St Louis Rams Roster Takes Hit: OT Joe Barksdale Likely to hit Free-agent Market
By Nick Wagoner, ESPN.com
Now that this following Saturday the window has opened for the NFL teams to begin engaging agents of potential unrestricted free agents as the “legal tampering”. Its a time to make the decision of whether staying in the St Louis Rams Roster or going to the back burner for the St Louis offensive tacle Joe Barksdale.
“A lot of times people, players, once they get through, get close, it’s good to test the market,” Rams general manager Les Snead said. “And it’s not the worst thing for the team, either, because at the end of the day, now no one is guessing. Here’s the options and I think it makes the club, the player, especially, because he now knows reality versus make believe and it helps the agent make the best decision.”
For the Rams, Barksdale is the player that might be the key domino to determine how the rest of their offseason plays out. They’d like to keep him at his usual right tackle spot and as of the end of the season, he made it clear he would like to return. But making that happen won’t be easy. The two sides have discussed a deal but it seems as though the Rams are only willing to pay so much and Barksdale’s price could potentially exceed that.
“With Joe, because he was a starter, we’ve had some pretty serious dialogue with those guys,” Snead said. “I think we’ve got a nice plan that both of us feel like is the best way to execute going forward and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Estimates for Barksdale’s possible price tag have been all over the map. This year’s free-agent class could also play in Barksdale’s favor as quality tackles are hard to find. Save for Green Bay’s Bryan Bulaga, Barksdale is probably the next best tackle poised to hit the market. In surveying various NFL resources at last month’s NFL scouting combine, the numbers ran the gamut from similar to Indianapolis’ Gosder Cherilus’ $6.9 million annual salary to a more reasonable comparison of the Jets’ Breno Giacomini’s $4.5 million average salary. The truth, as it often does, could be somewhere in the middle, perhaps closer to the $6 million average pay for guys like Oakland’s Austin Howard or Tampa Bay’s Anthony Collins.
Simply put, the going rate for solid, durable tackles is probably higher than most teams would like to pay but such players have become increasingly difficult to find. And while the Rams would like to bring Barksdale back, there are those in his camp that express surprise that a deal didn’t get done before now. Given how far Barksdale has come in a little less than three seasons with the Rams, it’s understandable why he’d feel a sense of loyalty. The Rams claimed Barksdale off waivers from Oakland in 2012, and offensive line coach Paul Boudreau quickly set about turning him into a productive player. Barksdale took over the starting job at right tackle after an injury to Rodger Saffold early in the 2013 season and never relinquished the job.
Over the past two seasons, Barksdale played in all 32 games, most of them starts. The standard evaluation of his performance has been that he was better in 2013 than 2014, but Barksdale says he was told otherwise by the coaching staff.
“I’m not the person to ask because I’m really hard on myself,” Barksdale said. “But the coaches say it’s been really, really good. Better than last year. Obviously I’m a young guy and I’ve still got a lot of room to grow.”
There are things outside of Barksdale’s control that could also help with that growth. Adding some stability at right guard, for example, would figure to help Joseph Barksdale reach his potential. He might have been at his best late in the 2013 season when Saffold played next to him. But Barksdale has much to consider as the free-agent market opens. He’s in the midst of planning an upcoming wedding and this could be his best chance to cash in. In addition to his agent and fiance, Barksdale will also consult mentor and Rams legend Jackie Slater during the process.
So, if the market develops as one might expect teams like Carolina and the New York Giants have been connected to Barksdale he could face a difficult decision between staying in the place that gave him his chance and landing a more lucrative offer, not that one could begrudge him either way.
“That’s a good question,” Barksdale said. “I don’t know. You talk to your agent and fiancé and things like that because at the end of the day, a guy like me is about to have a family, so I’m going to have to do what’s best for them. But the fact still remains that I’d love to be back.” said the offensive tackle Joe Barksdale.