Not too long ago, we pushed out our first “Way-Too-Early” grades for the St. Louis Rams offseason, highlighting the miraculous re-signing of Rodger Saffold and detailing a number of the other no-risk, all-reward contracts there were handed out by the Rams. Despite making a minimal splash in free agency, St. Louis did manage to (re-)sign six players at unarguable “areas of need” on the depth chart. While names like Shaun Hill and Alex Carrington won’t make many ESPN headlines, the fact that the Rams were able to snag these potentially impactful players for pennies on the dollar landed St. Louis a solid “B+” grade, at least by our subjective standards. Rams Nation appeared to agree with that assertion in our poll discussing the topic, with 62% of viewers casting their ballot for a “B” grade on the Rams offseason.
However, there is a reason why these are deemed “way-too-early” grades. Yesterday, Adam Schefter announced that the Rams had finally come to a close in negotiations with former Tennessee Titans receiver, Kenny Britt, signing the one-time Jeff Fisher draftee to a one-year, $1.4 million contract. Kenny Britt is certainly no Jairus Byrd or DeSean Jackson, in terms of name recognition, but is arguably the biggest “splash” of free agency for the St. Louis Rams.
So, how does his signing affect our grade?
First and foremost, the most important aspect of the signing was the “price tag.” Confirmed reports have set Britt’s contract at only $1.4 million, with a mere $550,000 in guaranteed money. In the NFL, that is the definition of a “show-me” deal, wherein the St. Louis Rams could cut Britt at any point throughout the season (or before the season, if necessary) without it taking any measurable financial toll on the organization.
With money not being a concern, our attention has to turn to the upside of the former-No.30 overall selection. Drafted by Jeff Fisher and the Titans in 2009, Kenny Britt immediate made an impact in Tennessee’s extremely run-heavy offense, led by LenDale White and Chris Johnson. He would compile at least 40 receptions and 700 yards in each of his first two season with the team, including snagging nine touchdown in 11 games during 2010.
In 2011 season, Britt appeared ready for his “breakout year,” recording 14 catches for 271 yards and three touchdowns in the opening two games of the year. Sadly, his time on the field was cut short, tearing his MCL and ACL versus the Denver Broncos during the third week of the regular season.
After fully rehabbing from his knee surgery (and being suspended from the season opener due to off-the-field issues), Britt took to the turf in 2012 with hopes of immediately rekindling his flame with quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck. However, he struggled in his new “mixed role” in the Tennessee offense; continuing to take a backseat to Nate Washington, but now having to share rotational snaps with Kendall Wright, who the Titans selected with the No.20 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Moreover, Tennessee had decided to bench Hasselbeck, instead opting to throw their 2011 Top 10 selection, Jake Locker, into the starting role. Due to injuries, Hasselbeck and Locker ended up alternating as the “starter” at various points throughout the season, further adding to the dysfunction in Kenny Britt’s return from injury. Despite it all, Britt would end the year with 45 catches for 589 yards, including a 143 yard performance against the Andrew Luck-led Indianapolis Colts.
In 2013, due to more injury and the surprising performance of Kendall Wright, Britt was replaced as a “starter” for the Tennessee Titans. His “mulligan” season would end with Britt catching only 11 passes for 96 yards.
For the Rams, you could look at the signing of Kenny Britt in one of two ways: 1) the signing of an injury-prone, “troubled” receiver who hasn’t performed in two year or 2) a potentially dynamic receiver who had early success, but struggled to adapt to a drastically new roster and coaching staff.
If you take the latter to be true, you could easily point to Jared Cook, another former Titan, to bolster your case. Cook arguably suffered the same “roster change” effects as Kenny Britt, going from 49 receptions for 759 yards in 2011 under the guidance of Matt Hasselbeck, to only 44 catches for 523 yards in 2012.
So, what does Britt bring to the St. Louis Rams? Nothing, maybe. If he doesn’t “pan out” during the offseason, or fails to produce early, he can easily be cut from the roster without so much as a blip on the national radar. On the other hand, if he is back to full health and in the “early career” form, Britt is a freakish athlete, with a muscular 225 lbs. mass loaded on a 6’3 tall frame. Coming out of Rutgers, he was touted as one of the best route runners in the class, with a specialty at gaining separation on intermediate route and “slipping” into open areas on broken plays. He is also deceptively fast, clocking a 4.47 40-time at the NFL Combine, which was obvious in both his college and early NFL career. With a “stable” coaching staff, a myriad of other offense weapons, and a quarterback who throws an extremely accurate ball, Britt should be in the optimal environment to showcase his true abilities with the St. Louis Rams.
So, how about a grade?
Anytime you can add an one-time 1st round receiver, who is still only 25 years old, to the roster and only pay him with table scraps and pocket lint, it is an excellent signing. With that minimal contractually obligation, much like the signing of Greg Reid, taking a flyer on Kenny Britt can be nothing but positive for the St. Louis Rams. We’ll slap an “A” on the Kenny Britt pickup, which should bring our overall “way-too-early” grade on the Rams offseason to an astoundingly high “A-”! Take that, NFL…