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Rams say they will get more receivers
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
"We're going to probably incorporate some wishbone this year," Devaney said with a straight face. "You only need one receiver on the field if you're going to run the wishbone. We haven't told (Marc) Bulger that yet."
But seriously ...
"We're not kidding anybody," Devaney said. "We need to add some numbers, whether it's a veteran in the next couple weeks. Whether it's through the draft. Whether it's after the draft. We'll be bringing some people in at some point.
"And just because you recognize a certain position where you need help, we're not going to training camp next week. So we've got time. We don't want to just sign somebody because we have to have somebody. We want to make sure we get the right guys. Nobody's fretting about it at this point."
Perhaps, but it would be very easy to fret at this point. Rams wide receivers caught 172 passes last season, and 58.1 percent of that reception total — or 100 catches — no longer is on the roster. Gone are Holt (64 catches), Dane Looker (23), Dante Hall (12) and Drew Bennett (one).
Bennett and Holt were cut; Looker and Hall are unrestricted free agents. It's possible that Looker may be re-signed, but that's far from a sure thing. That leaves only the "Teen Squad" of Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton and Derek Stanley on the roster, plus a bunch of fringe players.
The only other wide receivers currently under contract are Joel Filani, Travis Brown, Nate Jones and Chad Lucas. Maybe one of those players will emerge from obscurity to stardom. But personnel "miracles" along the lines of Kurt Warner and London Fletcher don't happen every day in the NFL.
Avery was second on the team a year ago in receptions (53) and reception yards (674) behind Holt, and shared the team lead in touchdown catches (three) with Holt. Wide receivers often make a big jump in their second NFL season, and the Rams are hoping that's the case with Avery and Burton.
"That goes for all rookies," Devaney said. "There's a big jump at every position, but especially so for wide receivers. There's such a learning curve for those guys coming in. The first-round guys this year — the (Michael) Crabtrees, the (Jeremy) Maclins — there's going to be a learning curve for them.
"It's a whole different game. Coverages. Reading on the move. Beating jams that they don't see all the time (in college). It's a hard position for a young guy to come in and make a contribution right away."
Burton must stay healthy after being bothered by knee problems last season. And Stanley must get healthy. He's recovering from end-of-season knee surgery and isn't expected back until the start of training camp at the earliest.
There are a few 30-somethings remaining on the free-agent market, most notably Marvin Harrison, Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer. But the Rams have tried to steer clear of older players in free agency, attempting to add younger, ascending players.
There are some attractive restricted free agents in Hank Baskett of Philadelphia, Malcolm Floyd of San Diego and Lance Moore of New Orleans. But all have second-round tenders on them, meaning the Rams would have to cough up their high second-round pick if they made an offer sheet that wasn't matched. That doesn't seem likely.
Obviously, there's always the draft. But if the Rams went for a Crabtree or Maclin in the Round 1, they would be bypassing a chance to land an elite offensive tackle or linebacker Aaron Curry.
So who will Bulger throw to in 2009?
"Whoever's out there," Bulger said. "We'll have plenty of guys. Our tight ends. We've got a bunch (of wideouts) out there now. We've got some good players. I'm sure we'll add a few more. But I'm excited to work with those young guys and get (tight end) Randy McMichael back, too."
RAM-BLINGS — Lucas and safety Craig Dahl were signed to the roster Tuesday. ... Nick Leckey, who started 10 games at center last season, signed a free-agent contract with New Orleans. ... Released last week by the Rams, left tackle Orlando Pace is paying a free agent visit to Baltimore today. ... San Francisco free agent Billy Bajema, a blocking tight end, visited the Rams on Tuesday and will continue the visit today.
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