Six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace agreed today to a seven-year, $52.8 million contract extension with the St. Louis Rams.
The Rams made a bolstered contract proposal to Pace on Tuesday, a day after he visited the Houston Texans, and awaited his answer today.
St. Louis made Pace its franchise player last month, and the two sides were facing today's 4 p.m. deadline for NFL teams to sign their franchise players to long-term contracts. After that, negotiations on long-term deals must be suspended until July 15.
Pace's new deal includes a $15 million signing bonus and closely resembles the seven-year, $52.5 million contract extension that left tackle Walter Jones signed with the Seattle Seahawks last month. Jones's deal includes a $16 million signing bonus and $5 million in roster bonuses in 2006 and 2007.
The Texans and Pace had conducted contract negotiations, but there always were major obstacles to Pace ending up in Houston. Under the franchise-player rules, the Rams had the right to retain Pace by matching any offer sheet he would have signed with another team, and the right to receive two first-round draft choices as compensation if they had allowed him to depart. The Texans probably would have tried to negotiate lesser compensation with the Rams. But the Rams had been adamant that they would not permit Pace to leave for less than two first-round picks.
Last month, the Rams conducted preliminary trade talks with the New York Giants about Pace, but the discussions never progressed very far.
Pace's salary with the Rams next season under his one-year, franchise-player deal would have been slightly more than $8.4 million. . . .
Indianapolis tailback Edgerrin James today signed his one-year, $8.081 million franchise-player contract with the Colts. The move takes James off the free-agent market altogether, but the Colts still could trade him.
R. Johnson Signs Extension
Another franchise player, Cincinnati Bengals tailback Rudi Johnson, agreed Tuesday night to a five-year, $26 million contract that includes about $12 million in bonus money.
Johnson, who rushed for 1,454 yards last season, would have had a salary of $6.323 million next season under the Bengals' one-year, franchise-player tender.
B. Johnson Picks Vikings
Free-agent quarterback Brad Johnson agreed today to a four-year, $6-million contract with Minnesota that includes a $1.2 million signing bonus. Johnson picked the Vikings over Chicago and Seattle. Johnson, who won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay, was released by the Buccaneers, and will back up Daunte Culpepper in Minnesota. . . .
The Miami Dolphins added two likely starters in free-agent moves Tuesday. They wasted little time, as expected, in signing safety Tebucky Jones following his release by the New Orleans Saints, and they agreed to a one-year deal with offensive lineman Stockar McDougle. McDougle was Detroit's starting right tackle, but the Dolphins have a logjam at the position and will have to consider moving one or two of their tackles to guard. . . .
Minnesota might be out of the wide receiver market after signing free agent Travis Taylor, the former first-round draft selection by Baltimore who never fulfilled expectations with the Ravens. Taylor agreed Tuesday to a two-year, $2 million contract with the Vikings. The Vikings have been among the teams negotiating with free agent Plaxico Burress and talking to the Washington Redskins about a trade for Rod Gardner. The Vikings have not officially pulled out of either competition, but it seems unlikely now that they'd be willing to outbid other teams for either player.
Burress's new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, plans to try to get the Dolphins interested once he is permitted to begin negotiating for Burress, after the mandatory five-day waiting period for an agent who adds a client expires. The Giants could re-enter the bidding after announcing they were withdrawing, frustrated by their dealings with former agent Michael Harrison. . . .
The Vikings also re-signed wideout Kelly Campbell, a restricted free agent. . . . Two other restricted free agents re-signed with their teams -- linebacker Ben Taylor with Cleveland and offensive tackle Tom Ashworth with New England. . . . Jacksonville re-signed two unrestricted free agents, wideout Troy Edwards and fullback Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala. . . .
The Browns signed linebacker Matt Stewart, an unrestricted free agent formerly with Atlanta. . . . Free-agent linebacker Orlando Huff left Seattle to sign with Arizona. . . .
The Seahawks, after losing Chike Okeafor in free agency, signed another free-agent defensive end to replace him to agreeing to a four-year, $10 million contract with Bryce Fisher, formerly of the Rams. . . .
The Ravens signed guard Cooper Carlisle, formerly of Denver, to a two-year, $2 million contract that includes a $500,000 signing bonus, and re-signed long snapper Joe Maese to a two-year, $1.185 million deal that includes a $100,000 signing bonus. . . . Green Bay re-signed backup center Grey Ruegamer.
The Packers are talking to free-agent guard Roberto Garza of the Falcons. Green Bay has lost both its starting guards from last season, releasing Mike Wahle in a salary-cap move and watching Marco Rivera sign with the Cowboys as an unrestricted free agent. . . .
The Giants released defensive end Keith Washington.
Carter Visiting Bucs
Free-agent quarterback Quincy Carter, the former starter who spent last season as a backup with the New York Jets, is scheduled to visit the Buccaneers' training facility today after having dinner Tuesday evening in Tampa with club officials.
The team is looking for a third quarterback to go with Brian Griese and Chris Simms, and might be willing to take a chance on Carter. The Cowboys released Carter, their incumbent starter, in training camp last summer amid reports that he'd failed a drug test. The NFL Players Association filed a grievance claiming wrongful termination, and the case is scheduled to be heard by an arbitrator next month. The collective bargaining agreement prohibits a club from releasing a player due to a failed drug test.
Carter signed with the Jets and won two of his three starts last season filling in for the injured Chad Pennington. But he was absent from the team at the end of its season, and there were reports that he was in drug treatment and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. . . .
Free-agent cornerback Ty Law visited Kansas City on Tuesday. The four-time Pro Bowl selection, released by New England, previously visited Pittsburgh.
Bruschi Reportedly Needs Heart Surgery
An Arizona television station reported that Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi is scheduled to undergo surgery this week to repair a hole in his heart. Bruschi was treated at Massachusetts General Hospital last month for what the Patriots called a mild stroke, leaving his football future uncertain.
NFL executives and team owners are about to assemble in Maui for the annual league meetings, and one item to be discussed is a possible change to the instant-replay system. The proposal would allow game officials to use the replay review to award a fumble recovery to the defensive club even if the offensive player initially was ruled down by contact before fumbling.
"That's a big deal," Falcons General Manager Rich McKay, a co-chairman of the league's competition committee, said during a conference call with reporters today. "That would be a major change."
Each season, there are regular occurrences of a team being frustrated when it thinks that it has recovered a fumble, only to have the officials rule that the offensive player was down by contact before losing the ball and then be told that the play can't be reviewed by instant replay because the whistle had blown the play dead before any fumble or recovery. Under this proposal, the officials could award a fumble recovery to the defensive team under those circumstances if the replay shows that the offensive player wasn't down by contact before losing the ball.
Any rules change would have to be approved by at least three-quarters of the clubs.
Kansas City has proposed two rules changes, McKay said. Under one, a defensive illegal contact penalty would not result in an automatic first down for the offense; it would remain a five-yard infraction. Under the other, defensive pass interference would be, at most, a 15-yard penalty, as it is under college rules. But the officials could make the penalty longer, and put the ball at the spot of the infraction, if they deemed the pass interference to be flagrant.
McKay said the competition committee will study the possibility of changing the language in the rule book on what is an unnecessary-roughness personal foul, attempting to clean up some dangerous blocking techniques.
It's possible that the owners will award two Super Bowls to host cities during these meetings, one to New York and one to Kansas City. Each would be contingent upon the construction of a new stadium with a roof. The Jets are seeking the 2010 game for New York, and the Chiefs have asked to be awarded a Super Bowl between 2012 and 2022 if they can get a new stadium in Kansas City.