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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    NOTE:This is the fourth in a series leading to the beginning of free agency on March 2.

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    If there has been one position on the Rams roster that for the past six or seven years hasnít needed much tweaking itís wide receivers.

    But with free agency set to open on March 2, the Rams will be forced to reconfigure and begin thinking about the future of the position. Starting receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce will return and are still in full stride.

    Holt earned another Pro Bowl trip this season (he missed the gamebecause of a knee injury) and continues to be one of the best and most consistent wideouts in the league.

    Holt finished the 2006 season with 93 catches for 1,188 yards and 10 touchdowns as he continues toward the Hall of Fame. He will be 31 in June, but figures to have several more years of productivity.

    Bruce, meanwhile, came back with his first 1,000-yard season since 2004 on his way to proving that he is still among the leagueís best at the position. He finished with 1,098 yards on 74 catches with three touchdowns.

    Thereís no doubt, though, that Bruce and Holt are getting closer to the end of their runs. In addition, the Ramsí No. 3 and 4 receivers are unrestricted free agents.

    Many expected a big year from Kevin Curtis this season, but he didnít have the output expected as Steven Jackson became more involved in the passing game. Curtis finished with 40 catches for 479 yards and four touchdowns.

    Despite the drop in production, Curtis will be one of the most sought-after receivers on the market in an offseason considered lean at the position. The Rams would like to bring Curtis back But there figures to be will be more than one team interested in Curtis..

    Shaun McDonaldís role was reduced even more in 2006 as he caught just 13 passes for 136 yards with one touchdown. McDonald did work as the teamís punt returner and had a bit more success in that role than in the past.

    McDonald likely wonít return, either, though itís not out of the possibility that he could. Like Curtis, McDonald wouldnít mind a return to his West coast roots.

    Should Curtis and McDonald depart in free agency; the Rams have Dane Looker under contract. Looker worked exclusively on special teams in 2006, but is still a solid receiving option. He could get the opportunity he has waited for if Curtis and McDonald depart.

    After Looker, the Rams also have Willie Ponder and youngsters Dominique Thompson and Marques Hagans on the practice squad. St. Louis hopes Hagans can come along as a returner and develop as a receiver to land a roster spot. Thompson has yet to get much of an opportunity in games, but has flashed potential in preseason and training camp. Ponder is a free agent, but could be brought back as the kick returner if Hagans isnít ready.

    Regardless, the Rams will need to find a receiver or two to compete for spots in training camp. Although the free agent market is thin, the Rams would like to find a big, physical receiver capable of moving the chains. While itís possible that player could come in free agency, itís likely the Rams will turn to the draft to replenish the talent at the position.

    At tight end, the Rams made some bold moves last offseason.. The team traded incumbent starter Brandon Manumaleuna on the second day of last yearís draft and used two first-day picks on tight ends Dominique Byrd and Joe Klopfenstein.

    That duo performed well in limited opportunities, but needs work in blocking. Veteran Aaron Walker was the designated blocking tight end and contributed some in the passing game. Walker is a restricted free agent..

    Still, the Rams could use a more another blocker to compete for a position and help in the running game. There are some solid blocking tight ends available. New Englandís Daniel Graham is one of the better blockers available. Cincinnatiís Reggie Kelly is another solid option. Expect the Rams to pick up another veteran tight end that can help in the running attack.

    Top Five Free Agent Receivers

    1. Donte Stallworth, Philadelphia, UFA

    2. Kevin Curtis, St. Louis, UFA

    3. Drew Bennett, Tennessee, UFA

    4. D.J. Hackett, Seattle, RFA

    5. Ernest Wilford, Jacksonville, RFA

    Top Five Free Agent Tight Ends

    1. Eric Johnson, San Francisco, UFA

    2. Daniel Graham, New England, UFA

    3. Jerramy Stevens, Seattle, UFA

    4. Reggie Kelly, Cincinnati, UFA

    5. Zach Hilton, New York Jets, UFA


  2. #2
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    Daniel Graham and Eric Johnson are interesting. Graham's a good blocker. I've always thought Johnson was more of a pass catching TE? Unsure of his blocking skills.

    Having said that, I feel like we need to stick with what we have and allow the youngsters more time to develop.

  3. #3
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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    Curtis would cost too much right now with all of our defensive needs. However, if Linehan thinks we can't shore up the D and need to score more then the Rams better sign Curtis.

