Rams set sights on keeping Clayton
Rams set sights on keeping Clayton
BY JIM THOMAS
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Posted: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 12:30 am
The Rams have had a steady dialogue with the agent for wide receiver Mark Clayton about a contract extension, although it's uncertain if a new deal can be worked out before a possible lockout March 4.
"We've had dialogue with Mark really since the time he got here," said Kevin Demoff, the Rams' executive vice president for football operations. "He came on a one-year deal. We've had good discussions and we'll continue to have discussions with Mark and his agent throughout.
"He's certainly a candidate to get an extension done before the deadline. But if he doesn't, that wouldn't change our opinion on wanting him back."
As is the case with all of their pending free agents, the Rams have exclusive negotiating rights with Clayton until the start of the new league year March 4. In a normal year, once March 4 arrives, any team can try to sign Clayton as an unrestricted free agent. But this isn't a normal year. Unless there's a new collective bargaining agreement by the end of the day March 3, no player can be signed (or traded) by any team.
"No matter what the dynamics are of the labor situation, we're always looking to do a fair deal for the Rams and the player," Demoff said. "And if that presents itself between now and the end of the 2010 league year, we'll do a deal. We've had dialogue with a number of the agents of a number of the players. And I'm hopeful that there may be some instances where we're able to get a deal done before the deadline."
Among other pending free agents, the Rams also have expressed interest in re-signing Gary Gibson, who started all 16 games for the team last season at defensive tackle. But on a list of free agents that includes nickel back Kevin Dockery, tight end Daniel Fells, offensive guard Adam Goldberg, wide receiver Laurent Robinson and defensive tackle Clifton Ryan, the most likely candidate to get re-signed could be Clayton.
"We've had some conversations, and it's just taking a natural course," said Clayton's St. Louis-based agent, Jim Steiner. "There doesn't seem to be any urgency on either side, but we have started the process."
When asked if it was important to get a contract done by March 4, Steiner said: "If everybody could achieve their goals, then it would be great to get it done. Obviously we can't sacrifice that based on the timing of it. We'll see."
Acquired in a Sept. 6 trade with Baltimore, Clayton had a surprising impact early in the 2010 season, adding much-needed downfield speed plus an ability to get yards after the catch. To the amazement of many, Clayton absorbed the playbook instantly and had 22 catches for 300 yards and two touchdowns through four games.
But a patellar tendon injury early in Game 5 against Detroit ended Clayton's season — he finished with 23 catches for 306 yards. Surgery and rehab followed, but according to Steiner, Clayton should be full speed well before the start of training camp.
"He's doing extremely well," Steiner said. "He'll be 100 percent, and be fine. I don't know exactly when he'll be at full, full, full, speed. I don't want to speak out of turn, but I think it's somewhere at the end of March, something like that, or in April."
Clayton's hard work and intangibles make him the kind of player coach Steve Spagnuolo would like to build his program around. So it's just a matter of making the numbers work for both parties.