The Rodger Saffold saga is one of the more strange and concerning series of event to transpire within the Raiders organization in recent memory. While the signing of Saffold was not ideal, the way it all went sour can most accurately be described as a complete and utter clusterf-k.
The Raiders and free agent offensive tackle, Rodger Saffold, had agreed to a hefty 5-year, $42.5 million deal. A pretty rich contract all things considered but the Raiders have plenty of money to spend so the contract numbers shouldn't have been much of an issue.
No announcement was made on Tuesday when the deal was said to have been complete, which is fairly normal as teams must finalize things with the player and his agent. That finalization including a physical.
Late Tuesday evening reports came out of the Raiders signing offensive tackle Austin Howard. Then come Wednesday when the Raiders were expected to announce the Saffold deal, they were announcing the Howard deal and it left a lot of us waiting for the Saffold official announcement wondering why it wasn't happening.
Then the official confirmation from the Raiders - Saffold's contract had been voided for "failed physical."
The news was devastating for all parties. The Raiders now were without their top free agent choice and replacement for the departed Jared Veldheer and Saffold watched his new big time contract turn to dust.
Shortly after the news came out of the voided contract, Mike Silver reported that it was Mark Davis who stepped in and "pulled the plug" on the deal.
According to a Raiders source Mark Davis pulled plug on Saffold deal. Could have had surgery and been ready for training camp. Mark said no— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) March 13, 2014
The surgery in question is for a torn labrum according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.
The story of this is pretty sad, actually. As told by Jim Thomas of the St Louis Dispatch, there was nothing to suggest anything was wrong with Saffold or the deal he signed. Saffold's parents were even in Oakland to witness their son sign his new contract.
"They said, we have a problem. Rodger failed his physical. There's something wrong with his shoulder. What did you know about that?" [Saffold's agent Alan] Herman told the Post-Dispatch.
To say that Herman and Fox were taken aback would be supreme understatement.
Saffold had suffered a dislocated shoulder early in the Rams' August 8 preseason opener in Cleveland. He missed the second preseason game because of the injury but was back in action for the team's final two preseason games and on into the 2013 regular season.
"We had him examined prior to the start of the season," Herman said. "And he was fine. The Rams physicians thought he was fine, and he played and he played great."
All Rams players undergo exit physicals at the end of the season, and Saffold passed that physical as well.
Fast forward to the present and the trip to Oakland to sign the contract. All NFL contract agreements are pending the results of a physical, and Saffold thought he had passed the physical.
"Rodger told us that the Raiders' doctor examined him and said, 'You're fine,' " Herman said.
Then came Wednesday's meeting.
"(The Raiders) said, 'We think he needs immediate surgery to correct his shoulder,' " Herman said.
Herman said he called a specialist he uses for his clients and double-checked the medical records and MRI results on Saffold's shoulder. The specialist gave Herman the OK on Saffold's shoulder.
Herman said of Reggie McKenzie, "He apologized profusely."
So, basically, according to the report, Saffold played the entire season with no shoulder issues, passed a Rams physical, was given the ok by Raiders team doctors, and an outside specialist. And yet the deal didn't happen.
The Rams then stepped up and immediately offered Saffold a 5-year deal of their own with $19 million guaranteed. That's a lot of guaranteed money for a player deemed unfit to play. The Rams apparently are sticking by what their doctors told them and trusting Saffold is fine.
Based on how this transpired along with Reggie McKenzie's apologies, there is every reason to believe the reports are true that Mark Davis did just what he said he wouldn't do - he meddled.
Does that mean Reggie McKenzie should have tried to sign an injured and/or injury prone player (Saffold has missed 17 games due to injury in four seasons) to a big contract? No. But McKenzie should be able to do the job he was entrusted to do without interference.
It is yet another in a long string of proclamations made by those in the Raiders organization over the past two years that proved disingenuous. It makes you miss Al Davis all the more, doesn't it? For all his faults, he was an honest man who demanded business be done a certain way - with integrity.
Mark said at the very start when he hired Reggie McKenzie that he would allow McKenzie to run the football operations. He admitted he didn't know what he was doing in that regard. Now, at the most important time in his reign as team owner, he pulls the rug out from under McKenzie.
I have said before that the biggest mistake here was the pathetic contract offer they extended Jared Veldheer that caused him to leave and sign with the Cardinals. But while that was a mistake, Saffold's signing would have gone a long way to correcting it. At least the team would have a left tackle in place.
At this point, however, this goes far beyond positions on the football team. This stinks from an organizational standpoint. The Raiders are still actively pursuing free agents to spend the remainder of their some $56 million they have under the salary cap. If I were a free agent, I would think twice or seven times before I considered signing on that dotted line with the Raiders.
Players are usually looking to join a team on the uptick or who are already a playoff team. They want to go somewhere that gives them the best chance at a Super Bowl ring. The Raiders are not that team, so they have that working against them from the jump.
Now they will be attempting to woo free agents following this debacle and it won't be easy.
Sure, the Raiders will sign players. There is little doubt there. They will no doubt be pretty nervous until the deal is officially completed, but players will sign. Unfortunately, things are already looking a lot like they did last off-season. The difference is the Raiders were supposed to be big players this year.
The moral here - if there is one - is no amount of money can overcome dysfunction. We all thought the new regime would solve that problem. Surprise!