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Pace visits Texans, could be traded from Rams

HOUSTON (March 15, 2005) -- Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace wrapped up a two-day visit with the Houston Texans on March 15, the first step of a process that could eventually lead to a trade with the St. Louis Rams.

"We've had contact with the Rams and we brought the player in for a visit," Texans general manager Charley Casserly said. "That's all I'm going to say for now."

St. Louis faces a 4 p.m. EST March 16 deadline to re-sign Pace. After that, under NFL rules the Rams wouldn't be allowed to strike a deal with him until July 15.

That would mean Pace would miss the Rams' offseason conditioning program, summer minicamps and, most likely, the start of training camp for the third straight year. However, St. Louis still could trade Pace or receive an offer sheet from other teams.

The Texans have about $5 million in salary cap space available, and could have another $4.75 million if they release linebacker Jamie Sharper as expected. That would give Houston enough money to add Pace.

The Rams have used their franchise player designation on Pace since 2003, keeping him in a series of one-year contracts that paid him the average of the NFL's highest-paid offensive tackles. Pace made $7.02 million last season.

Pace is seeking a new contract similar to one recently signed by Walter Jones of Seattle. After years of contract disputes with the Seahawks, Jones agreed to a seven-year, $52.5 million deal that included a $16 million signing bonus.

Pace's agent, Kennard McGuire, didn't immediately return several messages left at his office.

The addition of Pace would help solidify what has been a shaky position with the Texans since the franchise started play in 2002.

The Texans made Jacksonville's Tony Boselli their first pick in the expansion draft but he never played a game for Houston, retiring before the start of training camp in 2003 because of nagging shoulder problems. Chester Pitts started every game at left tackle in 2002 and 2003, but was shifted to left guard last season to make room for unproven Seth Wand.

But Houston's problems protecting third-year quarterback David Carr continued. The Texans allowed 49 sacks last season, 26th out of 32 NFL teams.

Pace was the first overall pick in the 1997 draft, making him the first lineman to go that high in 30 years. The 6-foot-7, 325-pounder has played his entire career in St. Louis, and earned his sixth straight Pro Bowl selection last season.

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