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St. Louis Rams fans hoping against hope that this is the year they find a running back nonthreatening enough for Steven Jackson to accept and competent enough to complement Steven Jackson, be careful what you wish for: Tiki Barber's comeback is fully in gear. At 36 Barber apparently wants one more shot to end his career more pleasantly than he did last time, where a career spent as a popular and well-spoken poster-child for the NFL was derailed by a sordid story involving his divorce.
Barber has the New York Giants connection in his favor if he were to pursue a comeback opportunity with the Rams, but I think Steve Spagnuolo would have to think twice after these latest revelations—not to mention Barber's spat with Michael Strahan as a Giant—as far as Barber's compatibility with the four pillars goes. (The fifth pillar: Don't leave your pregnant wife for another woman.)
Barber seems like a long-shot right now—to go anywhere, let alone the Rams—but he has a chance at becoming one of the strangest stories in the NFL next year.
Here's an interesting way to combine the St. Louis Rams' perceived need for a veteran receiver with their perceived need for a change-of-pace back to keep Steven Jackson from wearing down entirely: The latest NFL rumors have estranged New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush shopping himself around the league, looking for a team that would be more interested in paying him than the Saints appear to be after selecting Mark Ingram and keeping Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas around.
Reggie Bush never turned into the superstar he looked like in college, but he's got a peculiar skill-set, one that would help the Rams fix two peculiar problems. With Austin Pettis and Greg Salas on the roster the Rams have no more room for questionably gifted wide receivers like Plaxico Burress or Randy Moss, and Steven Jackson continues to protest any plan that calls for him splitting time with another running back, despite the down-year he suffered in 2010 after years of single-back abuse.
Bush would give Sam Bradford an interesting and potentially dangerous option as a receiver, and he'd give Steven Jackson an interesting but not threatening wingman at running back. Voila!
At least, I assume Peter King means well when he connects the St. Louis Rams yet again to Plaxico Burress, who fits into Steve Spagnuolo’s system about as well as he fits into Josh McDaniels’s crowded group of wide receivers or his handgun fits into his waistband. For future reference, here are the things that need to be resolved before the Rams and Burress can be profitably connected:
Who do the Rams dump? They just drafted two more wide receivers. They’ve got Danario Alexander and Donnie Avery coming off injuries, Mark Clayton supposedly interested in a return engagement, Danny Amendola having recently led the team in receptions and scrappy white guy hustle, and Brandon Gibson also around.
Why does Steve Spagnuolo do it? Is Plaxico Burress, after a two year layoff, the difference between the Rams missing the playoffs and contending through 2012? Is he worth throwing all that talk about the four pillars into lockdown for at least a year just as Spagnuolo begins to establish himself as the face of the Rams?
St. Louis Rams fans who hoped that the kremlinology surrounding Plaxico Burress's Phillies cap might mean he wasn't a part of the Rams' future after all should read the following rumor with a heavy heart: The Philadelphia Eagles, for all Michael Vick's lobbying, might not be interested in Burress after all. Apparently having a healthy Jeremy Maclin instead of an unsteady Danario Alexander ruins a team's appetite for potentially self-destructive veteran wide receivers.
The Rams have yet to show interest in Burress—given the NFL lockout there isn't really any way they could if they wanted to—but the rumor mill continues to focus on their unimpressive but still incredibly crowded wide receiver corps. If the rumor mill knew more about Steve Spagnuolo's outward determination to implement his infamous "Four Pillars" policy, these things might not be spinning so fast.
Just remember that all of this will remain speculation until the end of the NFL lockout, or at least until Plaxico Burress turns his recovery into a reality TV show entitled Becoming Plaxico.
Plaxico Burress rumors have swirled after his June 6 release with much the same energy they had before he went from lockdown to NFL lockout—he's still connected to the St. Louis Rams, he's still staying just mum enough for that to matter about his association with the Philadelphia Eagles, and people are still wondering whether he has anything left in the tank.
If he really is a situational receiver at this point in time I just don't see why the Rams would be interested; they have too many wide receivers who are useful in certain situations or under certain circumstances already. What they've needed—what fans have been clamoring for since Sam Bradford showed he could do something with it—is a wide receiver who's useful all the time. If Burress isn't that guy—and there's great reason to believe he isn't—I don't think Rams fans will be especially disappointed when he ends up joining Michael Vick and the Eagles after all. (Where he might—and you'll have to help me out on this one—help Philadelphia with their illegal gun problem?)
