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  1. #1
    Nick's Avatar
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    PD hints that Chillar may start ahead of Thomas

    Rams add another free agent LB
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Thursday, Mar. 03 2005

    It's not as if the Rams haven't been tracking linebacker Chris Claiborne for a
    while.

    They liked him coming out of college six years ago. He was drafted by Detroit.

    They liked him well enough as a free agent two years ago to bring him in for a
    visit. He signed with Minnesota.

    But on Thursday, the Rams liked him well enough to sign him to a three-year,
    $10.5 million contract. The deal includes a $3.6 million signing bonus.
    According to team sources, Claiborne gets a base salary of $800,000 this
    season, meaning his 2005 cap count is a relatively modest $2 million.

    In 2006, Claiborne is scheduled to receive $2.7 million in the form of base
    salary, roster bonus, and workout bonus. He will get $3.4 million in '07 in
    base salary, roster bonus, and workout bonus.

    "Chris Claiborne is a guy that we've all known about for the past several
    years, and of course we remember him when he came out," Rams defensive
    coordinator Larry Marmie said. "He's a big, physical guy that has a great
    presence in the run game."

    At 6 feet 3, 259 pounds, Claiborne is the biggest middle linebacker the Rams
    have had since the move to St. Louis in 1995. He's bigger than Eric Hill, who
    at 6-2, 258, started for the Rams in 1998. But Hill was in his 11th season and
    past his prime.

    Claiborne, a No. 9 overall pick from Southern Cal, is only 26 - he'll turn 27
    at the start of training camp - despite have six years of NFL experience.

    "Now, we've got a big banger inside at 255," said coach Mike Martz, who has
    been slowed by back problems and a virus the first two days of free agency.
    "He's a violent inside 'backer. That's what we need."

    Even so, Claiborne runs well for a big man when healthy and in top shape.
    (Earlier in his career, he had a tendency to get heavy.)

    "The thing that's surprising about him is he's very athletic," Marmie said.
    "He's not a one-dimensional player by any stretch. He drops well into zone
    (coverage), breaks well on the football, and plays the man-to-man coverage
    against tight ends."

    Claiborne hasn't quite played up to his draft status - he was the first
    linebacker selected in 1999, taken one spot after wide receiver David Boston
    and one spot before cornerback Chris McAlister. But he has had a solid NFL
    career, registering 97 tackles or higher in five of his six pro seasons.
    Claiborne recorded a career-low 81 total tackles last season, according to
    stats compiled by coaches' review of game film.

    Last season, he missed four games because of a calf injury. He also missed four
    games in 2003, because of an Achilles' (foot) injury.

    "Guys are going to have some bumps and bruises and all," Marmie said. "He
    passed our physical with flying colors. He's been a physical player. So I don't
    think there's any concern. ... There's no injury history with him that threw up
    any red flags for us."

    Coupled with Wednesday's signing of three-time Pro Bowler Dexter Coakley, the
    Rams' starting linebacker corps in next season will feature Coakley on the
    weakside, Clairborne in the middle, and probably Brandon Chillar at strongside.

    But if the switch of Pisa Tinoisamoa to strong safety doesn't work, the Rams
    probably would start Coakley at strongside, Clairborne in the middle, and
    Tinoisamoa at weakside.


    The overall value of Coakley's contract was slightly lower than originally
    reported - $14.15, not the $14.5 million widely reported Wednesday. In addition
    to a $3 million signing bonus, Coakley gets base salaries of $1 million in '05,
    $1.75 million in '06, $2.275 million in '07, $2.8 million in '08 and $3.325
    million in '09.

    Meanwhile, the Rams' efforts to bring in defensive backs Bhawoh Jue of Green
    Bay and Gary Baxter of Baltimore for visits proved fruitless. Jue signed with
    San Diego and Baxter re-signed with the Ravens on Thursday.

    The next task: signing left tackle Orlando Pace to a multi-year deal. As one
    Rams Park official said Thursday evening, "If we get him done, we've got the
    trifecta."

    Meaning Coakley, Claiborne, and Pace.

    Defensive end Bryce Fisher, who led the Rams in sacks last season (8 1/2), has
    yet to make a visit or schedule a visit as an unrestricted free agent. His
    agent talked Thursday to Denver. The Rams would like to re-sign Fisher, but
    only as their No. 3 defensive end behind starters Leonard Little and Anthony
    Hargrove.

    ClanRam ModCast: Episode Two
    Rams Discussion Right at Your Fingertips!



  2. #2
    ramhard's Avatar
    ramhard is offline Registered User
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    Thomas trade or cut bait?

    Thomas only has $1.2M of prorated bonus left (he got an initial $3M bonus). If cut or traded after June 1st, he would count $600K against the cap for bonus this year, and $600K next year. Both would almost be offset by his base salary savings. So don't be surprised that if he doesn't produce on special teams he could be gone... Chicago and Lovie maybe?

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