The NFL physical is a subjective thing. As a result, it provides teams with an emergency out in the event of buyer’s remorse, either after making a trade or signing a player to a big-money contract.
In the case of Raiders (for a day) tackle Rodger Saffold, it’s impossible to know whether other concerns prompted the medical decision that Saffold isn’t healthy enough to play football for the team. But the Rams, who like every team give every player a postseason physical, deemed Saffold to be healthy. Healthy enough to make him a priority in free agency.
So there are two possible explanations: (1) the Raiders’ doctors noticed something sufficiently significant to make him unwilling to sign off on a major free-agent acquisition; or (2) the Raiders, for whatever reason, decided they wanted out of the deal.
It was indeed a very good deal for Saffold. Per a source with knowledge of the terms, Saffold would have received a $5 million signing bonus, a $3 million 2014 roster bonus, a fully-guaranteed 2014 base salary of $7.875 million, and a 2015 base salary of $5.625 million that becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2015 waiver period.
There’s an unwritten rule among teams and agents that players with injury-only guarantees that become full guarantees in the days after the start of the annual waiver period (right after the Super Bowl) won’t be cut — and that players with injury-only guarantees that become full guarantees at the start of the league year (in March) can be cut. Under that unwritten rule, Saffold would have been fully guaranteed a whopping $21.5 million.
In contrast, the Dolphins gave left tackle Branden Albert $20 million fully guaranteed at signing. The Ravens gave left tackle Eugene Monroe $19 million fully guaranteed at signing. Saffold, regarded as a lesser option that either player, did better than both of them.
Well, Saffold would have done better than both of them. If he’d passed his physical.
Instead, he’ll return to the Rams. Who presumably will give Saffold a passing grade on his physical. But far less than $21.5 million fully guaranteed at signing.