Plaxico Burress, the former New York Giants wide receiver most famous now for accidentally shooting himself in the thigh in a nightclub with an unregistered handgun, is scheduled to be released from jail Monday after a two-year prison sentence. A free agent, Burrees will now descend into another impenetrable layer of bureaucracy when he tries to navigate the muddied offseason waters of the NFL lockout. Linked most frequently to the Philadelphia Eagles, Burress, 34 years old, will be mentioned in connection with every team that has a vague need for wide receivers, including the St. Louis Rams, until the lockout is over and he can finally sign a contract.
As for the Rams themselves, they seem like an unlikely fit for Burress, given the Steve Spagnuolo era's focus on character guys and the current wide receiving corps's surplus of questionable wide receivers that already need to be sorted through ahead of Sam Bradford's sophomore season. But with Burress out of prison and free to make waves in an offseason desperate for news, it's unlikely that we've heard the end of these rumors.
Mercurial, jailed wide receiver Plaxico Burress, set to be released from prison on June 6, has been linked to the St. Louis Rams in recent days, as NFL lockout-stifled rumors continue to materialize about any number of questionable wide receivers. Unfortunately for Burress and Burress-fans, all that interest appears to be coming from... Plaxico Burress and his camp, according to Turf Show Times. Burress, who hasn't played in the NFL or, say, been inside a Target since 2008, has emerged as one of the major storylines of a mostly storyline-free offseason, with his comeback eagerly awaited by people who stand to benefit from it, mostly.
I can imagine a universe in which the Rams sign Burress, but given their stated focus on character—Steve Spaguolo's four pillars, et cetera—and the number of questionable-but-talented wide receivers they already have to sift through on the roster it just doesn't make sense in this one. Burress would put the Rams in the news, but given his age and their roster configuration it would be for all the wrong reasons.
The Arizona Cardinals have long been connected to Kevin Kolb in NFL rumors designed to give them a competent quarterback after they went best-player-available in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, selecting cornerback Patrick Paterson, but another option has been fed into the rumor mill as the price for Kolb, the Philadelphia Eagles' backup, reportedly remains high—Kyle Orton, currently in a strange situation with Denver Broncos wunderkind Tim Tebow despite a breakout campaign running Josh McDaniels's offense.
Orton isn't as highly touted as Kolb, and has an early career as a distinctly unimpressive passer for the Chicago Bears to live down, but Kolb's track record isn't exactly extensive, and Orton is more than competent enough to make an otherwise-talented Cardinals squad contenders in the still-weak NFC West. He averaged 7.1 yards per attempt as in 28 starts for the Broncos, and finished 10th in the NFL in the category in 2010. At 28 he's two years older than Kolb, though it seems like he's been around forever.
It's all a moot point until the NFL lockout finally ends, but Orton and Kolb are likely to both be in the conversation for would-be NFC West contenders the Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks, who both find themselves with veteran teams and unsteady quarterback situations.
Kevin Kolb, Wally Pipped ex-quarterback-of-the-future of the Philadelphia Eagles, hopes to be traded, although he said he was ready to "roll with the punches" in an interview aired recently by ESPN. Kolb has been the subject of trade rumors throughout the NFC West, with the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks both potentially interested in a young quarterback who's ready to start. Even the San Francisco 49ers appeared to be interested early, before settling on Alex Smith for another year in 2011.
Kolb is a perfect fit for teams like the Cardinals and Seahawks, veteran clubs prepared to compete in a weak division in every position except quarterback. The Cardinals ended up with rookie John Skelton under center after a disastrous bet on Derek Anderson over Matt Leinart; the Seahawks have to decide whether they're willing to commit another year to aging quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
Kolb is 194-for-319 with 2082 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions in parts of four seasons after being drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He seemed ready to assume the Eagles' starting role over the long term before an injury allowed for Michael Vick's improbable comeback in Week 1.
Randy Moss remains little more than a league-wide rumor so long as the NFL Lockout is in place, but after plenty of comments from the league's players and coaches we can add one from the other side of the lockout picket line—New York Jets owner Woody Johnson says Moss "has the God-Given talent to be a superstar", among other mostly laudatory things, although he stops short of saying anything that could get the NFLPA on his case.
The Jets have long been a suspected target for the mercurial wide receiver, but this is the first time someone with the pursestrings in hand has made a comment about him.
Moss caught 28 balls in 2010 for 393 yards between three teams in the worst season of his 13-year career. It might be meaningful that none of the teams he played for that year have any desire to see him return, but given his 153 career receiving touchdowns it's likely that someone will be taking a flyer on him once the lockout is finally resolved.