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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    Curtis would be extra insurance if Holt or Bruuuuuuuce go down. I wonder if they would bring Mc D back if they can't resign Curtis. I would think they'd be looking at WR's in the draft. We could definitely use a big guy at receiver.
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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    Quote Originally Posted by txramsfan View Post
    Curtis would cost too much right now with all of our defensive needs. However, if Linehan thinks we can't shore up the D and need to score more then the Rams better sign Curtis.
    Ok, Mike Martz :P


    Always and Forever a fan of the St. Louis Rams

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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    I would love to have Drew Bennett on the team. Anyone know how much this guy is asking for? I personally think the Rams should go after a big, tall and physical receiver who break some tackles after he makes a catch through the middle, kind of like Boldin. I find our current receiving core pretty fragile at the moment. Bruce is old and can't take many big hits anymore, and Curtis, McDonald and Looker are all quick receivers but pretty small. I'm not a big follower of college football so I dont know who the Rams could draft that would fit this description. Calvin Johnson fits this mold but he's almost certain to be picked in the top 5 at this point and we have much bigger needs to adress this off season.

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    RamOfDenmark is offline Registered User
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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    I hope we find a way to keep Curtis. I can see how it will be very problematic (I'm sure some team will overpay for him this year), but I'm not happy about letting him go at all. I'm a little afraid that Bruce may slow down in a year or so, whereas Curtis could go full speed for maybe the next 5 years leaving us without an alternative to Holt. When you have your hands on a receiver of Curtis' caliber (I really think he's a good receiver, the only reason he hasn't put up bigger numbers is he hasn't had enough chances yet) you could regret letting him get away, it's not that easy to find good receivers (ask Detroit). It's not a great situation, because I can see the reasons for letting him go too. Damn dilemma.

  8. #8
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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    Quote Originally Posted by Warner Pride View Post
    I would love to have Drew Bennett on the team. Anyone know how much this guy is asking for? I personally think the Rams should go after a big, tall and physical receiver who break some tackles after he makes a catch through the middle, kind of like Boldin. I find our current receiving core pretty fragile at the moment. Bruce is old and can't take many big hits anymore, and Curtis, McDonald and Looker are all quick receivers but pretty small. I'm not a big follower of college football so I dont know who the Rams could draft that would fit this description. Calvin Johnson fits this mold but he's almost certain to be picked in the top 5 at this point and we have much bigger needs to adress this off season.
    The perfect guy for that would be Ashley Lelie, I also think he'll go cheaper than Drew Bennett also.
    RamsFan16

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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    Quote Originally Posted by RamsFan16 View Post
    The perfect guy for that would be Ashley Lelie, I also think he'll go cheaper than Drew Bennett also.
    Lelie is an interesting player who could do a decent job for the Rams.He certainly has the size(6'3)and he has the speed to get YAC..:l

  10. #10
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    Quote Originally Posted by 81~BIG-GAME View Post
    Lelie is an interesting player who could do a decent job for the Rams.He certainly has the size(6'3)and he has the speed to get YAC..:l
    Lelie is definitely an option close to the top of the list. My only concern about him is that you're probably not looking at a future starter and while he's tall he doesn't play like a guy with big size.

    I think a sleeper receiver we could look at in free agency is Chicago's Justin Gage. He's 6'4" and is going to go over the middle and contend for jump balls, he attended college at Missouri so there's at least a small local connection, and Linehan saw him twice a year while part of the NFC North.

  11. #11
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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    Lelie is definitely an option close to the top of the list. My only concern about him is that you're probably not looking at a future starter and while he's tall he doesn't play like a guy with big size.

    I think a sleeper receiver we could look at in free agency is Chicago's Justin Gage. He's 6'4" and is going to go over the middle and contend for jump balls, he attended college at Missouri so there's at least a small local connection, and Linehan saw him twice a year while part of the NFC North.
    I agree that Gage is worth looking at,he certainly has the size and physical attributes.I really hope we get a bigger WR to compliment Bruce and Holt..:l

  12. #12
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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    I would love to sign Lelie. I could see Lelie starting. He may not ever be a number one but I could see him filling the number 2 role. Also he would be a great deep threat.

  13. #13
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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    Interesting quote I just found from Lelie after the Broncos acquired Javon Walker: "I don't believe I'm a third wideout. I can't believe that. I'm not going to believe that until I physically prove that on the field evenly and fairly on the field." So considering that, I wouldn't count on him in horns any time soon.

    He'd be a productive third wideout behind Holt and Bruce, but it seems like his ego won't allow him to accept the fact that he's anything other than a #1. Remember, this is the guy who wanted to be traded if the Broncos didn't make him their top receiver, and when he got the chance to start in Atlanta and show what he could do as a starter, he didn't do much with it.

    I like what he brings to the table in the slot, but I think if we want to find a guy that could eventually shift into the starting line-up, we'd be a lot better off retaining Curtis or looking elsewhere.

  14. #14
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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    I think being the third option in the Falcons terrible passing game may have humbled him. I mean when Rodney White and whoever else are there receivers is getting more time than you. You don't have alot of reason to be arrogant.

  15. #15
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    Re: Free Agent Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    lets trade for jermaine wiggins... he was a baller in linehan's system when linehan was in minnesota

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