NFL personnel honchos and accounting departments have been reviewing their books line by line and cuts are coming fast and furious. The free agent signing period begins after the NFL Combine, next Thursday, February 28.
Peruse the list of wide receivers that have been cut this season and the first thing that jumps out at you many seem to be 30 or older. [Ed. note: at 32, I'm well aware of the irony in that statement.] We're all aware of the decision facing the Rams regarding the legendary Isaac Bruce. That nothing has happened on this front yet probably has more to do with getting newly hired personnel guru Billy Devaney up to speed.
It's no secret that with Holt (who turns 32 this summer) and Bruce, 34, the Rams need to start thinking about a finding a young wide receiver to fill the void, and probably do it sooner rather than later. Time is on their side, if Drew Bennett finds his old form this season. The best option might be drafting some raw talent on the second day. You know like Marques Hagan...whoops. At 23, Brandon Williams' future seems to lie in his return ability. So finding a guy in the fourth or fifth rounds to become an understudy to some of the greatest receivers in the game might be the best option for a team that, this year anyway, needs to devote most of its spending money to plug a few glaring gaps. Quite frankly, I just don't see how the Rams can justify signing a free agent WR while we're still waiting for our big free agent WR signed last season to play up to expectations. But let's press on with the thought for a moment.
There's no point singing one of the 30+ year old free agent wide receivers so long as Isaac Bruce is willing to restructure his contract. I'd rather have Bruce, at 34, as our 3rd WR than Peerless Price or Mushin Muhammad or Marty Booker. Any of those guys would be a fine signing if a summer injury bites one of our receivers, but the catch-22 in that case is that they'll likely be off the market by the time camp rolls around.
The other, more expensive option via free agency is to bring in a talented youngster, preferably one who just hasn't had the opportunity to rise to his full potential because he was blocked on the depth chart or in a funky system. The Bears' Bernard Berrian, 27, is an intriguing potential. He's likely to command a hefty contract though - something the Rams can't jockey around with given their high first round pick and more pressing needs at other positions - and the Bears would be fools to not make a serious effort to keep him. And it seems like they will.
Panthers WR Drew Carter, 26, and Texans WR Andre Davis, 28, are probably the most interesting options out there, two we've mulled before. However, you have to think that among the crop of free agents available, none seem to be more than a capable 2nd WR at best, mostly they seem to be solid #3s. What the Rams really need is to find their future star at WR, there are always plenty of placeholders available every season on the free agent market.
Now that we know more about the players available in the draft and will know ALOT more this time next week, we can start to look at the list of WRs that might be intriguing picks in the third round or later. This article has a nice overview that ranks prospects by their expected round. It's worth noting that the year after Calvin Johnson was drafted, this year's crop of wide receivers are, as a group, "average at best." Of the five, Vanderbilt's Earl Bennett seems like the best fit for the Rams future needs of an excellent route runner. His profile looks a lot like Torry Holt's, similar size and run a similar 40, 4.4-ish.