Randy Moss, the top veteran headcase wide receiver in a season of NFL rumors devoted to veteran headcase wide receivers, remains connected to the New York Jets in an offseason abbreviated by the NFL Lockout, with Mark Sanchez recently playing coy about the recent whisperings. The St. Louis Rams, another team with a young quarterback and a limited set of wide receivers, have had the same rumors, but no reporter has yet approached Sam Bradford to make a non-denial denial about it.
Moss is a deeply divisive wide receiver—both one of the best to ever play football and one of the most likely to wear out his welcome within two or three years, or months, or games of joining a team—but it would be hard to suggest a scenario in which he doesn't help a receiving corps on the level of the Rams or the Jets.
Unfortunately, all of this remains academic until the NFL Lockout ends and teams are permitted, once more, to talk to players. In the meantime, the press will keep talking to players about other players.
Former St. Louis Rams great Torry Holt seemed to lean toward retirement after a knee injury ended his 2010 season with the New England Patriots before it began, but now Holt, who is doing some volunteer coaching for the Rams during the NFL lockout phantom-workout, is saying he'll keep his options open whenever the offseason finally begins, and that he hasn't officially retired. Question: are the Rams interested in their temporary coach for some more contact-related activity?
Turf Show Times is skeptical. Holt would be a great story, and I'm not sure he would be the worst wide receiver on the Rams roster to get regular targets from Sam Bradford, but after the 2011 NFL Draft the Rams are up to their earholes in questionable wide receivers with both flaws and positives—Danario Alexander, Donnie Avery, and (probably) Mark Clayton with injuries, Mardy Gilyard, Austin Pettis, and Greg Salas with inexperience, Brandon Gibson and Laurent Robinson with, uh, roster spots. Torry Holt could play better than any of those guys, but he's a tough bet to do something to distinguish himself from them.
Plaxico Burress has been rumored to go to the St. Louis Rams, among other receiver-poor teams, following his extended stint in for-real prison, but it could be that the New York Giants end up saving the Rams from themselves by welcoming Burress back to their own receiving corps, per rumors on Twitter. I would think that the last team on earth that would want Plaxico Burress is someone who's already had to deal with him, but the NFL—particularly during the lockout—moves in mysterious ways.
Of course, other options still exist. Michael Vick has, somehow, decided it was in his best interest to officially endorse Burress for the Philadelphia Eagles, which—if nothing else I have to give him credit for his refusal to give into public pressure. The Giants themselves have said they're not sold on Burress, although Eli Manning believes he's served his time and then some and is excited he's getting out.
So far it seems like interest in Burress's return has divided mostly along NFL Lockout lines—the players are interested, the owners not so much. We'll see whether this debate goes in a direction other than longterm stalemate.
Chad Ochocinco might not have any of St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo's four pillars of character, but it's looking increasingly likely that America's favorite bullrider will be on his way out with the Cincinnati Bengals soon after the NFL Lockout ends. And Len Pasquarelli is now reporting that the Atlanta Falcons, a long-rumored landing spot for the wide receiver/media mogul/pariah, aren't interested in sponsoring the next season of the Chad Ochocinco show. It would be a risky move for a team that's being built, ostensibly, for maximum locker-room cohesion, but as the list of suitors for Ochocinco's services fall so does his price.
Picking Ochocinco up and expecting a star performance from the thirtysomething is out of the question—and paying for those expectations even moreso. But as a reclamation project with a small chance of giving Sam Bradford number-one production at the front of a young receiving corps he becomes a much more palatable option.
And if all else fails, he'll at least get people to talk about the Rams in St. Louis when he decides to try out for the Blues.
Cadillac Williams, the injury-prone great car-nicknamed hope of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers circa 2005, will be a great fit as a role-playing running back for somebody, and recent mid-lockout NFL rumors scuttlebutt has the St. Louis Rams, who've long looked for somebody to take some of the punishment Steven Jackson currently absorbs by himself, interested in being that somebody.
Williams has returned from a near-career-ending cascade of injuries and ineffectiveness in 2008 and 2009 to deliver two solid seasons for the Buccaneers as a part-time back and occasional pass-catching threat. He's not a traditional change-of-pace guy—Jackson might be more inclined to split carries with a less threatening Darren Sproles type—but he would give the Rams more of a chance to sit Jackson in the roughest situations than Kenneth Darby and Keith Toston offered in 2010.
