* St. Louis Rams Examiner
Even when the St. Louis Rams 53 man roster was set over the holiday weekend it was very apparent that some of the players on the roster might not be there for long. There were a number of positions that could be upgraded if the right player or two became available. The wide receiver and running back position being chief among them. The Rams quickly tried to address one of them by making a trade with the Baltimore Ravens for former first round draft pick, wide receiver Mark Clayton.
While the move to pick up Clayton was not surprising, the release of wide receiver Keenan Burton might have been a little bit of a surprise to some. Burton, a 4th round pick in 2008, was someone that the Rams believed could develop into a nice wide receiver in the league. In addition Burton was a player that head coach Steve Spagnuolo really liked. The problem was that Burton could not stay healthy in the preseason and was injured in his two previous seasons as well. That is why Burton was dumped while Dominique Curry was kept.
It is certainly a sign that the intensity is picking up at Rams Park and the patience factor is dwindling. The truth is that Burton wasn't healthy enough, and when healthy enough wasn't producing enough. 38 catches in 24 games over 2 seasons is not enough any more in a passing dominated league. When Burton came out of Kentucky many thought he would be a player who would have a nose for the endzone. In addition to not producing much in the way of receptions, Burton only managed one touchdown over two seasons. That is not good enough to stick around in the NFL.
To me it is encouraging that the Rams are running out of patience with some of these guys and are demanding more in 2010. Burton was a 4th round pick, so for the Rams to cut Burton admits that they made a miss in the 2008 Draft. It is certainly not new to see the Rams miss on a player in the draft, but now Billy Devaney is picking off "his players" that the Rams drafted. That is a clear sign of the urgency to be much better this season.
As far as Clayton goes it is a low risk-high reward type of deal. The Rams swapped a 6th round pick for a 7th round pick and Clayton. The Ravens were going to cut or trade Clayton, who they felt underperformed for his value as a 1st round pick. Clayton is not going to live up to that standing, but he does get a new lease on life here in St. Louis. In addition to automatically becoming one of the top two receivers on the depth chart, he gets a top notch prospect quarterback in Sam Bradford and although Bradford has not proved it yet, it sure appears that Bradford is going to be a better quarterback than anything the Ravens have put on the field in the past 5 years.
Clayton's best season came in 2006 when he had 67 receptions for 939 yards and 5 touchdowns. If Clayton can get anywhere near that production then the Rams offense made a significant upgrade. For that matter if Clayton can get the 34 catches for 480 yards and 2 touchdowns then the Rams made an upgrade and that is what is encouraging about this move.
The Rams know that they have to upgrade a lot of positions not only in their first team but also adding depth. Clayton gives the Rams an opportunity to significantly upgrade now. Is Clayton an All-Pro? No. Does Clayton have better credentials than anyone else at the position on this roster? Yes. We'll see what Clayton has left in the tank. He will get a great chance to prove that he is capable of being a starting wide receiver in the NFL.