Brandon Lloyd provides the Bears' depleted wide receiver corps with a little more depth and experience, but it remains to be seen if he'll upgrade a mediocre unit. Then again, if he plays up to his potential, Lloyd could challenge another recent free-agent acquisition, Marty Booker, for No. 1 on the Bears' weak receiver unit.
Lloyd was released by the Redskins on Feb. 26 after catching two passes in nine games last year, when he missed part of the season with a fractured collarbone. He caught just 23 passes in 2006. The Redskins gave up on the former Illinois star two years after signing him as an unrestricted free agent to a deal that included a $10 million signing bonus.
The 6-foot, 200-pound Lloyd was originally a fourth-round draft pick of the 49ers, and in his best season, he caught 48 passes for 733 yards for San Francisco in 2003 before signing with the Redskins. He caught 43 passes for 565 yards a season earlier.
Lloyd's connection with Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner was instrumental in the 26-year-old signing a one-year deal to attempt a resuscitation of a career that appeared bright before taking a downturn in Washington.
"I think it just means a lot as far as the trust factor and Coach Ron knowing the things that I'm able to do and believing in me," Lloyd said. "That gives me a lot of confidence, the comfort level that I have with Coach Ron Turner.
"It's big, just because the past two teams that I've been on, it hasn't been the smoothest ride in the world. So to really have somebody in my corner who really believes in me and has known me since I was 17 years old and really knows the foundation of what kind of person I am, it means a lot, especially the times that I'm in right now."
There are plenty of knocks on the former Illini, including inconsistent hands, a suspect work ethic and an attitude bordering on arrogance that has rubbed coaches and teammates the wrong way and contributed to his falling short of expectations. But Lloyd is also an extremely athletic player with great leaping ability and capable of making spectacular catches, although he has only average speed.
WR Brandon Lloyd
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
"I think the best thing that I can do for myself is just come in and work, and that's not anything that I haven't done," Lloyd claimed. "I'm not going to sit here and say that it's all my fault. I'm not going to say that it's all somebody else's fault. The circumstances just weren't right. I'm just going to continue to try to find my fit and try to find my path in this league because I feel I have the talent to play."
Lloyd was a two-time 1,000-yard receiver for the Illini and a track standout in the high jump, long jump and 60-meter hurdles. And Turner recalls a lot of positives from his recruitment of Lloyd as a high school player and the three years they spent together in Champaign.
"I think Brandon's a playmaker," Turner said. "I've known him since he was 17 years old. He was very productive (at Illinois), so I've got a good feel for what he can do. (Receivers coach) Darryl Drake and I went back and looked at all his film from the last couple years and feel he can still play, and that hopefully he can come in and be a good fit with the receivers that we have here right now. We're looking forward to that competition."
JC's Take: Lloyd is not a Lovie Smith kind of guy if you take a look at the receiver's track record, but it's time to do something drastic because the current crop of pass-catchers leaves a lot to be desired.
Smith is under the faulty impression that Hester can develop into a primary target in this league, which is ludicrous since that would inevitably take away from his availability and – possibly – effectiveness as a return man. Bradley has all the talent in the world and looked like the best wideout on the team as a rookie in 2005 before tearing up his knee, and he's been nothing short of an enigma ever since. Booker still has something left in the tank and is one of the most prolific receivers in franchise history, but expecting him to be a No. 1 again just shy of his 32nd birthday is too much to ask at this point.
The good thing is that Lloyd signed a one-year deal for veteran-minimum money, so even if he alienates himself from a third locker room with his attitude problem, the Midway Monsters could always cut him without any real financial ramifications.