The main question with any possible running back move, besides the obvious need for the NFL lockout to end, isn't how good the complementary back is—it's how amenable Steven Jackson will be to being complemented. Intuitively, Jackson seems less likely to welcome a time-share with somebody like Williams who was once getting 200 carries a year.
A question for the NFL rumor philosophers out there: Is it possible for a trade conceived in the middle of the NFL lockout to be considered a "slam dunk"? On the subject of the Arizona Cardinals getting together with deposed Philadelphia Eagles quarterback of the future Kevin Kolb, Sal Paolantonio believes so.
In terms of nearly everything you can quantify and discuss about NFL trade rumors this one makes sense; Kolb has no future in Philadelphia, while the Cardinals have nobody ahead of John Skelton on the depth chart and a good-enough team that it makes sense for them to trade for a competent quarterback and try to win in 2011, in the still-weak NFC West.
But there are tens of plausible trade rumors out there in every sport at any moment, and what makes them a slam dunk isn't the seemingly perfect logistics; in the end, it can frustratingly only come down to just how much and how productively the two sides have been talking. With every side not doing much talking over the course of the NFL lockout it's just hard to see a way to calling this a sure thing just yet, even though it should be.
Reggie Bush's St. Louis Rams fanbase has grown ever larger since he tweeted his disappointment with the New Orleans Saints in the wake of their drafting Mark Ingram, but it looks like he might yet remain a Saint after all—SB Nation notes that he's been saying all the right things since that ill-advised social-networking jot left his keyboard in April.
I don't think any kind of personal dispute will end Bush's career in New Orleans—it's all about the personnel. I'm hard-pressed to find room for Bush among Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, and Pierre Thomas, personally, but if the Saints somehow see differently they're not going to feel put-off by one tweet, or even one top-eight snub on MySpace.
As for the Rams, Bush would seem like the perfect change-of-pace back for a team that doesn't want to rock Steven Jackson's boat—he won't take a lot of carries but he could have serious impact on the Rams' offense by way of acting as Sam Bradford's local home run threat. But I'm not sure the Rams are ready to fork over any more than the Saints are.
Rumors are swirling around the quarterback position for the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals, and it's not exactly difficult to see why; John Skelton is the current number-one option for the Cardinals, and Charlie Whitehurst still tops the list of Matt Hasselbeck successors for the Seahawks. Kevin Kolb, Wally Pipped by Michael Vick in Philadelphia, remains the top option after the NFL Lockout for most quarterback-needy teams, but another, crazier option lurks in the wings for teams who are short on tradable goods and long on guts—Vince Young, lately of the Tennessee Titans.
As Mike Sando notes, Vince Young is catnip for coaches who think they have a special connection to their players, and the Seahawks or Cardinals would immediately vault to the front of ESPN for a day or two if they actually decided to take a chance on the former superstar-in-waiting. But unless he's brought along slowly his unsteadiness threatens to blow a team's season apart.
Signing Vince Young and succeeding for eight weeks is a little like experimenting with radium—Ken Whisenhunt or Pete Carroll might win a Nobel Prize in the bargain, but there's a non-zero chance the Cardinals or Seahawks end up developing cancer before the year is out. It's difficult to consider the deal, but then not every team can end up winning the Kevin Kolb sweepstakes.
A lot of Plaxico Burress rumors related to the St. Louis Rams seem to be ignoring one crucial fact: The St. Louis Rams don't really need Plaxico Burress. They need help at wide receiver, to say the least—their most dangerous wide receiver, Danario Alexander, is a 50/50 chance in a given week to be more a danger to himself than others. But Burress, 34 years old and two years removed from the NFL thanks to his handgun prowess, is no safe bet as the big-play threat the Rams need at this point in time, let alone as a player who fits into Steve Spagnuolo's ostensibly character-first system.
Burress escaped from our consciousness as a 31-year-old who was mostly as useful as ever, so it's easy to forget that he's only a year younger than, say, Torry Holt. He remains an imposing physical presence at wide receiver, but unless the Rams could get a bargain commensurate with the uncertainty surrounding both his character and his remaining football skills he simply makes no sense in a field full of aging head-case wide receivers with question marks. I'd take Terrell Owens first, and in a heartbeat.
