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Rams Lose 3 Regulars in Free Agency

March 8, 2002

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Three key members of the NFC champion St. Louis Rams are headed elsewhere.

The Rams were the biggest losers in free agency Thursday as wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim, middle linebacker London Fletcher and offensive tackle Ryan Tucker left them.

Hakim got a $16 million, five-year deal with the Detroit Lions. Fletcher joined the Buffalo Bills on a five-year, $17 million contract that includes a $4 million signing bonus. Tucker received a four-year contract from Cleveland.

Hakim, 24, spent his first four NFL seasons in St. Louis as a backup wide receiver and punt returner. His best year was 1999, when he caught 36 passes for 677 yards and eight touchdowns as the Rams won the Super Bowl.

He also returned 44 punts for an average of 10.5 yards and one touchdown, but lost that job last season because of fumbles.

``I’ll always be grateful to the Rams, because they jump-started my career and gave me so much valuable experience,″ Hakim said. ``I got to learn from the great Isaac Bruce and from guys like Torry Holt and Ricky Proehl.

``Every player in the NFL wants the opportunity to be on the field on every play and make things happen. The Lions and coach Marty (Mornhinweg) have given me that chance.″

Fletcher gets the chance to replace Sam Cowart, who signed with the New York Jets on Wednesday. Buffalo was 3-13 last season.

``I know there’s not a lot of difference between winning and losing,″ he said, noting the Rams were 4-12 in his rookie year, 1998, and went to the Super Bowl the next season. ``That year we were fortunate to get Marshall Faulk and a couple of other free agents. I hope we can get some other free agents excited about coming here.″

Tucker becomes part of a reshuffled offensive line with the Browns, and is expected to go at right tackle. He also can play guard.

We are committed to running the ball more effectively and acquiring Ryan will go a long way in helping us achieve that goal,″ said Dwight Clark, Cleveland’s director of football operations.

With a bunch of NFL players changing teams Thursday, the best of the lot, Larry Allen, stayed put.

The four-time All-Pro offensive lineman, equally adept at guard or tackle, had his contract extended four years by the Dallas Cowboys. Although he had two years remaining on his deal, Allen was given a $12 million signing bonus. His new package is worth $37 million for six years, through 2007, when he will be 37.

``It was an easy decision,″ Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. ``We think our offensive line is one of the strengths of our team. And the strength of our strength is Larry Allen.″

Allen, 6-foot-3 and 326 pounds, made the Pro Bowl seven times in eight seasons, missing only as a rookie. He’s been voted All-Pro four times in the last six seasons, making it at tackle and guard, where he currently plays.

Another player with Pro Bowl credentials, defensive end Willie McGinest, re-signed with New England. He took a cut in pay to remain with the Patriots, although terms were not disclosed.

New England also has agreed to send troubled wide receiver Terry Glenn to the Packers for a 2002 fourth-round draft pick, plus a pick next year that will depend on Glenn’s performance. But Glenn has several grievances filed against New England over suspensions, fines and the withholding of $8.5 million of his signing bonus. Those issues have delayed completion of the trade.

A hearing on the grievances is scheduled for Friday.

A deal to send Saints running back Ricky Williams to Miami also is on hold. But both sides met Thursday.

``There are a few tweaks we made here and there,″ Dolphins senior vice president Rick Spielman said. ``We came to a happy medium on some things. There’s still some work to get done.″

Saints general manager Randy Mueller said Cleveland, which also had made an offer for Williams, has dropped out of the bidding.

Elsewhere:

_ San Diego, which lost defensive tackle John Parrella to Oakland, signed Jason Fisk away from Tennessee for $12.5 million over five years. Fisk is guaranteed $5 million during the first two years of the contract.

The Chargers also signed former Washington center Cory Raymer to a $10.5 million, five-year contract. Raymer will get a signing bonus between $2.25 million and $2.5 million.

_Kailee Wong, who led the Vikings in tackles, got a four-year, $12 million contract with the Houston Texans. He will play rush linebacker in the expansion team’s 3-4 defense rather than middle linebacker, where Minnesota played him.

``Coach (Dom) Capers has a very proven track record,″ Wong said. ``Anywhere he’s been he’s had a great defense. They are building something special here and I’m very excited to be a part of it.″

_Steve White, generally a backup defensive end in Tampa Bay, joined the New York Jets with a four-year, $7.25 million deal. He is expected to be part of a rotation with young ends John Abraham, an All-Pro, and Shaun Ellis.

_Pittsburgh agreed to a four-year contract extension with tight end Mark Bruener, who had one season to go on his current deal. Bruener, injured for most of the 2001 season, had been scheduled to earn $2.6 million this season, with a salary cap value of $4.5 million because of his last signing bonus.

_New Orleans signed Jacksonville cornerback Jason Craft, a restricted free agent, to an offer sheet. The Jaguars have seven days to match it or take a fifth-round draft choice from the Saints.

_Offensive lineman Matt Willig signed a one-year contract to remain with San Francisco. An 11-year NFL veteran who has played for six teams, he was a backup at three positions for the 49ers last season.

_Quarterback Dameyune Craig, who threw only eight passes during four seasons with Carolina, signed a one-year contract with Washington.

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