St. Louis Rams 2012 Free Agency, Wide Receivers: Ranking the Best Options

Shane GraySenior Analyst IFebruary 6, 2012

St. Louis Rams 2012 Free Agency, Wide Receivers: Ranking the Best Options

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    The St. Louis Rams finished last in the NFL in points per game and third down conversion percentage. Both statistics indicate the need for better playmakers, particularly at wide receiver, where Sam Bradford clearly needs better weapons.  

    Jeff Fisher and the Rams front office will likely add at least two, perhaps three, wide receivers through the 2012 Free Agency and NFL Draft, especially when considering that Fisher's Tennessee Titans often carried six or even seven wide receivers on his roster, and that the Rams only have a couple of likely locks at wide receiver (Danny Amendola and Greg Salas).  

    The roster makeup of Fisher's Rams will likely be similar to his Titans, so one would also expect St. Louis to carry six or seven wide receivers on the roster just as Tennessee typically did. 

    When considering the Rams offensive struggles as well as the likelihood of adding multiple new wide outs to the team, the wide receiver position may arguably be the most important to adequately address in the offseason (or at least as important as the offensive line). 

    Fortunately for St. Louis, the free agent talent at wide receiver, both in regard to quantity and quality, is outstanding. There will be some terrific wide receivers available for the Rams to target in free agency.

    The following is a rundown of the St. Louis Rams wide receivers and their contracts, the 2012 free agent wide receivers and the five I feel the Rams should ultimately target.

St. Louis Rams Wide Receivers

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    Danny Amendola-

     Age: 26

     Contract: Restricted Free Agent 

    Best Season: 2010- 85 catches, 8.1 yards/reception, 3 TD's

    Prognosis: Very likely to return in 2012 and play in the slot.

     

    Danario Alexander- 

    Age: 23

     Contract: 2 Years/$1.825 million remaining on 4-year deal

     Best Season: 2011- 26 catches, 16.6 yards/reception, 2 TD's

    Prognosis: Should have a rare offseason without surgery and will have several months to get stronger and work on his game.  Should get a chance to make team in training camp based on his size,           potential andflashes of production.

     

    Mark Clayton-

     Age: 29

    Contract: Free Agent

    Best Season: 2006- 67 catches, 14 yards/reception, 5 TD's

    Prognosis: Clayton will be 30 and is injury prone.  Although he developed a terrific chemistry with Bradford, his return is certainly a question mark.  

     

    Dominique Curry-

    Age: 24

    Contract: Exclusive Rights Free Agent

    Best Season: 2010-2011- Special Teams Ace

    Prognosis: Could certainly return as a strong special teams performer; unlikely to contribute at wide receiver, however.

     

    Brandon Gibson-

    Age: 24

    Contract: 1 year/$1 million remaining on 4-year deal

    Best Season: 2010- 53 catches, 11.7 yards/reception, 2 TD's

    Prognosis: Gibson could remain as a fifth or sixth receiver due to his low salary, but could be cut just as easily, in part for the same reason.  

     

    Brandon Lloyd-

    Age: 30

    Contract: Free Agent

    Best Season: 2010- 77 catches, 18.8 yards/reception, 11 TD's 

    Prognosis: St. Louis will likely make a solid run at retaining Lloyd for 2012 and beyond.

     

    Austin Pettis-

    Age: 23

    Contract: 3 years/$1.74 million remaining on 4-year deal

    Best Season: 2011- (12 games) 27 catches, 9.5 yards/reception, 0 TD's

    Prognosis: Pettis was coming on before his suspension.  On the other hand, the general manager (Billy Devaney) who drafted him and the coaching staff who brought him in are long gone.  Due to his   low salary, if the new GM does not like Pettis, he could be shown the door, depending on what the Rams do in the aforementioned free agency period as well as the 2012 NFL Draft. Pettis likely showed enough to at least make it to training camp and get a shot at sticking around. 

     

    Greg Salas-

    Age: 23

    Contract: 3 years/$1.65 million remaining on 4-year deal

    Best Season: 2011- (6 games) 27 catches, 9.8 yards/reception, 0 TD's

    Prognosis: Salas will return and should contribute in the slot and backup at the outside spots. He was looking very good before his season ending injury and looks like a solid player going forward.  

Complete List of Notable Free Agent Wide Receivers

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    Marques Colston- Saints 

    Age/Experience: 28; 6 seasons

    Career Averages: 75 catches, 1,040 yards, 8 TD's, 13.9 yards/reception

     

    Dwayne Bowe- Chiefs

    Age/Experience: 27; 5 seasons

    Career Averages: 71 catches, 985 yards, 7 TD's, 13.8 yards/reception

     

    Vincent Jackson- Chargers

    Age/Experience: 29; 7 seasons

    Career Averages: (5 full seasons) 51 receptions, 889 yards, 7 TD's, 17.2 yards/reception 

     

    DeSean Jackson- Eagles

    Age/Experience: 25; 4 seasons

    Career Averages: 57 catches, 1,021 yards, 5 TD's, 17.8 yards/reception

     

