Rams make right call letting Saffold leave

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Even before the end of the 2013 NFL season, I was not shy in expressing my belief in the importance of the St. Louis Rams retaining offensive lineman Rodger Saffold.

Despite his injury woes, Saffold's versatility and more important, his upside as a guard, made him a crucial part of the team's offensive line moving forward. Considering the potential for so many moving parts on that line, Saffold would have provided some stability and help at four positions. But that belief was rooted in the idea that Saffold would ultimately sign a reasonable contract.

But the deal Saffold agreed to with the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday exceeds the limits of reasonable for a player of Saffold's injury history and production. According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, Saffold agreed to a contract worth $42.5 million over five years, with $21.5 million guaranteed.

The Rams wanted to keep Saffold as a guard and were willing to pay him a tidy sum to retain him, perhaps as much as $6 million a year. But they weren't willing to go that high. And that was the right decision.

For as many problems as Saffold would have solved by remaining in St. Louis, a contract that size would have hampered the Rams' efforts to improve the roster in other ways. Sure, you'd always like to keep your own talent, the guys you draft and develop, but at some point the contract reaches a point of diminishing returns.

Saffold would have reached that point the first time he fell to the ground and didn't get up right away in 2014. It's a movie that had become all too familiar in his time in St. Louis. He missed 17 games and chunks of others in the past three seasons after appearing in all 16 as a rookie in 2010.

That isn't to say Oakland isn't getting a talented player. When healthy, Saffold proved solid at tackle and at times excellent at guard. But the "when healthy" caveat is likely to follow Saffold until he proves otherwise. It's the reason the Rams didn't have him re-signed long ago and the reason he's now a Raider.