In an expected move following the signing of T.J. Houshmanzadeh, the Ravens have traded former first round selection Mark Clayton to the Rams for a late-round draft choice. This leaves Baltimore without a possible solid slot receiver and with a trio of strong possession receivers with their top receiver spots while Donte Stallworth recovers and can possibly become the downfield threat the Ravens hope he can be. I understand why it was done, but I also can’t help but think that Clayton was never properly utilized in this offense, one that forced him to play as an outside receiver for his entire career while he was so clearly better suited to play in the slot. It also gives the Ravens with 4 top receivers either approaching or beyond 30 years of age, which raises questions about durability over the course of a season.
Derrick Mason has fought through serious injuries during the past two seasons, and Anquan Boldin has a long history of failing to play 16 games in a season. Houshmanzdeh has been healthy in recent years, but was altogether ineffective as a #1 option in Seattle last season. Luckily for him, he won’t have to be one with this team, but another possession receiver on a team suddenly full of them. But I will leave that one to my compatriots.
Mark Clayton, for my money, has never been utilized correctly by this team, but it wasn’t always the team’s fault. The failure to find a legitimate deep option at the #2 receiver spot (often hoping that the recently departed Demetrius Williams would grow into that role) forced Clayton to play an outside receiver spot that he was woefully unprepared for, with a stature and shiftiness that fit the mold of a slot receiver but not a deep threat. In doing so he was often overmatched by taller cornerbacks and unable to get that top gear of speed that a #2 receiver requires. He is a more quick than fast player, but he never found his niche with the Ravens. I honestly believe that if he had been given the right role he could have been indispensible to this team. Unfortunately, roster needs elsewhere forced him to play out of position for his entire stay in Baltimore.
That isn’t to say that he was extraordinary even when he was able to move over the middle of the field. He disappointed with untimely drops and never eclipsed the paltry 67 catches he accumulated in his second season.
In St. Louis he will be a much-needed safety valve for Sam Bradford, and will probably evolve into their 3rd down receiver, a desperate need for a young quarterback and a turnstile of an offensive line. As far as compensation is concerned, Clayton netted the Ravens a “late-round pick,” though it is unclear how late that pick might be. Would I rather have one year of T.J. Houshmanzadeh, another possession receiver, or Mark Clayton? I am not sure. I’m glad Houshmanzadeh is in the fold, but I don’t know if that was necessarily a position of need with Mason and Boldin already serving in that role. That said, Clayton had never set the world on fire in his 5 seasons in Baltimore. I just hope that after this season the Ravens try to inject some youth into their receiving corp.