Rams free agents come with no strings attached
By Jim Thomas

INDIANAPOLIS For the first time in four years, the Rams will not use the franchise tag to restrict the movement of one of their prospective free agents. The deadline came and went Thursday without the team using the tag, which had gone the past three offseasons to offensive tackle Orlando Pace.

The Rams also used the franchise tag in 2000 on defensive end Kevin Carter, and in 1998 on cornerback Ryan McNeil.

But the Rams chose not to use the tag this year on either of their two top prospective free agents: defensive tackle Ryan Pickett and strong safety Adam Archuleta. As a result, Pickett and Archuleta will be free to shop the market, no strings attached, unless the Rams reach an agreement with the players before March 3. There have been no indications that the team has engaged in formal negotiations with either player.

The franchise number for defensive tackles is $5,656,000 this year; it's $4,109,000 for safeties. And that number counts against a team's cap immediately, once a player is tagged.

The franchise number is the average of the five highest-paid players at that position from the previous year. Once a player is tagged, outside teams signing him to a contract must compensate the original team with two first-round draft picks. But teams may negotiate lesser terms, as was the case in 2000 when the Rams shipped Carter to Tennessee for a first-round pick, which they used to draft Pickett.

Barring further roster moves, the Rams will be about $10 million under the cap when the free agency period begins. But the cap space could increase by a couple of million if the Rams, as expected, sign wide receiver Isaac Bruce to a contract extension, thus reducing his current cap figure of $10 million.


Todd Downing has been added to head coach Scott Linehan's staff as a coaching assistant, an entry-level position. ... Long snapper Chris Massey's new four-year contract is worth $2.73 million and includes a $300,000 signing bonus.