The Rams, having failed to reach an agreement on a multiyear contract with wide receiver Ernie Jones, released Jones Wednesday to avoid paying the Phoenix Cardinals a fifth-round draft pick in 1994.
Jones, the team's No. 3 wide receiver, was scheduled to earn $650,000 this season and then become an unrestricted free agent. The Rams said they will still try to re-sign Jones and secure his rights beyond 1993. It's also believed they are seeking a reduction in his 1993 salary.
"We will still attempt to sign him to a multiyear deal," said John Shaw, Ram executive vice president. "We don't owe them a pick if we don't re-sign him. If we re-sign him we owe them a pick.
"We tried to do it (extend his contract) prior to cutting him. . . . Right now he's free to test the marketplace and see what his value is."
Coach Chuck Knox announced that James Lofton, who was signed last week, will replace Jones as the team's No. 3 wide receiver. Jones caught three passes for 31 yards in his four-game stay but had become more involved in the Rams' passing game the past two weeks.
Lofton was in uniform last week but did not play against the Oilers.
The Rams re-signed receiver Tony Hargain to fill Jones' roster spot.
The Rams continue to start Cleveland Gary at running back, although Gary has been limited to two yards a carry.
Running back Jerome Bettis said he is still experiencing some pain after suffering a bruised sternum against Pittsburgh, but he no longer has difficulty breathing while running.