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Rams acquire receiver from Ravens - Jim Thomas ..
BY JIM THOMAS Tuesday, September 7, 2010 12:30 am
n one of those twists of fate, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney bumped into Baltimore wide receiver Mark Clayton at the Sam Bradford workout last March in Norman, Okla.
It was just small talk among the droves of people who attended Bradford's highly anticipated throwing session.
"We were in the middle of the field talking to him, never thinking that he was going to wind up with the Rams," Devaney said. "I remember, I told Spags, 'That's a good kid.' He's a classy, classy kid — the way he presented himself and the way he carried himself."
A little more than five months later, Clayton is in fact heading to St. Louis. He was acquired in a trade Monday, with the Rams and Ravens exchanging draft picks — believed to be late-round draft picks — to complete the deal.
"He's got good hands; smart guy," Devaney said. "He'll pick things up quickly. So I think it was a good move."
Like Bradford, Clayton attended the University of Oklahoma. But their college careers never overlapped; Clayton has never caught a pass from Bradford. That's about to change.
"He's excited about Bradford," Devaney said.
Why wouldn't he be? Lost on the depth chart of a suddenly deep Baltimore wide receiver corps, Clayton could immediately find himself in the top three with the Rams. A first-round draft pick by the Ravens in 2005 — No. 22 overall — Clayton brings much-needed experience to a Rams wide receiver corps that remains young and largely unproven.
"That's what we were looking for," Devaney said. "We have some young guys that we're really high on. But we're looking for a guy that's played and lined up and has made plays in the NFL."
In five NFL seasons, Clayton has averaged 47 catches for 623 yards a year. His career totals are 234 catches for 3,116 yards and 12 touchdowns.
"He's been in big games," Devaney said. "Comes from a great organization. So I think that's an added bonus. He's got a great work ethic so he'll fit in good. And that's not an indictment against the guys we have here. Because they all have the same kind of work ethic."
But after a breakout 2006 season, in which he caught 67 passes for 939 yards and five TDs, Clayton's production dipped. He had 48 receptions in '07, then 41 in '08 and just 34 last season.
Clayton was a little injury-prone in Baltimore, specifically hamstring and ankle problems. But when healthy, he played pretty well. Small but compact at 5-10, 190 pounds, Clayton has pretty good hands, a little bit of deep speed and a reputation as a polished route runner.
Those who followed his career in Baltimore say his declined production may cmoe from nothing more than quarterback Joe Flacco preferring Derrick Mason as a target. Steve McNair was the Ravens' QB in '06 when Clayton had his best season.
Always accountable, Clayton will own up to a bad play and doesn't make excuses. He wants to be a preacher when his playing days are done. The last Rams receiver known to have such aspirations was Isaac Bruce.
The offseason trade for Anquan Boldin, coupled with Monday's signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, made Clayton expendable. He was called into a meeting Monday morning in Baltimore and told the Ravens were either going to trade him or release him.
Since he was traded, the Rams inherit his contract. Playing on a one-year tender he signed as a restricted free agent, Clayton is under contract only for this season, and will make $2.3 million.
"It's a business, you always know that going into anything," Clayton told the Carroll County (Md.) Times. "I'm excited. It's a great opportunity. I want to take advantage of it and contribute right away."
As for his time in Baltimore, Clayton said, "I enjoyed it, I enjoyed the organization. I had so many great relationships. I did a lot of growing up and maturing (there). Now, it's time for me to move on. I'm going to miss everybody."
Is it realistic to think that Clayton could be on the field Sunday for the Rams against the Arizona Cardinals?
"Yeah," Devaney said. "He's a really sharp guy."
By all accounts, Clayton had a good camp and preseason for Baltimore. He was actually holding off yet another Baltimore offseason pickup — Donte' Stallworth — for the Ravens' No. 3 receiving job before Stallworth was injured. Clayton suffered a concussion in the Ravens' third preseason game, Aug. 28 against the New York Giants. Like almost every other Ravens veteran, he was held out of the team's preseason finale last Thursday against the Rams.
"They told us he was back practicing," Devaney said. "But everything will be checked out (Tuesday)."
Another former Ravens wideout, Demetrius Williams, is coming to St. Louis today, but only for a free-agent visit. A fourth-round pick by Baltimore in 2006 out of Oregon, Williams was cut by the Ravens.
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