The move had to be a surprise to many — just as the Denver Broncos were making the switch from Kyle Orton to Tim Tebow, they started floating the word that Tebow's best potential receiver, veteran Brandon Lloyd, was available on the trade market. The St. Louis Rams took the bait, picking Lloyd up on Monday in exchange for a 2012 sixth-round pick that could turn into a conditional fifth if Lloyd catches at least 30 passes for the Rams this season.
Based on the Rams' receiver corps, that shouldn't be a problem. Second-year quarterback Sam Bradford is floundering in an offense that had included Mike Sims-Walker, who had signed a one-year deal with the team but was inactive in the team's 24-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers after dropping three passes the week before against the Washington Redskins. Sims-Walker was released to make room for Lloyd. Reliable possession receiver Danny Amendola is on injured reserve, and the team's two most prolific receivers this year have been Brandon Gibson and Danario Alexander. Alexander has caught 14 passes this season in 33 targets, a horrible 42.4 catch percentage.
Lloyd hasn't lit it up for the Broncos this year, catching 19 passes for 283 yards and no touchdowns after hitting career highs in all three categories in 2010 (77 catches for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns), but he hopes that a reunion with Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who coached the Broncos in 2009 and 2010, will bring that around.
He'll also be asked to help lead the Rams' young receivers.
"My initial reaction was I was excited," Lloyd told the NFL Network on Monday afternoon. "I think that it's a role that I've been moving into over the last couple of years here in Denver. To be able to go into a leadership role in St. Louis — a more pronounced leadership role — and to be needed and viewed as an importance piece to the puzzle to get the organization back on track I feel is a role that I'm excited for. And so I was excited for the move."
Lloyd hadn't had a chance to talk with McDaniels yet, but he had spoken to his new head coach. "I talked to coach Steve [Spagnuolo] but I haven't talked to coach [Josh] McDaniels," he said. "They're preparing for the week so coach McDaniels wasn't available, but I did talk to coach Steve. We're excited. I think we're on the same page with what we need to accomplish. There is a lot of work to be done and this is not a celebration for me escaping Denver; this is a move to help this organization get back on track. So I'm clear on what my role is, I'm clear on what's needed to be done and I'm up for the challenge. I'm ready."
And what will his role in that McDaniels' offense be this time? "I think those younger players are just lacking a little bit of guidance from what I can see on the outside looking in," he said. "I think once an offense as a unit sees a team make plays and sees what we're capable of — you have an awesome running back and you have a really good receiving corps — and once you start making plays, it gives guys confidence.
"There's not that much talent separation to have these guys be winless this year; that's not reality. We just need a boost and I hope that I can give the guys that spark. Maybe they'll hold their blocks a little bit extra longer because they know we're going to be able to make plays down field, or open that gap up a little bit wider to get that run game going. I know it seems a little bit far-fetched to go into a winless team and expect things to be different, but I'm going to do it."
One thing that will help him do it is having a quarterback with Bradford's talent — with all due respect to Kyle Orton's veteran acumen and Tim Tebow's grit, those two quarterbacks combined might not have as much pure arm talent as Bradford alone.
"His reputation around the league is really growing as far as being a student and then just having the intangibles," Lloyd said of his new quarterback. "Being able to drop back and drop dimes, and throw laser passes and make those kinds of plays. Sam's only going to be as good as the people who are catching the passes from him, and so I think once as a receiver you realize that and realize that you're just as important as that quarterback for helping the team win, then you're starting to understand the game.
"We're going to have to work together to elevate Sam to that next level because he does have that talent. Players around the league and coaches and scouts all see that, and they all see that he has the talent; he just needs to get a motivated receiving group around him and that will elevate everyone's play because he's that good."