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Rams sign outside linebacker Coakley

ST. LOUIS (March 2, 2005) -- The St. Louis Rams began restocking their most needy position, signing outside linebacker Dexter Coakley to a five-year contract.

Coakley, one of the smaller linebackers in the NFL at 5-foot-10 and 236 pounds, was on the free-agent market for one day after being released by the Dallas Cowboys. He would have been due for a $500,000 roster bonus if he was still on Dallas' roster March 2.

Coakley, 32, is a three-time Pro Bowl player and played his first eight NFL seasons with the Cowboys, who had made him a third-round pick in 1997 out of Appalachian State. He started all 16 games at weakside linebacker last year and finished third on the team with 91 tackles, while sharing the position with second-year player Bradie James.

Last season broke his string of seven straight seasons with at least 100 tackles, the third-longest active streak in the NFL.

The Rams need to sign two starting linebackers to replace Tommy Polley, who is a free agent, and Pisa Tinoisamoa, who is being moved to safety.

Coakley has started all 127 games he has appeared in and has 7.5 career sacks, 38 tackles for loss, 10 interceptions, six fumble recoveries and 62 special-teams tackles. He's fourth on the Cowboys' career tackles list with 1,046.

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