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NFL free agent news: Mark Clayton visiting the Patriots

Free agent wide receiver Mark Clayton will visit the New England Patriots for a workout tomorrow. The St. Louis Rams almost had a deal worked out with Clayton before the lockout, which made it seem like a foregone conclusion that Clayton would re-sign with the Rams as soon as the lockout ended. However, his injured knee made did not pass muster with the Rams medical staff once the league returned to business. 

Last week, ESPN's John Clayton - no relation - said that Clayton would likely rejoin the Rams at some point. That seems less likely since the team hasn't re-signed him. St. Louis could re-sign Clayton and put him on the PUP list, since he hasn't practiced since the start of the league year, obviously. That the Rams did not sign him and add him to the PUP list suggests several possibilities. 

First, it seems unlikely that the Rams would have given Clayton the same deal he almost signed in March with his knee still a concern some ten months after he injured it. Perhaps they did make him an offer, with the intent of putting him on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list, but the two sides could not agree to a contract. 

After adding Mike Sims-Walker to the roster on a one-year prove it deal, I suspect the Rams interest in bringing Clayton back sagged. Remember, Clayton was brought in as a replacement for Donnie Avery last year. Avery is back with the team, practicing for the first time in a week and a half yesterday, and the Rams have a bevvy of other receivers, including two new draft picks and a rookie tight end who already looks like Sam Bradford's go-to option. There's also a new offensive coordinator, as you may have heard, who has no attachment to Clayton. 

The Rotoworld link suggests that Clayton's physical with the Patriots is more likely than not for New England's benefit, a chance to check out a potential replacement for later in the preseason or regular season and stick his name in the Rolodex. Doubtlessly, that's how the Rams view him too. 

We'll see how the receivers look in preseason action Saturday. An injury or a performance that makes coaches uncomfortable might help Clayton's chances for returning to the Rams. At this point, I wouldn't put very good odds on Clayton putting on a Rams uniform this year. Bummer for Clayton too; he got a place in the area and even a Missouri driver's license this summer. 

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