Suspension could cost Bailey big chance


EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Entering last weekend's NFL draft, the St. Louis Rams held 12 selections, enough to add players at any position.

True to general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher's repeated votes of confidence in the current receiving corps, the Rams ignored wideouts.

The lack of additions at receiver was enough to make one wonder how the Rams offense would be more productive and score more points in 2014. But the Rams remained steadfast in their ability to develop the incumbent group.

On Monday afternoon, the Rams revealed in a statement that Stedman Bailey -- the young wideout showing perhaps the most promise at the end of 2013 -- will be suspended for the first four games of the season because of a violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Bailey can still participate in the team's offseason program as well as training camp and preseason games. From there, he can't return to the field until Oct. 6, the day after the team's Week 5 game against Philadelphia. The Rams' early bye week in Week 4 will actually cost Bailey an extra week of work.

But it could also cost him -- and the Rams -- much more.

Bailey's rookie season was mostly unremarkable. He finished with 17 catches for 226 yards and a rushing touchdown, but that doesn't tell the whole story.

After spending most of the season working in a backup role and contributing on special teams, Bailey got some late-season opportunities to work as an outside receiver. He even started two of the final four games.

What's more, Bailey was the rare Rams wideout flashing the ability to get open against man coverage outside the hashmarks. Bailey had 15 catches for 195 yards in the final five games.

If nothing else, the arrow was pointing up for Bailey heading into the 2014 season. He figured to have an expanded role in Year 2 and a very real chance at winning a starting job.

Now, Bailey shouldn't count on that opportunity waiting for him.

Soon after the news of his suspension broke, Bailey tweeted that he will "bounce back," but the reality is he shouldn't have made this mistake in the first place. Opportunities such as the one that sat before Bailey can be fleeting in the NFL. There's no guarantee it will exist by the time he gets back.

As is the case with most suspensions, the Rams were aware of his pending absence long before the draft and still chose to eschew drafting help for the position. That only serves to reinforce that they have faith in the likes of Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Brian Quick and Kenny Britt. Justin Veltung is also expected back and the Rams added a pair of wideouts as undrafted free agents.

The Rams were already pinning their hopes on the ability of a mostly unproven receiving corps to develop. They've now lost the one receiver who showed signs that he could make good on that promise.