When it became known that the New York Giants would fill their wide receiver void with former Tampa Bay first-round pick Michael Clayton, I turned to our friends at Bucs Nation for some perspective. I received a well thought-out, comprehensive answer from 'CraigT.' Here it is.
Michael Clayton is one of the greater sports enigmas of the past decade. A first-rd draft pick out of LSU in '04, Clayton exploded on the scene with a ridiculous rookie campaign. 80 catches. 1193 yards. 7 TDs. 14.9 ypc. A fierce and physical blocker. Indeed, the future was so bright for Michael, he had to wear shades.
But then something funny happened. And by funny, I mean crappy.
After undergoing minor arthroscopic knee surgery in 2005 offseason, he put together a 2005 season that was less than half as productive as 2004. For the next 2 years (06-07), he finished in the 300-350ish yds receiving range for each SEASON. Only 484 yards on 38 catches in 2008. The excuses were everywhere. Gruden dogged him often (which he did) and turned him into a headcase. He didn't thrive in a west coast offense. He didn't have a good quarterback. Blah blah blah.
However, it looks like our front office might have believed that, as they inked Clayton to a 5-year deal worth $26 million in March 2009......basically starter's money. Nonetheless, 2009 produced a career-worst 230 yards on 16 catches.....along with the following response to the critics - "the check's in the bank." What a winner. He might have actually had more drops than catches that year....I'm honestly not sure. The Bucs finally showed him the door at the end of the 2010 preseason.
It's become obvious that the problem was with Clayton, not with anyone else. Although he was a fabulous blocker, he couldn't consistently (or...really...ever) do what a WR is primarily supposed to do - get open and catch the football on a regular basis.
I hope a fresh start is what he needs, because everyone I know who's dealt with him liked him. Good luck.
Thanks, Craig. Appreciate the insight.