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Rams Make a Deal With Jimmie Jones : Pro football: Former Cowboy tackle signs for $7.7 million. Quarterback is next priority, with Miller heading list.


ANAHEIM — The Rams signed Dallas defensive tackle Jimmie Jones Thursday night to a four-year contract for $7.7 million, including a $2-million signing bonus. Now they have turned their sights on Atlanta quarterback Chris Miller, and possibly Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre.

The Rams aggressively pursued Jones, who earned $385,000 in 1993, after hearing rumors that restricted free-agent defensive end Robert Young might receive an offer sheet from Pittsburgh.

Jones spent Thursday in Chicago visiting the Bears, but left in a hurry to travel to Anaheim after agreeing to the Rams' lucrative offer.

"He has signed," said Drew Rosenhaus, Jones' agent. "He's the first Cowboy to leave. It's nice to win, but more important to pay the bills.

"We had 21 or 22 teams call to express an interest in him, but when the money's out there, you have to take it and run."

Jones, a 6-4, 276-pound defensive tackle, recovered a fumble for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXVII. He started only two games last season, however, and had 5 1/2 sacks.

The Rams intend to start Jones inside next to Sean Gilbert.

"This is a great start," Coach Chuck Knox said. "This is a guy that we identified from the beginning who could help us."

Miller worked out for the Rams Thursday and team physicians said his twice-injured knee is mending and presents no significant risk.

The Rams, who soured on Miami's Scott Mitchell after an early-week visit, were so impressed with Miller that they had Jay Zygmunt, senior vice president, fly to Stockton Thursday night to open negotiations with his agent.

In the last few days the Rams talked about extending a $20-million, five-year offer sheet to Favre, who is a restricted free agent. His agent, Bus Cook, said Favre will be in Anaheim next week for a workout.

"I suspect very, very strongly that we will get an offer from the Rams," Cook told the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

The Rams talked with Cook recently, but were left with the impression that Favre was not interested in talking about a move. Miller's workout and the positive reports on his left knee further cooled the Rams' interest in Favre.

There is also disagreement among Ram coaches to Favre's overall effectiveness, and the team appeared to back away from Favre late Thursday.

If the Rams extended an offer sheet to Favre and Green Bay chose not to match it, the Rams would have to surrender a first- and third-round pick in this year's draft.

They will have to give up nothing to sign Miller, and probably will have to offer him $2.4-$2.5 million to play here in contrast to the $4 million a year it would take to land Favre.

"We have not written an offer sheet on any restricted player," Shaw said. "We're exploring the situation with a quarterback that would cost us a first- and third-round pick. But we're just talking."

The Rams have visits with Phoenix's Chris Chandler and Philadelphia's Bubby Brister scheduled next week. The team would like to look at both players before fully committing to Miller, but Kansas City also has expressed an interest in Miller.

Miller, who was considered one of the game's best young quarterbacks before injuring a knee against the Rams in 1992, underwent a second knee operation a little less than five months ago.

"I'd love to play for the Rams; I grew up a Rams fan," Miller said. "I was born in Pomona and lived in Claremont. My dad took me to see Roman Gabriel play when the Rams were just the blue and white. It would be a thrill to play for them.

"It's important to me to play on grass and play on the West Coast. I think I got a hell of a lot left to offer. My knee's terrific and my arm's fresh."

Miller is not ready to play football, but he has assured the Rams he will remain here during the off-season for rehabilitation if the two come to terms. The Rams believe he will be ready in time to fully participate in training camp.

The Rams remain interested in Indianapolis quarterback Jeff George and Houston's Warren Moon, but are concerned that both might not become available via trade until the NFL draft late in April.

Shaw talked with Houston team owner Bud Adams four or five times about a trade involving Moon, but discussions have gone nowhere.

"At this point I'm not even sure he's up to be traded," Shaw said. "We expressed an interest and the response was if they were interested in trading him they would get back to us. That's been several weeks and there has been no contact back.

"I think we will seek to solve this quarterback issue quickly within the next week and we will not wait for teams to . . . I think we're going to operate on our timetable."

Mitchell, who is considered the top unrestricted free agent available, did not fare well after undergoing a physical examination with the Rams. Mitchell injured his shoulder last season, and the Rams were not impressed with his rehabilitation.

The Rams met with Giant tackle Doug Riesenberg Thursday and will visit with Kansas City linebacker Lonnie Marts today.

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