Chad Ochocinco recently decided to ride a bull, thereby staking his claim for weirdest NFL Lockout part-time job, but the NFL rumor mill is less interested in his bull riding—which was over, for what it's worth, after 1.5 seconds—and more interested in where he'll be in 2011, following a season with the Cincinnati Bengals that ended with him tweeting "my time is up" with the club. (Maybe he's just a big Carson Palmer fan?) Before we go any further, here's the bullriding video (he's the terrified-looking guy in the helmet. On top of the bull. Riding it.)
Okay, okay—now that we can concentrate again, it's worth noting that Chad Ochocinco might be a little older than you remember—he's 33, having been a perfectly capable wide receiver for a while before he became a wacky media star. His last brilliant season was his 93-reception campaign in 2007, but it's worth noting that between disappointments he managed a very capable 2009.
As for the four pillars test—well, Steve Spagnuolo is not likely to be happy. Not even if he comes to camp named Chad Fourpillars.
Kevin Kolb might not be wanted any longer in Philadelphia, where Mike Vick has made dogfighting relevant again, but if the persistent NFL trade rumors are any indication he'll find a much more receptive crowd somewhere in the NFC West, where both the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks find themselves in need of a new quarterback, and fast. The Cardinals began the 2010 season with Derek Anderson and ended it, predictably, with somebody else, namely rookie John Skelton; the Seahawks continued to ride Matt Hasselbeck, who's near the end of the line with only Charlie Whitehurst behind him.
Kolb would be wasted behind Vick in Philadelphia, but given Vick's all-out style of play it makes sense to have a competent backup for injury's sake; the Eagles will probably trade him, but they don't really need to, which gives them additional leverage when it comes time to ask for compensation. With rumors having it that some teams think the current requests are out of line it's an open question whether Kolb will even be in another uniform after the NFL lockout finally lifts. He could, much to his chagrin, find himself holding clipboards again.
The New England Patriots, one of the teams recently linked in a lockout-inspired bout of NFL Rumors to Randy Moss, are apparently not interested in their old flame, according to CSN New England. The New York Jets were the other team, besides the St. Louis Rams, who were tied to Moss in recent conjecture. Considering Josh McDaniels's defection to St. Louis, any prior-success-based arguments for Moss returning to the Patriots really make more sense in the Edward Jones Dome, if they make any sense at all. In addition to the Rams' constant need for a true-number-one wide receiver—i.e., someone whose name people know—it makes for an interesting, entirely circumstantial case.
Of course, the question to ask at that point is whether Moss remains a number-one receiver. His 2010 season was a disaster, but just one year removed from catching 13 touchdown passes and averaging 15 yards per reception seems to me a little early to write off one of the best receivers in NFL history. Moss is a head-case, and he's now a 34-year-old headcase, but if the Rams are willing to gamble he could make a huge difference in their immediate future.
More NFL rumors amid the lockout—Steve Smith, erstwhile Pro Bowl wide receiver with the Carolina Panthers, is not happy to be there, even in the Cam Newton era, though he’s being “classy” and refusing to “tip [his] cards” about requesting a trade out of there. Smith is yet another veteran for St. Louis Rams fans to wonder about while trading continues to be proscribed, although it should be noted that according to the Pro Football Outsiders rankings, last year he was about as bad as Laurent Robinson.
Smith was last Himself in 2009, and he was last the king of wide receivers in 2008, when he caught 78 balls for 1421 yards and an NFL-leading 101.5 yards per game. He’s an interesting trade target primarily because he was so bad last season—that leaves a lot of room for negotiation in any trade talks. Between him, Terrell Owens, and Randy Moss there’ll be no shortage of useful but also potentially crazy wide receivers for the Rams (and Sam Bradford) to target, whenever the NFL lockout finally lifts.
With free-agency the most visible victim of the ongoing NFL lockout, St. Louis Rams have little recourse save rumors and speculation with which to consider their always-thin wide receiving corps. To that end, they're one of the teams connected with Randy Moss in recent weeks. The Rams are certainly a plausible fit for Moss; they were unable to pick up a number-one receiver through the draft and Josh McDaniels, their new offensive coordinator, was instrumental in Moss's brilliant (and brief) comeback with the New England Patriots.
But I wonder whether a team that just drafted two wide receivers and a pass-catching tight end is ready to take on a reclamation project. McDaniels and company seem intent to build for the future, and if they're also content to build for the future Moss might find himself with one suitor fewer whenever free agency finally begins.
For their part, TST is skeptical but "wouldn't be surprised at anything right now." Moss's steep fall from grace means he won't be the circus sideshow he was even last year—at least until he's signed. But until then it's just a matter of seeing how many pillars is enough for Steve Spagnuolo.
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