This is the 28th in a series of scouting reports on key players who are expected to become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.
News: Of all the Rams' 20 unrestricted free agents, WR Brandon Lloyd, the team's leading receiver in 2011 despite playing in only 11 games, would appear to be the most desirable keeper. But the big question is just how great Lloyd's desire is to possibly follow in the footsteps of the departed Josh McDaniels. Despite doing a very suspect job in his one season as the Rams' offensive coordinator, McDaniels has managed to land in the same capacity with the Patriots — a team he previously had coordinated to record-breaking heights. One good thing McDaniels succeeded in doing the past couple seasons is to bring out the best in the 31-year-old Lloyd, who had a breakout season in Denver under McDaniels' direction in 2010, when he led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards. The Patriots could have a real interest in reuniting McDaniels and Lloyd, since both of their top two wideouts (Wes Welker and Deion Branch) are free agents. A deal could be complicated, however, by the prickly relationship that Lloyd's agent (Tom Condon of CAA) has with the Pats. The Rams' previous regime had seen enough of Lloyd to probably make a concerted effort to re-sign him. It remains to be seen, however, just how highly new head coach Jeff Fisher and new GM Les Snead think of the nine-year veteran.
Notes: After being obtained from the Broncos on Oct. 17 for what turned out to be a fifth-round draft pick, Lloyd went on to lead the Rams with 51 receptions and 683 receiving yards and tie RB Steve Jackson for the team lead in touchdowns with five. For the entire 2011 season, he had 70 catches for 966 yards (13.8 yards per catch) and five TDs. In his Rams debut vs. Dallas, Lloyd made an immediate impact, catching six passes for 74 yards. When playing in McDaniels' offense in 2010, the nine-year veteran posted career highs in catches (77), receiving yards (1,448) and TD catches (11) and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. He ranks third in the NFL among active players with 1,938 receiving yards since the start of the 2010 season, and his 84.3 yards per game during that span also ranks third in the league.
Positives: Lloyd's best qualities are his tremendous body control, which enables him to often make circus catches, and his sure hands. Lloyd credits McDaniels for enabling him to branch out as a receiver, and he's now capable of filling multiple every-down roles instead of just running deep routes. He has become a much more confident, polished receiver who runs crisp, precise routes and has all the makings of a quality No. 2 wideout in some team's offense.
Negatives: Longtime observers of Lloyd claim the reason he makes so many highlight-reel catches, often in heavy traffic, is that he does not have enough speed to gain separation on a regular basis. In addition, before hooking up with McDaniels, Lloyd never was considered anything more than a journeyman receiver who displayed occasional glittering flashes in his stints with three different teams (San Francisco, Washington and Chicago).
Risk factor: Although it's unknown whether Lloyd ever will be anything other than very ordinary without McDaniels pulling his strings, the Rams could do worse than to re-sign Lloyd with the intention of teaming him up with a couple of quality wideout additions via the draft and free agency, as well as solid slot receiver Danny Amendola, who will be back after missing practically the entire 2011 season with a dislocated elbow. Pretty quickly, the Rams could have the makings of a vastly improved WR corps — provided that Lloyd would be willing to stay put.