St. Louis Rams fans celebrated the return of Mark Clayton. And why not? Clayton surprised everyone with some inspired play after joining the Rams last year. His impact on the team was obvious through the first quarter of the season. When he suffered a knee injury early in a game against the Lions last year, it demoralized the team, which folded for their most lopsided loss of the season. Clayton further complicates an already complex situation at wide receiver, putting some very viable players on the bubble. Naturally, the move prompted some trade talk in the chat-osphere. It merits some further analysis.
Rams GM Billy Devaney is no stranger to preseason trades. He acquired Clayton just days before the start of last season, a replacement for Donnie Avery. Perhaps more telling the situation at hand, Devaney possesses a real knack for trading away the dead weight from previous regimes.
I think a trade is very possible, but temper your expectations. Our excitement and analysis of the Rams receivers is not shared by far more practical front offices. None of the Rams' current group of receivers would fetch much in return, but something is better than the the absolute nothing that comes from a straight cut.
The most realistic trade chips at receiver are:
Brandon Gibson - Would the Rams really trade a guy who looks primed to breakout? Maybe. Gibson might be the most trade-worthy of any player on the roster, and the coaches might see a healthy Mark Clayton and Mike Sims-Walker as more than enough when paired with Danny Amendola and, maybe, a guy like Donnie Avery as fourth.
Mike Sims-Walker - Very unlikely that they trade MSW, given his favorable contract situation and early returns from practice and the preseason. Besides, a veteran with his potential is worth something to a team ready to compete, and I don't think the return would be significant enough to seriously consider it.
Danny Amendola - No way.
Donnie Avery - Now we're getting somewhere. Avery predates this coaching staff. Devaney was in his first year as a personnel guy with the team when they drafted him in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft. That is a connection, but not one that runs deep enough to protect him when the coaches have this much say over personnel. There are plenty of teams out there who would be more than willing to take a chance on the potential he showed as a rookie and with a trio of terrible QBs in his second season. As far as a return, a fourth-round pick might be slightly optimistic, or perhaps a veteran corner for the depth chart.
Daranio Alexander - Surely you jest? I used to think that some team would grab him if the Rams tried to sneak him through waivers; now, I'm not so sure. He has way too many injury concerns, five to be exact, to fetch any kind of trade return.
Greg Salas/Austin Pettis - These guys might be the safest of the bunch. Any trade would net very little in return. Rookies, especially those not taken in the last two rounds of the draft, almost always get a mulligan. Mardy Gilyard got one last year, and these guys will too. Teams do not walk away from third and fourth round picks after a month of practice. It's almost foolish to think they would, even if they got a 7th round pick in trade. Think about it. I enjoy armchair GM'ing as much as the next guy, but you can only go so far down the rabbit hole before it turns absurd.
Mardy Gilyard - A possibility. He might be worth a sixth- or, more likely, a seventh-round pick, which would at least be something.
If you're looking at this from a cap space perspective, none of these guys offer much savings because none of them make very much money. MSW carries the biggest cap cost...at $1.2 million. Donnie Avery counts $1.09 million against the cap, which might make him vulnerable.
One final thought. Keep an eye on Pat Shurmur and the Browns. He knows these receivers and needs help. Also, could the Eagles be motivated to move CB Joselio Hanson? Regardless of what they say, they could use the salary cap space for DeSean Jackson. Of course, the Rams would have to work hard to find cap space themselves, not an easy task.