Thursday, March 8, 2007

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

McMichael Career Profile
Johnson Career Profile

The Rams made a pair of significant moves to bolster both sides of the ball on Thursday, agreeing to terms with tight end Randy McMichael to a three-year contract and safety Todd Johnson to a four-year deal.

The addition of McMichael gives the Rams yet another big target in the passing game to pair with recently signed receiver Drew Bennett.

“This has been in the works for a while,” coach Scott Linehan said. “We even considered trading for him. He is an every-down tight end and a proven starter in the league. He does a lot of things well.”

McMichael comes to St. Louis from Miami after being released on March 6. McMichael spent his first five seasons with the Dolphins, for whom he earned a reputation as one of the league’s better pass catching tight ends.

In his time there, McMichael had 283 receptions (tops all time for a Miami tight end) for 3,096 yards and 18 touchdowns. His best season came in 2004 when he finished with 73 grabs for 791 yards and four scores.

Last season, McMichael had 62 catches for 640 yards and three touchdowns. At 6’3, 255 pounds, McMichael is an imposing presence in the passing game, but also an able blocker.

The scouting service, Scouts Inc., described McMichael as playing with “balance and control on the second level in the run game.” In other words, McMichael is a solid open field blocker and a bit better in that aspect than he is as an inline blocker. The service has McMichael ranked as the fifth best tight end in the NFL.

McMichael joins a crowded group at tight end that includes second-year players Joe Klopfenstein and Dominique Byrd as well as veteran Aaron Walker. Only three of those players are likely to stick and it’s doubtful that Klopfenstein is going anywhere anytime soon.

The signing of McMichael is the second big addition to the offense this offseason and gives the Rams an impressive array of pass catching talent that includes receivers Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Bennett, running back Steven Jackson and Klopfenstein and McMichael.

While any offensive needs appear to have been addressed (with the exception of more help at running back), the Rams are likely to turn their attention to defense in the coming days and weeks.

That became clear with the other move the Rams made Thursday when they signed Johnson to a four-year deal. Johnson comes to the Rams from Chicago, where he served as a backup safety and special teams dynamo for the past three seasons.

For his career, Johnson has 142 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. His main area of expertise comes in special teams coverage. He started 10 games at free safety in 2004 because of an injury to Mike Brown. He has 26 special teams tackles in three seasons, third best on the Bears.

Johnson should fit in as the Rams’ third safety behind starters Corey Chavous and Oshiomogho Atogwe and step in immediately on special teams.

Tennessee defensive lineman Robaire Smith is expected to make a stop in St. Louis in the near future. Smith is 6’4, 325 pounds and can play anywhere along the defensive line. He would likely fit the bill as a run stuffing nose tackle in the Rams’ 4-3 scheme. He has previously visited with Cleveland earlier this week, a team believed to have strong interest in his services.