    Stevie Johnson- Bills

    Age/Experience: 25; 4 seasons

    Career Averages: (2 full seasons) 79 catches, 1,039 yards, 8.5 TD's, 13.2 yards/reception

     

    Pierre Garcon- Colts

    Age/Experience: 25; 4 seasons

    Career Averages: (3 full seasons) 61 catches, 832 yards, 5 TD's, 14.0 yards/reception

     

    Reggie Wayne- Colts

    Age/Experience: 33; 11 seasons

    Career Averages: 78 catches, 1,064 yards, 7 TD's, 13.6 yards/reception

     

    Robert Meachem- Saints

    Age/Experience: 27; 5 seasons

    Career Averages: 28 catches, 454 yards, 5 TD's, 16 yards/reception

     

    Mario Manningham- Giants

    Age/Experience: 25; 4 seasons

    Career Averages: (3 full seasons) 52 catches, 6 TD's, 14.5 yards/reception

     

    Plaxico Burress- Jets

    Age/Experience: 34; 10 seasons

    Career Averages: 55 catches, 6 TD's, 15.4 yards/reception

     

    Brandon Lloyd- Rams

    Age/Experience: 30; 9 seasons

    Career Averages: (7 full seasons) 43 catches, 4.5 TD's, 15 yards/reception

     

    Mike Wallace (Steelers) and Wes Welker (Patriots) are restricted free agents and likely to be retained by their respective teams.

Who Should the St. Louis Rams Target?

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    The Rams need both explosion (speed) and production. With Fisher running the show, look for the Rams to pass on high-dollar potential malcontents DeSean Jackson and Vincent Jackson. I would also expect that, coming off a 2-14 season and probably being a year or more away, that the Rams pass on Reggie Wayne, who is 33.  

    With that, let us take a look at who I feel the Rams should/could target in free agency:

    1, Brandon Lloyd, 6'0:

    Lloyd has been on record saying that he likes the Fisher hire and noted that Fisher can adapt to emphasizing either a running or passing offense, based on personnel. Furthermore, Lloyd developed a good rapport quickly in 2011 with Sam Bradford, so he has already proven to be able to develop some chemistry here, which sets him apart from the rest of the pack. 

    Lloyd will be 31 this fall, however, he is built similar to Isaac Bruce who maintained a high-level of play into his middle 30's. I believe Lloyd has several good years left, too.  

    In addition, Lloyd has had two seasons where he played a half year or left, so he has fewer miles on him than many receivers do at the same age. 

     

    2. Stevie Johnson, 6'2:

    Johnson has averaged 79 receptions over the past two seasons in Buffalo at 13 yards per catch the last and almost 9 touchdowns.  As we know too well, the Rams have struggled in the red zone and have struggled to score touchdowns in general.

    Johnson has 4.45 speed and good size at 6'2. He can get deep but is also a good route runner. His production is obviously there, making him a potentially outstanding building block for St. Louis and a legitimate number one target for Bradford for the next seven or eight seasons. 

    Although Johnson and the Bills have stated a desire to work it out, Johnson is open to hitting the free agent market, saying:

    Of course I'm hoping Buffalo will step up, but if not and I hit the market in free agency, then Buffalo is in the picture no matter what. But to be in free agency to see what other teams are saying, that's also good.

     

    3. Pierre Garcon, 6'0: 

    Garcon, like Johnson, is just 25 and would be a foundation piece for the St. Louis offense for many years to come. Even without Peyton Manning in 2011, Garcon managed to pull down 70 catches and six touchdowns at 13.5 yards per reception.

    Like Johnson also, Garcon will likely be tough to pry away from his current team, the Colts, but would be a great addition and a number one receiver in St. Louis.  

    Garcon has run a sub-4.4 second 40 yard dash and has the type of speed the Rams so desperately need. With a good running game sure to be in place, having deep threats at wide receiver will make it very tricky for defensive coordinators who would like to sneak safeties up but would think twice with a player like Garcon on the outside. 

     

    4. Robert Meachem, 6'2:

    The 27-year-old Meachem, playing on a roster with a very deep receiving corps, posted 40 catches for the Saints at 15.5 yards per reception and six touchdowns in 2011.

    Meachem is not a better player than my number five target below, however, he would come cheaper and he could be a second free agent wide receiver addition because of that, theoretically. At 6'2 and with 4.4 speed, Meachem brings the size and deep speed that St. Louis needs. 

     

    5. Dwayne Bowe, 6'2: 

    Bowe's resume boasts good height, great size and outstanding production while never playing with a quarterback as talented as Sam Bradford.

    Bowe, 27, managed 81 catches at over 14 yards per reception and five touchdowns in 2011, playing with a variety of average quarterbacks.  

    Bowe has a penchant for tough, highlight reel catches and can go up high for the ball, while also showing good toughness and a willingness to go across the middle.  He is good after the catch as well, and excels on crossing routes and slants, passes that seem to suit Bradford well. 

     

    Shane Gray covers the St. Louis Rams year-round. You are encouraged to check out the rest of his work here and to follow him on Twitter.