Fisher factor persuasive in free agent signings

By R.b. Fallstrom

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 19 2012 4:11 p.m. MDT

ST. LOUIS — When Jeff Fisher took the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl in 1999, Scott Wells was a Nashville high school player.

Wells was a Fisher fan then, and during eight NFL seasons the respect has grown. The new Rams new coach was a big enough draw in free agency that the Pro Bowl center left the Green Bay Packers to join the rebuilding effort in St. Louis. The Packers were 15-1 last year, five more wins than the Rams' total the last three seasons.

"Green Bay was definitely a player and that was a tough decision," Wells said Monday. "But in the end I feel like St. Louis is the best fit for me right now. I think coach Fisher is going to step in and do an outstanding job."

The 31-year-old Wells several times cited his respect and belief in Fisher, adding that he's received glowing reviews from several players who've played for Fisher. Wells has signed a four-year contract for a reported $24 million with $13 million guaranteed.

Defensive tackle Kendall Langford, who agreed to essentially the same terms on Saturday, said the Fisher factor "put the icing on the cake."

Langford said defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who's facing a suspension and fine for running a bounty pool in New Orleans, also made a big impression. Langford said Williams' status did not affect his decision.

"Everywhere the guy's been, he's been in the top 10, so you kind of know what you're getting," Langford said. "His system works and he has a Super Bowl ring to prove it."

The Rams' lack of success was not a deterrent in negotiations for Wells. They were 2-14 last year, tied with the Colts for the worst record in the year, and haven't had a winning season since 2003.

"I haven't really thought about that part, I'm just excited about where it's going," Wells said. "I don't think it's important necessarily where the team has been in the past. They have a new coaching staff, they've got some new players and I'm excited to be a part of it."

The Rams opened free agency by signing cornerback Cortland Finnegan to a five-year, $50 million contract.

Choosing St. Louis brings Wells closer to his home in Nashville, which he said factored into the decision. He also visited the Titans and drew interest from several other teams.

Wells was generally considered the Packers' top offensive lineman, and can add stability to a young, developing unit that was dogged by injuries. Three starters, tackles Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold and guard Jacob Bell, ended the year on injured reserve.

Smith was the second overall pick in 2009 and Saffold was a second-rounder in 2010.

Instead of snapping to Aaron Rodgers, the NFL MVP last year, Wells will be working with Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010. Wells said he's gotten a "welcoming text" from the quarterback.

"He's excited to work with me, I'm excited to work with him, and we're both really looking forward to getting this thing going," Wells said.

The 26-year-old Langford was a four-year starter at end in the Dolphins' 3-4 alignment, and Miami had one of the league's best defenses against the run. Though his statistics are not eye-popping, with 7.5 sacks in four seasons and none in 2011, and just 15 tackles and five assists last year, the Rams envision Langford as a strong inside complement to young ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn.

St. Louis released two tackles, Fred Robbins and Justin Bannan, prior to free agency.

"I've got a lot left in the tank," Langford said. "I'm a dominant run stopper and I want to elevate my game to the all-Pro level. I had quarterback hurries, I've just got to turn them into sacks."

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