EARTH CITY, Mo. — From the moment wide receiver Kenny Britt arrived in St. Louis on a one-year “prove it” deal in 2014, he made it clear that he needed a fresh start with a familiar face.
The St. Louis Rams offered Britt just that with a chance to begin anew somewhere other than Tennessee but with a trusted confidant in Rams coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher was the coach who drafted Britt in 2009 and the only coach with whom Britt had enjoyed any NFL success.
Removed from the only NFL home he’d ever known but also the place where he’d struggled with injuries and off the field issues, Britt made the most of his new opportunity. About as much as a wide receiver playing for this version of the Rams could, Britt “proved it.”
As a reward for proving that he could be a productive player on the field and a solid citizen and leader off of it, Britt received another contract with the Rams on Friday night. This time, Britt got two years instead of one and though the financials weren’t yet clear, it’s safe to assume they far exceed the $1 million base salary he got a year ago.
That Britt is back with the Rams should come as no surprise. He was the team’s most productive receiver last year with 48 catches for 748 yards and three touchdowns. The yardage production made Britt the first Rams pass-catcher since Torry Holt in 2008 to even break the 700-yard barrier.
Make no mistake, 700 yards isn’t much of a milestone for a receiver but in these parts, that represents progress.
In the process, Britt also proved a more valuable team leader than many could have imagined. He was also instrumental in the early-season flash of progress by fellow receiver Brian Quick, who credited Britt with showing him how to use his bigger frame to his advantage.
“He’s that kind of player,” Quick said near the end of the season. “That’s why he’s here. Just looking at him shows that I can do the same thing.”
Keeping Britt should also allow the Rams to focus their resources on other areas, namely the offensive line. While many would still like to see them add a top receiver in the draft — and they still might — that want would have become a need without Britt’s return.
From Britt’s perspective, he never had much of a desire to detach from Fisher so long as the offers he got on the free-agent market came in about the same. Fisher is known for how he manages his players and allowed Britt days off near the end of the season to help keep him healthy.
Britt’s healthiest and most productive years have come under Fisher’s guidance. In three seasons with Fisher as his head coach, Britt averaged 741.3 yards, 44 receptions and five touchdowns while missing just four of a possible 48 games. In three seasons without Fisher as his head coach, Britt averaged 324.7 yards, 24.3 catches and 2.3 touchdowns while missing 19 of a possible 48 games.
The two sides began negotiating as far back as January and though it carried into the first few days of free agency, it always seemed like nothing more than a matter of time for an agreement to be struck.
“It’s always about how you fit and how you feel,” Britt said in December. “I was never a person that would go out there and play the game for money. I go out there and play the game for the guys that line up next to me and the guy that is in there each and every day going to work for guys like Jeff Fisher and the coaching staff. That’s somebody I want to go win a ring with because he deserves it and I want to be one of the guys that helps.”
With a deal now done, Britt will get his chance.