EAST RUTHERFORD NJ - OCTOBER 17: Mario Manningham #82 of the New York Giants against the Detroit Lions at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 17 2010 in East Rutherford New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mario Manningham

NFL Free Agency 2012: Mario Manningham Spurns Rams For San Francisco 49ers

The St. Louis Rams could be nearing a contract with former New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham, if the latest NFL rumors are any indication.

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NFL Free Agency 2012: Mario Manningham Picks San Francisco 49ers On Two-Year Contract

The Mario Manningham saga is over, and Saturday night the St. Louis Rams experienced another 2012 NFL free agency near-miss: Manningham has taken a two-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers, according to AP reports, landing in the NFC West just a day after rumor had it he was close to a deal with the St. Louis Rams.

Manningham joins Randy Moss in upgrading a 49ers offense that lacked deep threats a month ago. The Niners have managed to make up for losing Josh Morgan to free agency, to say the least.

As for the Rams, they began free agency with a bang, signing Cortland Finnegan to a five-year contract, but they’ve struggled since, losing Jason Jones and Manningham to division rivals. If their aim was to upgrade Sam Bradford’s downfield options via free agency, they failed; depending on how much you enjoy draft kremlinology, though, this could just mean they’re more likely than ever to target Justin Blackmon with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

More wide receiver coverage from SB Nation St. Louis, who feels Sam Bradford’s pain:

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NFL Rumors 2012: Mario Manningham's St. Louis Rams Visit Continues, Still No Contract

The St. Louis Rams and Mario Manningham continued their long-rumored courtship Saturday as NFL free agency rolled into the weekend, but no contract seemed imminent Saturday afternoon—even as the Rams signed Kendall Langford and lost out on Jason Jones things seemed quiet on the Manningham front—no matter how long he’ll be in Rams Park.

The rumors Friday that the Rams and Manningham were near agreement on a contract take on a new flavor—as zombie rumors, I guess—now that we know Manningham’s been around for two days; it’s hard to believe they aren’t in the middle of negotiating something.

But nothing’s leaked, and until it does it’s hard to corroborate those earlier reports. Two things are for sure: The Rams, at this late date, aren’t going to find many wide receivers in free agency better than Mario Manningham, and Mario Manningham isn’t going to find another situation in which he could be more important in an offense than the Rams’.

More coverage of the Rams’ wide receiver chase hand-picked from SB Nation St. Louis:

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NFL Rumors 2012: Mario Manningham To St. Louis Rams Still In Play, Also In Doubt

Twitter has, as one of its unfortunate side-effects, the tendency to amplify NFL rumors into near-sure-things on a moment-by-moment basis. Mario Manningham to the St. Louis Rams is the latest example. For a few hours Friday afternoon it looked like the former New York Giants receiver's move to Sam Bradford's beleaguered stable of Rams receivers was little more than a formality; by the end of the day we had Howard Balzer go from sure-thing to deny-deny-deny. The most optimistic tweet, at that point, came from Tony Softli, who was considerably more reserved:

Saturday morning it looks like Mario Manningham still makes a lot of sense with the Rams, and that his visit Friday means both sides are still clearly interested. Beyond that, it's difficult to tell just how far along they really are—only that it's not as far along as we thought a day ago.

More on the Rams' on-again off-again wide receiver relationships, hand-picked from SB Nation St. Louis:

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NFL Rumors 2012: Mario Manningham, St. Louis Rams Nearing Deal

The St. Louis Rams have done a fine job of filling the holes on their offensive and defensive line thus far in NFL free agency, signing center Scott Wells and talking with Jason Jones, but their highest-profile hole, at wide receiver, could be the next to go: The NFL rumor mill suggests the Rams are nearing a deal with Mario Manningham.

Manningham’s a great fit for a team that’s still looking to choose Justin Blackmon with their first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He’s not a number-one option for most teams, but while Blackmon develops Manningham will stretch defenses that has no reason to look downfield while Danny Amendola sat on top of the wide receiver depth chart. He’s a genuine deep threat, and he’ll give Sam Bradford a lot of the same looks Brandon Lloyd offered during his brief stint in St. Louis.

The best news: He could also do it cheaper.

More NFL free agency coverage from SB Nation St. Louis:

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NFL Free Agency 2012: Mario Manningham, St. Louis Rams Do Some Negotiating

The St. Louis Rams and Mario Manningham have seemed like a superficially solid fit since 2012 NFL free agency season began, but it's only now that we know there's some fire behind that speculation: The Rams and Manningham have met, according to recent reports, giving the Rams a route to the Super Bowl hero and the Super Bowl hero a chance to be a number-one receiver by default in an offense built around a supposedly brilliant young quarterback.

Manningham isn't a number one receiver, but he is a deep threat who could pass for one in an offense that has, to date, been dominated by Danny Amendola. He's better than Mike Sims-Walker, and on a personal level Manningham won't have a chance to put up bigger numbers anywhere else, even if the Rams do draft Justin Blackmon.

Here're some hand-picked SB Nation St. Louis stories that have a bearing on the Rams' wide receiver plans:

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NFL Free Agency: Mario Manningham Among Remaining Receivers For St. Louis Rams

The St. Louis Rams have already fulfilled their biggest need heading into NFL free agency, signing Cortland Finnegan to a five-year contract on day one, but their most superficially obvious need—a wide receiver Sam Bradford can count on—remains unsettled. Most of the big names have already left the market, and despite a brief flirtation with Robert Meacham the Rams looked undisturbed by their absence. Mario Manningham, perhaps tops among the remaining names that aren't Brandon Lloyd, remains an option, as the National Football Post reports.

The San Francisco 49erswho already landed Randy Moss, the jerks—are reportedly already in the mix on Manningham, who at 25 has failed to graduate from brilliant-but-frustrating second banana to number-one receiver. He wouldn't be the number-one option of Sam Bradford's dreams, but he'll come cheap, and he possesses more potential (not to mention better numbers) than any Rams wide receiver not named Danario Alexander. Also, any Rams wide receiver with two functioning knees.

If the Rams turn out infatuated with Justin Blackmon after all, he and Manningham would be a nice upgrade on what passed for a receiving corps last year—even though they might not be considerably more tested.

More wide receiver updates from the writing corps at SB Nation St. Louis:

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