Friday, March 10, 2006
Veteran WR Bruce to return to Rams
By Len Pasquarelli
Just five days after being released by the St. Louis Rams for salary cap reasons, four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Isaac Bruce rejoined the only team for which he has every played.
Bruce has agreed to a new, three-year deal worth $15 million, which the team announced Friday afternoon.
The contract will pay Bruce $6 million in 2006. Under his previous contract, he would have earned $8.1 million total from a roster bonus ($1.5 million), base salary ($6.5 million) and workout bonus ($100,000).
Although he received immediate interest from several teams after his release on Sunday night, and could have signed elsewhere because he did not have to wait until the start of the free agency period, Bruce's aim was to return to the Rams, if possible, to complete his career. One of the team's most interested in Bruce was the Detroit Lions, where former Rams head coach Mike Martz is the new offensive coordinator.
But Rams officials maintained a dialogue with Bruce and agent Jimmy Sexton, and the wide receiver met with team officials, including first-year coach Scott Linehan, on Thursday to discuss his future. Linehan reiterated to Bruce what he had said publicly, that he projected him as still fitting into the team's plans, and wanted him to return if salary terms could be agreed upon.
"I'm excited that we have worked out a deal," Linehan said. "I'd been optimistic all along that we would be able
to get this done."
Negotiations with the Rams were aimed at meeting both sides' priorities. Bruce never visited other teams and there were no substantive contract talks with other franchises. Bruce, 33, represents the final link to the Rams' days in Los Angeles, having been the club's second-round draft choice in 1994. He is one of the most popular players in the St. Louis community and highly regarded by club officials and teammates.
The 12-year veteran has appeared in 167 games and started in 154 of them. He has 813 receptions for 12,278 yards and 77 touchdowns. Six times, Bruce has posted 75 or more catches in a season and he has seven seasons of 1,000 yards or more. His 73-yard touchdown reception provided St. Louis the winning score in its Super Bowl XXXIV victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Limited to 11 appearances in 2005 because of injuries, Bruce had 36 catches and 525 yards, his lowest totals since 1998, when a severe hamstring injury forced him to miss 11 contests. But the Rams and other teams feel Bruce has not slipped much physically and still has some productive years remaining.
St. Louis Rams
|2005 SEASON STATISTICS|
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.