Training camp is finally almost here. They allow tackling there and everything. Around the League will count down the top 30 position battles to watch throughout the preseason.
No. 18: St. Louis Rams wide receivers
â¢ On their current 90-man offseason roster, the Rams have a league-low ten wide receivers (and nine tight ends) vying for what may only be five or six spots on the 53-man roster. A few of those spots have already been locked up. The Rams used the No. 33 overall draft pick on Appalachian State receiver Brian Quick, who signed a four-year, $5.387 million contract that included $3.822 million in guaranteed money, and spent the No. 96 draft pick on Wake Forest receiver Chris Givens.
Quick and Givens are not going anywhere. Beyond that, it's a free-for-all for three, maybe four roster spots.
â¢ Slot receiver extraordinaire Danny Amendola led the Rams in receiving in 2010, but is coming off a serious elbow injury, while his "Second Round" restricted free agent tender (worth $1.927 million) is non-guaranteed. The Rams signed Steve Smith, one of the premier slot receivers in the NFL before a serious knee injury in 2010, to a one-year contract that included $2.125 million in guaranteed money. Smith is a bit more versatile than Amendola in that he can play on the perimeter, but it remains to be seen if he can remain healthy over a 16-game season.
â¢ Last year's fourth-round pick Greg Salas posted big numbers out of the slot at Hawaii and was having a promising rookie season before suffering a broken leg midway through the season. Injuries to Amendola and Salas is what got 2011 third-round selection Austin Pettis on the field as a rookie. Pettis' performance is why the Rams invested so heavily in the wide receiver position again this April. Brandon Gibson currently sits atop the depth chart, but he's a player the current coaching staff and front office inherited, has a seven-figure salary ($1 million) and can be released with no cap implications. The new regime also inherited Danario Alexander, who is a game-changing deep threat when healthy, which he rarely is.
Projected Winner(s): Quick and Givens we've addressed, and we'll bring Amendola into the season because he's shown he can produce from the slot. Same goes for Smith, who can also play on the outside. Salas showed promise as a rookie (averaging 8.1 yards after the catch) and is making the league minimum, so he's worth keeping. Pettis is suspended for the first two games, and he has talent, so why release him at the end of training camp? Given the injuries the Rams had at the position last year, they may need him by Week 3.