Rams sign safety Chavous to 5-year deal

Eight-year veteran Corey Chavous, one of the most instinctive safeties in the unrestricted free agent market, has signed a five-year contract with the St. Louis Rams, ESPN.com has learned.

Chavous's deal is worth $16 million and will average about $4 million annually in the first three years of the deal. His compensation for 2006, counting bonuses and base salary, will be between $6 million-$7 million.

Chavous, 30, played the last four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. He figures to be the centerpiece of Rams' interior secondary as the team attempts to dramatically rebuild in that area with new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett calling the shots.

The Rams likely will lose longtime starting safety Adam Archuleta to the Washington Redskins in free agency. St. Louis opted not to retain Mike Furrey, a former wide receiver who finished the 2005 season as the starting free safety. Chavous has started at both safety spots and even played some at cornerback early in his NFL career.

St. Louis almost certainly will align Chavous at free safety, which most scouts feel is his best position.

In Chavous, the Rams are getting not only a veteran player who still has productive years in front of him, but also one of the smartest players in the league. The former Vanderbilt star is not only a student of the game, but of its history, and he has appeared on ESPN in the past as a draft analyst.

A second-round pick in the 1998 draft, Chavous spent his first four league seasons in Arizona, and then signed with Minnesota as a free agent in 2002. In 2005, starting in all 16 games, primarily at strong safety, and registered 90 tackles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

For his career, Chavous has appeared in 125 games. He has 508 tackles, one sack, 19 interceptions and 35 passes defensed.