Earlier this offseason, St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, took a significant pay cut, reducing his total compensation from $10 million to $4.5 million for the upcoming season.
The pay cut did not, however, assure Smith of a starting job as free agent addition Barry Richardson is getting some work with the first-team offense, reports Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"The more familiar he becomes with our system, the better he is," head coach Jeff Fisher said of Richardson, who shares an agent (Ben Dogra) with Smith. "Thereâs a lot of competition all over the roster, and Barryâs created some competition at right tackle."
According to Football Outsiders Almanac 2012, Richardson was among the leaders in "Blown Blocks" (leading to sacks, intentional grounding or holding calls) in 2011 and lingered on the free agent market until May 16, when the Rams signed him to a one-year, $800,000 contract that included $100,000 in guarantees.
Durability is one area where Richardson has a clear edge over Smith. Richardson started 32 consecutive games for the Chiefs and played in 100 percent of their snaps last season. Smith's career has been marred by concussions, ending his rookie season after eight games and last season after just six contests.
Given Smith's shaky injury history, the Rams are smart to open the position up to competition.