Why are the Rams playing it cool on Brandon Lloyd?

Brandon Lloyd was the biggest trade deadline acquisition of the 2011 NFL season, stepping in and immediately becoming the primary target of the St Louis Rams’ passing game. In eleven games, Lloyd became as prolific a pass-catcher as any player since Torry Holt was patrolling the sidelines.

Just six months later, though, the Rams are curiously cool toward the prospect of resigning Lloyd. Why is this? And is it justified?

The Chemistry Question

Despite Brandon Lloyd’s incredible circus catches, his overall catch rate in St Louis was an abysmal 45.5%, bringing in only 51 of 112 passes. This had me questioning the chemistry between Bradford and Lloyd.

The two had only five starts together, thanks to the pounding that Bradford took behind his patchwork (read: inexcusably awful) offensive line. In those five games, Bradford threw at Lloyd 56 times. Over a season, that would amount to 179 targets, eclipsing Roddy White for most in the league. But Lloyd only brought in 24 of those passes, a 42.8% catch rate that was somehow worse than his season average overall.

This would suggest that, despite his catch volume and occasional acrobatics, Lloyd is actually among the least productive receivers in the game per pass. But we have to factor in the quarterback here as well. Digging deeper into stats provided by Pro Football Focus, only 58 of the 112 passes thrown at Lloyd were deemed “catchable.” That is a staggeringly low percentage, lowest in the league.

Just behind Lloyd on that list: Larry Fitzgerald, who benefited from only 83 catchable balls among the 151 thrown in his general direction. Fitzgerald came down with 80 of those, giving him a raw catch rate of 52.9%. Clearly, “raw catch rate” is a stat that has to come with a massive asterisk. 

Value Added

Josh McDaniels’ offense should have taken off with the addition of a veteran receiver that was fully inculcated in his complex schemes. The results, though, weren’t as strong as the Rams had hoped.

Without Lloyd: 0-6 record, 9.8 points per game.

With Lloyd: 2-8 record, 13.1 points per game.

A net positive, yes. But not a big one … unless you look beyond Lloyd’s contribution. His addition to the team was the one net positive against a column full of negatives during the final eleven games of the regular season. Three different starting quarterbacks. The loss of four of our five starting offensive linemen. Fans howling for the heads of the coach and GM.

In that context, any offensive improvement at all has to be considered all the more impressive. All else being equal, Lloyd’s presence probably added closer to a touchdown per game.  

Locker Room

This is where Lloyd’s contributions come under the most scrutiny, as he has a well-earned reputation for being a less-than-model citizen in the locker room. A reputation he fully admits to. But none of the current Rams coaching staff has immediate knowledge of his impact in the St Louis locker room, outside of whatever they might have picked up in conversation.

It’s worth noting that New England has not been aggressive in resigning Lloyd either, though they seldom go whole hog in chasing after free agents. Still, though, with the crop of available help at wide receiver now almost completely harvested and Lloyd still available, one has to wonder where the Rams’ leading receiver of 2011 fits among Les Snead’s offseason priorities.