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Rams, LT Pace agree on seven-year deal

ST. LOUIS (March 16, 2005) -- For the first time in four seasons, Orlando Pace will be playing with more than a one-year contract.

The St. Louis Rams and the six-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle beat a looming deadline, agreeing on a seven-year deal.

"We are excited that the premier left tackle in the National Football League will be starting for the Rams for the next seven years," said Jay Zygmunt, the team's president of football operations. "Orlando has been an integral part of one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history."

The team said it would hold a news conference March 17 to discuss the deal, which will ensure an on-time arrival in training camp for Pace. The past two seasons, Pace held out throughout training camp and then played his way into shape.

The Rams had faced a 4 p.m. ET deadline to re-sign Pace, who visited the Houston Texans on March 14-15 to discuss a possible deal. Had the Rams failed to re-sign Pace by the deadline, the sides couldn't have signed a contract until July 15.

The Rams have used their franchise-player designation on Pace since 2003, allowing them to keep him with a series of one-year contracts that paid him the average of the NFL's five highest-paid offensive tackles.

Pace's deal is comparable with the contracts of Walter Jones of the Seahawks and Jonathan Ogden of the Ravens, two other premier tackles.

Pace was the first overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, making him the first lineman to go that high in 30 years. The 6-foot-7, 325-pound tackle has played his entire career in St. Louis and he's the first Rams lineman to earn six consecutive Pro Bowl berths since Jackie Slater also earned six in a row from 1985-90.

Pace started all 18 regular-season and playoff games last year at left tackle. He was one of three offensive linemen to start every game along with center Andy McCollum and guard Adam Timmerman.

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