Mark Clayton Returns to the Rams

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Mark Clayton happy to be back on Rams.
Mark Clayton happy to be back on Rams.
Well, it took quite a bit longer than I think most expected, but the St. Louis Rams have finally come to terms with wide receiver Mark Clayton

Early in the offseason, even before the lockout began, it seemed a foregone conclusion Clayton would be back for the 2011 season. The fact he was coming off a knee injury requiring surgery was certainly a concern, but it also felt a little academic. After a 2010 campaign in which he played remarkably well and showed instant chemistry with Sam Bradford after being acquired from Baltimore, Clayton was at the very top of the list of what I thought were complete no-brainer moves for the front office to make. 

Turns out it wasn't nearly as easy, and the medical concerns a bit more pronounced. Now, though, Clayton's knee has apparently received a green light from the Rams' medical staff and he'll return to what felt like an ideal fit for him all along. 

The one question still remaining is how long it will be before Clayton is ready to play. At the moment, the Rams have him on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP), list, meaning he has not been able to practice at all due to injury. Once a player steps on the practice field in training camp, they lose PUP eligibility. 

Clayton's knee is apparently healthy enough for the medical guys, but all that really means is the joint isn't likely to burst into flames in a low-speed collision. How close Clayton actually is to playing shape is another matter entirely. The Rams have until Saturday to decide whether to take Clayton off the PUP list; if they remove him now he would immediately be eligible to practice but would also go on to the active roster. If they choose to keep him on, he can do rehab work and the like without being forced on the roster, but would not be eligible to come off the PUP -- and thus be unable to practice with the team -- until week six of the season. 

My guess is the Rams probably keep him on the PUP list for now, carry seven wide receivers into the season, and then decide who to drop whenever Clayton is eligible to return. Players coming off the PUP list have three weeks to practice before the team must activate them, so that could push the decision on a wide receiver to drop all the way out to week nine, by which time you would hope the Rams would have a better handle on exactly who should stay and who should go. 

However it works out, though, it's good to see Clayton officially back in the fold. He and Bradford seemingly had an instant rapport last season, and it looked as if Clayton might finally have been ready to fulfill the promise so many saw in him back when the Ravens drafted him out of Oklahoma. He isn't a number one, and never will be, but the Rams just added a very solid, very productive receiver to the team, and that should make plenty of difference in how productive the offense will be this year. 

Also, I would like to make a correction: on Tuesday I wrote the Rams had placed Jermelle Cudjo, a defensive tackle, on injured reserve. It wasn't official yet, and the coaching staff apparently decided in the interim to cut Cudjo instead. It was a tough decision, I'm sure, but when a team is tight up against the cap as the Rams are, even a low salary like Cudjo's makes for an attractive bit of savings. I regret the error in failing to specify the team had not yet officially put him on IR. 

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