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Are Austin Pettis' days with the Rams numbered?

Stedman Bailey begins the season on the reserve/suspended list, and returns to the roster after the 4'th regular season game. Who will he replace on the roster?

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams had to make some difficult decisions to reach the 53-man roster limit this past weekend. After the 4'th game of the regular season, the Rams will have another big decision to make: WR Stedman Bailey - currently on the reserve/suspended list - will return to the 53-man roster. Who will he replace?

The initial 53-man roster included 5 tight ends. Many presumed Justice Cunningham would be released upon Bailey's return. That potential scenario evaporated in the past two days, due to a trio of transactions occurring:

  1. QB Case Keenum was signed and added to the 53-man roster on Monday.
  2. To make room on the roster for Keenum, Cunningham was placed on Injured Reserve.
  3. On Tuesday, Cunningham was removed from Injured Reserve and given an injury settlement.

The accompanying chart presents the Rams' current roster and depth chart. It's updated to reflect all transactions as of 11.00 pm, Wednesday, and the "unofficial" depth chart released by the Rams :

C Scott Wells Tim Barnes Barrett Jones
RG Davin Joseph
LG Rodger Saffold Greg Robinson
RT Joe Barksdale
LT Jake Long Mike Person
TE Lance Kendricks Cory Harkey
TE Jared Cook Alex Bayer
WR Tavon Austin Austin Pettis Chris Givens
WR Kenny Britt Brian Quick
RB Benny Cunningham Chase Reynolds Trey Watts
RB Zac Stacy Tre Mason
QB Shaun Hill Austin Davis Case Keenum
PK Greg Zuerlein
P John Hekker
LS Jake McQuaide
DT Kendall Langford Aaron Donald
DT Michael Brockers Alex Carrington
DE Chris Long Eugene Sims
DE Robert Quinn William Hayes Ethan Westbrooks
MLB James Laurinaitis
OLB Alec Ogletree Daren Bates
OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar Ray Ray Armstrong
CB Janoris Jenkins Brandon McGee
CB Trumaine Johnson E.J. Gaines Marcus Roberson
FS Rodney McLeod Cody Davis Lamarcus Joyner
SS T.J. McDonald Maurice Alexander
Practice Squad Reserve/Suspended Injured Reserve
OT Sean Hooey WR Stedman Bailey TE Mason Brodine
OL Brandon Washington RB Isaiah Pead
DT Matt Conrath QB Sam Bradford
WR Justin Veltung OC Demetrius Rhaney
LB Kevin Reddick
TE Brad Smelley
QB Garrett Gilbert
FS Christian Bryant
WR Emory Blake
LB Denicos Allen

To accommodate Bailey's return, a player will likely be released from one of the following units: cornerback, wide receiver, tight end, or running back. Injuries and other roster moves in the interim could affect the decision, as could delays in Trumaine Johnson's and Barrett Jones' return from injuries. Most likely, the decision on who to release will boil down to one of the following players: Alex Bayer, Marcus Roberson, Brandon McGee, Trey Watts, Chase Reynolds, or Austin Pettis.

A strong case can be made for keeping - or releasing - any one of the above-mentioned players. If the Rams do in fact release one of them, should it be Austin Pettis?

  • Pettis is in the last year of his rookie contract, and becomes a free agent after this season.
  • As a wide receiver, he's pretty much reached his ceiling. When Bailey returns, Pettis will likely be no higher than No. 5 on the depth chart.
  • The Rams have very little available salary cap space, and figure to be tight against the cap for most of this season. Of the 6 players mentioned, Pettis' release would easily free up the most cap space (slightly over $1 million gross).
  • The Rams only kept 5 WR's on their roster last season. If they retain Pettis - when Bailey returns - the Rams would have 6 WR's on the roster.
  • It was surprising to see the Rams add 2 wide receivers to the practice squad: Emory Blake and Justin Veltung. Were they anticipating the need for additional depth at the position?
  • The Rams carried 4 TE's and 5 RB's on the roster last year. They're likely to do the same this season. When Trumaine Johnson returns to a starting role, the Rams will be carrying 10 DB's on the active roster. It would appear Roberson and McGee are the only other likely candidates for release (aside from Pettis).

The Rams have the first four games of the regular season to sort out a roster decision based on the return of Stedman Bailey. The decision will not be an easy one. Especially with so much young talent permeating the roster. That's a good problem to have.