ST. LOUIS (AP) _ The St. Louis Rams made their first big move into the 2001 free-agent market, signing safety Kim Herring to a five-year contract Thursday.

The Rams also released safety Keith Lyle, member of the 2000 Super Bowl championship team who has spent his entire seven-year NFL career with the team. He was the last of the Los Angeles Rams, accompanying the team on its 1995 to St. Louis.

Herring helped the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl. He started all 16 regular-season games, with 66 tackles, three interceptions, 12 passes defended, one sack and two forced fumbles. He also had 11 special teams tackles.

Herring had an interception in Baltimore's 34-7 win over the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

Herring had no reservations about moving from the league's best defense to one of its worst.

``I was very impressed by the winning attitude,'' he said of his visits to Rams Park. ``Hopefully we can get to a point where we have a good balance between the offense and defense. We get the right guys in the right places, we can start to get somewhere good.''

Rams coach Mike Martz called signing Herring an opportunity the Rams couldn't pass up.

``He's a young player playing at an extremely high level on arguably the best defense in the history of the NFL,'' Martz said.

He said waiving Lyle was one of the most difficult decisions of his career.

``Keith's been a tremendous player for us for many years,'' Martz said. ``He's been a leader and we'll miss his presence.''

Lyle started all 16 games in 2000 and was second on the team with 115 tackles. But he had only one interception and four passes defended.

Lyle is the latest cut among defensive starters. Earlier, the Rams cut linebacker Mike Jones and tackles D'Marco Farr and Ray Agnew.