Originally written March 12, 2014 on Fox Sports Midwest:
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders were dealt a setback on Wednesday in their plans to rebuild the struggling franchise when offensive lineman Rodger Saffold failed a physical one day after agreeing to a $42.5 million, five-year contract. The two sides had agreed to the deal shortly after the start of free agency on Tuesday but the contract was never signed after team doctors would not give Saffold a clean bill of health after a physical on Wednesday. The Raiders did not give a reason why Saffold failed the physical. Saffold was set to be paid $16 million in 2014 and $27.6 million over the first three years as the Raiders viewed him as a building block in a rebuilding plan after 11 straight years without a playoff berth. But Saffold had durability problems in his four years with St. Louis, missing 17 games with a variety of injuries. He missed time with a knee injury last season and has also had problems with his neck, shoulder and pectoral muscle in his career. Despite those issues, the Raiders valued Saffold higher than homegrown tackle Jared Veldheer, who was allowed to leave as a free agent for Arizona on Tuesday. The Raiders did sign one offensive lineman, finalizing a five-year, $30 million deal with former New York Jets tackle Austin Howard on Wednesday. But with about $60 million in salary cap room heading into free agency and numerous holes to fill following two straight four-win seasons, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie needs to find more help soon. The Raiders did host a number of free agent defenders on Wednesday in hopes of upgrading that side of the ball. Former Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley tweeted that he was headed for a visit to Oakland and Dallas defensive tackle Jason Hatcher also tweeted his plans to visit. ESPN reported that former New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck and cornerback Terrell Thomas are also set to visit the Raiders. The Raiders need help on their pass rush after losing last year's leading sacker and most consistent defender LaMarr Houston to Chicago in free agency. The other three starting defensive linemen - Pat Sims, Vance Walker and Jason Hunter -- are also free agents. Oakland also has holes in the secondary with starting cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins and free safety Charles Woodson also free agents. After showing some promise early in the season, the Raiders defense wilted late and allowed the second-most points per game (28.3) in franchise history. Oakland has had two of the three highest scoring seasons allowed in coach Dennis Allen's first two years with the franchise. Tuck, Woodley and Hatcher all have proven themselves as accomplished pass rushers in the NFL, a trait the Raiders have been lacking in recent years. They have not had a player reach double figures in sacks since Derrick Burgess and Warren Sapp both did it in 2006. Tuck was rated as the ninth best pass rushing defensive end by Pro Football Focus last season when he had 11 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and 44 hurries. Woodley struggled with injuries the past three seasons but was still an effective rusher when healthy. He ended last season on injured reserve with a calf injury and the Steelers released him because of his high salary. After averaging 11 sacks per season from 2008-11, Woodley has only nine sacks in 24 games the past two years. He did have eight quarterback hits and 24 hurries last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Hatcher was one of the most productive inside pass rushers last season with Dallas, when he had 11 sacks to lead all defensive tackles. Thomas, who missed the 2011 and `12 seasons with a pair of ACL tears, struggled in his return last season in coverage for the Giants. He allowed 52 catches on 79 balls thrown his way for 550 yards and six touchdowns for a 106.0 passer rating against, according to game-charting by Pro Football Focus. His one interception came against Oakland.
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