Monday Morning St. Louis Free Agent Checkup: Finnegan And Dahl Gone, Saffold To Oakland, Verner And Byrd In Sight


Dec 22, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd (31) looks to make a tackle on Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas (33) at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

If you were on vacation or away from a computer this weekend, you sorely missed out on a slew of rumors, smoke screen stories, and “soon-to-be” signings in the upcoming free agency period. While these players are technically not free agents until Tuesday at 4:00 PM EST, agents and teams were allowed to begin “negotiations” on Saturday, leading to this mass array of information that constantly spilled in other weekend.

For the St. Louis Rams, there were a number of significant happenings that occurred over the past three days. On Friday, the Rams announced that they would be releasing cornerback Cortland Finnegan from the roster, setting the over-paid nickelback free into free agency, while saving the Rams, at a minimum, $4 million in cap space for the 2014 season. According to Ian Rapoport, the Rams offered Finnegan several “options” to stay with the team, all of which included some pay reduction. In the end, Finnegan classily said his goodbyes via Twitter.

With Finnegan out of the picture, the rumors surrounding the St. Louis Rams then focused on the retention of Rodger Saffold and the potentially targeted of several “big name” defensive backs in free agency. Earlier on Saturday, it was leaked that the Minnesota Vikings, who sit nearly $40 million under the cap, were the “front-runners” to land the service of the top cornerback in the free agent class, Alterraun Verner. However, given Verner’s connection to Rams defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, it was not a surprise when the St. Louis Rams were later connected to the stud corner; along with a slew of other teams.

While most expect the Rams to at least take a flyer on the soon-to-be, former-Titan, the St. Louis Rams were also connected with another top free agent; free safety, Jairus Byrd. Since then, the expectation of the Rams actually signing Byrd have been tapered down a bit, especially considering several cap-friendly teams, like the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, and Miami Dolphins, could end up in a bidding war that could set the free safety’s price tag well above what St. Louis could comfortably offer.

However, on Sunday night, the St. Louis Rams cap situation might have become a little more “clear,” following two major announcements.

First, it was leaked that the Raiders are “expected” to sign Rodger Saffold on Tuesday to a massive, $8 million per season contract. While Saffold moving on from the Rams was not surprising, the fact that he would sign a contract that was on-par with a Top 10 left tackle, and only $500,000 below Jake Long’s average yearly contract last offseason was a bit of a shock… or not, depending on how you view the Oakland Raiders’ front office.

The other news, which came later in the evening and appeared to fly under the radar, was the “expected” release of veteran guard Harvey Dahl.

With Harvey Dahl and Cortland Finnegan off the Rams’ books, St. Louis should be set headed into free agency at nearly $15.3 million under the cap. That should be enough for one “major” free agent signing, with plenty of room to potentially re-sign a handful of “lesser name” players and pay for their incoming rookie class. With Rodger Saffold “out of the picture,” the Rams sights are likely locked on either Jairus Byrd or Alterraun Verner, although it would not be surprising to see St. Louis jump into the conversation for other newly released veterans, like Antonio Cromartie.

Today will inevitably be filled with more rumors, smoke screens, player-to-team links, and other free agent nonsense. Stay tuned to Ramblin’ Fan to keep track of all the fun throughout the next couple of days!