For the second time in two days, the St. Louis Rams have addressed their linebacker corps, as they move toward a major overhaul of the unit for 2005.
Unrestricted free agent Chris Claiborne, who played the past two season for the Minnesota Vikings, agreed Thursday afternoon to a three-year contract, ESPN.com has learned. The addition of Claiborne, who will become the Rams' starting middle linebacker, follows the Wednesday acquisition of former Dallas star Dexter Coakley.
Claiborne will sign a three-year contract worth $10.5 million and the deal includes a $3.6 million signing bonus. In terms of annual salaries, Claiborne will earn $800,000 (2005), $2.85 million (2006) and $3.25 million (2007).
Revamping the linebacker corps, after a dismal 2004 performance, was an offseason priority for the Rams, and they wasted little time addressing it. Coakley signed a five-year contract worth $14.5 million, with a $3 million signing bonus.
Claiborne, 26, played the strong-side spot for the Vikings the past two seasons and really resurrected his career. Part of what made him attractive to the Rams was the versatility he has exhibited, as he has started at various times at all three linebacker positions.
The former Southern California star was a first-round draft choice of Detroit in 1999 and played his first four seasons with the Lions before signing with the Vikings in 2003 as a free agent.
He has 528 tackles in his career, along with 14½ sacks, eight interceptions, 30 passes defensed, seven forced fumbles and eight recoveries. In the 2000-02 seasons, he had 100-plus tackles each season. Claiborne has played in 87 games.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.