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With Barksdale gone, rookie Havenstein takes over at right tackle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The writing was on the wall from the moment the writing on the St. Louis Rams' second-round draft card read "Rob Havenstein, offensive tackle, Wisconsin."

But in case those clues weren't strong enough, what was already obvious became clear on Tuesday: Havenstein is the Rams' right tackle of the future.

That's because Joe Barksdale, the team's incumbent right tackle, agreed to a contract with the San Diego Chargers after a long and arduous free-agent process. It was a journey that once started with hopes of him landing a multiyear deal in excess of $6 million per season and ended with him settling for a one-year "prove it" contract.

From the Rams' perspective, losing Barksdale isn't a surprise but it does remove a reliable piece. He'd proved to be a solid if unspectacular part of the offensive line, starting 29 games over the past two seasons. If nothing else, Barksdale was the one reliable lineman the team knew it could count on lining up in his usual spot every week and not dealing with growing pains or injury issues.

Barksdale also found himself struggling when facing some of the league's better pass-rushers. Kansas City's Justin Houston and Washington's Ryan Kerrigan were among the types to give Barksdale problems in 2014. But for the most part, Barksdale was steady and reliable.

And Barksdale could still be a Ram were it not for an apparent miscalculation by his side on his worth on the free-agent market. Rams coach Jeff Fisher acknowledged at the March owners meetings that Barksdale's initial price was part of the reason he was still available. Fisher also maintained that the Rams still had interest in retaining Barksdale.

That remained the company line for Fisher and general manager Les Snead, even as recently as their post-draft news conference. The reality, though, was that although the Rams probably did maintain some level of interest in keeping Barksdale, they had already moved on. For his part, Barksdale likely had too, as emotions can often play a role when a player finds himself on the market without a deal as long as he did.

In the draft, Fisher and Snead used four draft picks on offensive linemen, including Havenstein, and they immediately went about plugging him in as the likely starter on the right side.

"With big Rob, he is ready to play," Snead said. "He’s a right tackle, started a ton of games – never missed any. They run the ball well up there. All of that translated to the Senior Bowl. He’s just a guy that knows his strengths and weaknesses and how to use them."

Barring a major surprise, Havenstein will get the chance to use them sooner than later. With Barksdale on his way to San Diego, it's Havenstein's time to take over at right tackle. The future is now.