— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) May 27, 2014
The 30-year-old Joseph is a two-time Pro Bowler and has started 99 games over an eight-year career for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After missing the entire 2012 regular season with a broken kneecap and torn patellar tendon, his production dropped off a bit after he returned in 2013. He was released after the season, and he received some interest from other teams but didn’t find a match until now.
Though the Rams previously had expressed interest in Joseph when it appeared that guard Rodger Saffold was going to the Oakland Raiders, it’s a bit of a surprise that the Rams ultimately decided to sign Joseph. They went on to lock up Saffold as their starting right guard after he failed a physical with Oakland, and when they drafted Auburn’s Greg Robinson with the second overall pick earlier this month, it was reported that he was going to play left guard in 2014.
It’s possible that after getting a better look at Robinson during the past couple weeks of workouts, the Rams could have concluded that he’s a better fit at tackle. After all, they gave serious thought to trading back into the first round to select Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin, so they apparently don’t have unshakeable faith in incumbent right tackle Joe Barksdale. If that were the case, Joseph could assume one of the starting guard spots while Robinson kicked out to tackle.
Another possible explanation is that the Rams don’t have total faith that left tackle Jake Long, who is currently recovering from a torn ACL, will be ready in time, and they’ve picked up Joseph as a fallback in case they need to start Robinson in place of Long to begin the season. For what it’s worth, Long looked good and was said to be progressing very well at the Rams’ pre-draft event several weeks ago, but ACL rehab is a very complicated process, and it’s certainly possible that his rehab could have hit a road block.
If neither of those scenarios is the reason for Joseph’s signing, he’ll act as an experienced depth guy who will have the edge for the primary backup guard spot, though he may face some competition from younger linemen including Brandon Washington and Travis Bond. Ordinarily, it would not make much sense to have a guy like Joseph, who has played his entire career at one position, as a backup on gamedays. But with the ability of Robinson and Saffold, the projected starting guards, to play tackle, he’ll be fine to dress on Sundays just like backup guard Shelley Smith did last season.