Brandon Lloyd had become three things for the Broncos, all of which made him easy, no-brainer trade bait. He was a valuable commodity, he was set to hit the open market in a matter of months, and he was being drastically under-used.
So welcome to St. Louis, Brandon. Hopefully you like watching winning baseball, because winning football hasn’t been happening much lately.
The Denver Broncos have dealt Lloyd to the St. Louis Rams. The deal was first reported by NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora and later confirmed by ESPN, with Adam Schefter reporting that Denver will receive a conditional sixth-round pick. The condition of that conditional pick is Lloyd catching 30 passes the rest of the season, and if he does that then Denver’s pick is upgraded to a fifth-rounder. Either way, that’s a minimal price for a receiver who now fills a positional black hole in St. Louis, and it becomes point-blank robbery if the Rams are able to sign Lloyd to an extension.
Lloyd was the hottest trade chip heading into tomorrow’s 4 p.m. ET deadline, and he’s making $1.395 million this year in the final season of his contract. He’s 30 years old, which isn’t old or young for a wide receiver. It’s somewhere in the middle, but leaning more towards the former. Over the past several seasons we’ve seen elite wide receivers abruptly plateau in their mid-30s, most notably Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.
If Lloyd’s career track record equaled that of Moss or Owens we’d say that he probably has three-to-four more productive seasons left before the darkness begins to engulf his career. But it doesn’t, and the line items in stat columns are all we can use while trying to project a player’s future production. We have short-term memories, so Lloyd’s electric 2010 season when he led the league in receiving yards (1,448) and was second in yards per game (90.5) is fresh. But beyond that due to injuries, and more often an inability to tap into his tremendous upside Lloyd had only 860 receiving yards between 2006 and 2009.
Lloyd’s unknown and unreliable future production are likely why contract extension talks didn’t progress far in Denver. Negotiations reportedly took place, but the two sides remained divided on the receiver’s long-term price. Keeping a deep threat around as a contractual anchor didn’t make sense for a team that’s now moving in an entirely different direction with an inexperienced young quarterback who’s first instinct is to be creative with his legs, not his arm. When Kyle Orton’s fall began with the Broncos, so did Lloyd’s.
For St. Louis this deal revolves around desperate necessity, and hopefully, chemistry. Lloyd will be reunited with Josh McDaniels, the current Rams offensive coordinator and former Broncos head coach. The momentum gained in St. Louis from a near playoff appearance–albeit in a historically brutal division–has evaporated after an 0-5 start, and Sam Bradford has been able to muster only 209.4 passing yards per game. McDaniels is now tasked with helping Lloyd re-capture his 2010 magic while concocting some semblance of a deep passing game on the field that used to be home to the Greatest Show on Turf, but now houses a team that ranks 28th in completions of 20 yards or more.
In Denver Lloyd had 283 yards in four games this year after sitting out once with a hamstring injury. That’s well behind his league-leading pace from last year, but it’s still a modest 70.8 yards per game, easily ahead of Mike Sims-Walker who will now likely be released after being inactive yesterday.
This move is a quick and early admission of failure with Sims-Walker, who was signed as a free agent in August, and a confession by the Rams that after the loss of Danny Amendola their depth isn’t sufficient to provide Bradford with reliable targets. Danario Alexander had six receptions for 91 yards yesterday and he could quickly emerge, but he’s still only played 12 games. Brandon Gibson is on pace for a career-high in receiving yards, but he’s also in just his second season as a consistent starter.
The Rams pounced on an opportunity to acquire a vital offensive piece. Now the next step is that extension.