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Friday, March 13, 2009
Holt's release not surprising given his decline

Add Torry Holt to the list of ex-Rams looking for work this spring. Three days after letting Orlando Pace go in a salary-cap move, the team released Holt, their most prominent wide receiver. By letting both go, the Rams saved $14 million in salary-cap room.

In terms of past heroics, Holt's departure might come as a shock to fantasy owners. He's 11th in franchise history in receptions (869), had eight 1,000-yard receiving seasons and caught 74 touchdowns in 10 years in St. Louis. This was the kind of receiver annually deemed a top-5 fantasy option in his heyday.

Torry Holt
Holt had a career-worst yards-per-catch average in 2008.

But Holt, who is 32, is coming off his worst statistical year, with a career-worst three touchdowns and 64 receptions for 796 yards, those last two the second-least in any of his 10 NFL seasons. His 2008 performance was no aberration, and it wasn't entirely the result of a poor offense causing his numbers to sag. No, Holt, who took a beating over the years yet has missed only two games his entire career, visibly lost a step this past season. All of a sudden, this productive deep threat was catching long touchdowns no more.

Holt's yards-per-catch average tells it all: He has seen that number slip from a career-high 19.9 in 2000 to 14.6 in 2004 to 13.0 in 2005 to 12.8 in 2007 to a career-worst 12.4 this past season. And in none of the years in between did he rebound in the category; Holt's curve in the category has been consistently trending downward since 2000.

Not that we shouldn't expect Holt to find work elsewhere. The Eagles and Giants were already rumored to be in the market for receiver help, and the 49ers and Titans might be candidates to sign him. Don't be fooled if one of those teams inks him as its "No. 1 receiver"; at this stage of his career, Holt is more of a No. 2/No. 3 type. In a productive enough offense, he might match or slightly exceed his '08 numbers, but his days of a guaranteed 1,000 yards and eight TDs are probably behind him.

With Holt gone, Donnie Avery benefits most, as the de facto No. 1 receiver in St. Louis. He had a decent finish to 2008, with three receiving touchdowns, a 163-yard effort in New England in Week 8 and a 13.4 yards-per-catch average in 12 games after the Rams' Week 5 bye. Avery, incredibly, actually appeared a more productive deep threat at times than Holt, although his ceiling probably is noticeably lower than Holt's was in his prime. For fantasy purposes, Avery gets a bump up, but surely not to top-25 receiver standards. He remains bench material with sleeper potential and should be selected only late.

Keenan Burton and Derek Stanley also will get more opportunities to play, with Burton a probable starter should the Rams not bring in any additional depth in the offseason. With such little depth on the roster, though, it sure seems likely they will.