract and throw it in the fire. A five-year, $42-million contract with the Raiders won’t be signed after the offensive lineman failed a team physical on Wednesday afternoon.
A source indicated that Raiders doctors took issue with Saffold’s shoulder, which the lineman’s camp vehemently disputed. A player has little recourse to fight a failed physical, because an unsigned contract can simply be rescinded.
The St. Louis Rams, who employed him since the 2010 draft, took no issue. ESPN’s Adam Shefter reported Saffold left Oakland to sign a five- year contract to remain the Rams’ right tackle.
According to NFL Network reporter Mike Silver, citing a Raiders source, owner Mark Davis rescinded the contract offer. Silver reports that Saffold could've had surgery and been ready for camp, but Davis declined that option.
By contrast, the Raiders are without their only big-ticket item. A league source said Tuesday that Saffold was signed to be the team’s left tackle. He had the versatility to play inside as well, and was to be a cornerstone of the Raiders’ planned return to prominence.
They paid big money for Saffold despite a long injury history that included problems with his knee (multiple times), neck, shoulder and pectoral muscle. The national press, largely due to his struggles playing tackle and his fragility, criticized the signing of a player who missed 17 games in four seasons.
St. Louis knows his injury history well, especially his physical state at the end of last season, which allowed them to act quickly and swoop Saffold up.
The Raiders are now out a left tackle, with few quality options left. They let incumbent Jared Veldheer leave for Arizona after a lackadaisical attempt to keep him. Eugene Monroe signed with Baltimore and Branden Albertsigned a new deal with Miami.
The Raiders will now have to use a high draft pick, or sign a lesser free agent option that remains available, to compensate for Saffold’s loss. Second-round pick Menelik Watson is also an option at left tackle, though he has no professional experience there and was injured for most of his rookie season.
The Raiders signed Saffold to a contract well beyond his expected market value, worth more than any recently signed lineman save Albert. He was set to make $16 million in 2014 and $26.65 million over the first three seasons of his contract.
The signing of Saffold and right tackle Austin Howard was proof they wanted to build an offense from the line on out. That quest has taken a severe hit, as has their ability to attract free agents.
The Raiders had $59 million in salary cap space as of Tuesday morning, and the team was expected to be unusually active in free agency as they tried to upgrade their roster at most every position.
The Raiders’ free agency started with a whimper. They signed Saffold, Howard and re-upped oft-injured running back Darren McFadden on opening day. Veldheer, defensive end Lamarr Houston and running back Rashad Jennings were lured away by more profitable offers.
-- Scott Bair, CSN Bay Area