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Rams agree to terms with CB Cortland Finnegan

By R.b. Fallstrom

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 14 2012 1:10 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2011 file photo, Tennessee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan, right, reaches for a tipped pass intended for St. Louis Rams wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker during the first quarter of an NFL football game, in St. Louis. The Rams and free agent cornerback Finnegan have agreed to terms on a contract. Finnegan was undergoing a physical and Jeff Fisher, the Rams' new coach, planned for a news conference Thursday, March 15, 2012, to introduce the player.

Jeff Roberson, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

ST. LOUIS — Jeff Fisher has absolutely no problem with Cortland Finnegan's occasional over-the-top behavior.

The St. Louis Rams' first move in free agency was reuniting Fisher, who coached Finnegan for five seasons in Tennessee, with the feisty, productive cornerback.

"His reputation is widely misunderstood out there from the standpoint of, you know, the dirty player type thing and all that," Fisher said at a news conference Wednesday. "He's just a very productive player.

"He plays with an edge — yeah, he does. He challenges and he competes and he finishes every down."

The 28-year-old Finnegan had played all six NFL seasons with the Titans. He was undergoing a physical and Fisher planned a news conference Thursday morning to introduce the player. Finnegan just completed a four-year, $16.8 million contract, and the new deal is reported to be worth $50 million over five years.

Another Tennessee player, defensive lineman Jason Jones, was also visiting Rams Park.

"We are recruiting Jason right now," Fisher said. "We hope to have a chance to get things worked out."

Finnegan was an All-Pro in 2008 and is known for his physical style.

He got into a punching match with Texans star wide receiver Andre Johnson during a game in 2010 — both were fined $25,000 — and had at least two other incidents that season. He was fined $5,000 for throwing Giants wide receiver Steve Smith to the ground and fined $10,000 for hitting Denver guard Chris Kuper after the player had taken off his helmet.

At one point that season, Finnegan said he wanted to be known as the dirtiest player in the NFL. Later that season, he claimed he was just joking.

Finnegan also walked out of training camp in 2008 during negotiations for a contract extension, apologizing the next day.

The Titans drafted Finnegan in the seventh round in 2006 out of tiny Samford in Birmingham, Ala. He's been very durable, missing just three games the last five seasons since becoming a starter. He had five interceptions in both 2008 and '09.

Finnegan replaces Ron Bartell as the Rams' top coverage cornerback. Bartell was among several veteran players released by the Rams, saving them about $20 million in salary cap space and leaving them with the NFL's youngest roster with an average age of 25.3 years.

Bartell missed virtually all of last season after fracturing two bones in his neck in the opener against the Eagles. He passed a physical exam recently, but Fisher said the Rams were committed to "starting over" and building primarily through the draft.

St. Louis is 10-38 the last three seasons, costing coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney their jobs. Along with the 30-year-old Bartell, defensive end James Hall (35), defensive tackles Fred Robbins (34) and Justin Bannan (32), and center Jason Brown (28) have been cut.

Fisher said it was a coincidence the Rams' first two targets in free agency were Titans players.

"We didn't sit down and say, 'Hey, let's go get all the Titan and Falcon players we possibly can,'" Fisher said, referring to general manager Les Snead's former position in Atlanta. "It just so happened that two of the top guys on our list were my former players.

"It's just about getting the right people."

The most pressing need for the Rams going forward is probably finding a wide receiver to complement their investment in quarterback Sam Bradford, the top pick of the 2010 draft. Danny Amendola is healthy after missing virtually all of last season with an elbow injury, but free agent Brandon Lloyd, who added a spark last season, is unlikely to return.

The Rams missed out on Pierre Garcon, Vincent Jackson and Reggie Wayne, among others, on the first day of free agency. Fisher said there were a lot of good prospects in this year's draft class. The Rams could also make a trade.

"It's a position that we're going to address and we'll continue to address, and we'll fill the need," Fisher said.

Fisher said he had no timetable for when the NFL might rule on defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' bounty scandal. Fisher said Williams was "totally involved with everything" while awaiting what's expected to be at least a heavy fine and suspension.

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