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Rams Dump Everett for Saints’ Low Pick : Pro football: Seventh-round 1995 draft choice and salary-cap relief obtained in trade to only team apparently interested in struggling quarterback.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Quarterback Jim Everett, who brought the Rams to the brink of the Super Bowl in early 1990 before boos and poor play drove him to the bench last season, was traded Friday to the New Orleans Saints.

Hoping to make room under the new $33.8-million salary cap, the Rams sent Everett to New Orleans, their NFC West division rivals, for a seventh-round choice in the 1995 draft.

Part of Everett’s salary will be applied to the Rams’ salary cap, but the team is still negotiating with the league to determine how much that will be.

The Saints, the only team to show interest in the struggling quarterback, renegotiated a two-year contract in which Everett will take a pay cut.

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In 1994, Everett will receive $1 million in base salary, a $500,000 signing bonus prorated over the two years and a $250,000 reporting bonus. The contract also includes $500,000 in incentive bonuses. The second year would have a base of $2 million with an additional $500,000 if the team exercises an option on the contract and another $500,000 in incentives.

Everett was to have earned $2 million in base salary and $650,000 in bonus money in 1994 with the Rams.

The Saints also gave Everett a vote of confidence by cutting quarterback Wade Wilson, who led the team to a 5-0 start last season but struggled to an 8-8 finish.

“There’s no doubt that the change will do Jim Everett great,” said Everett, who was replaced as the starter in the middle of last season by backup T.J. Rubley.

“I’ve been through the ups and downs in the NFL, and I know what it takes to win. I’ve been one game away from the Super Bowl, and I’ve been in the toilet bowl.”

Everett was billed as the team’s quarterback of the future in 1986, when the Rams gave up two players and three draft picks for him in a trade with Houston. He became the Rams’ all-time leading passer, breaking records set by Roman Gabriel, but he had only a 46-60 record as the team’s starter, 17-40 in the last four seasons.

“Jim Everett is an excellent quarterback,” Ram Coach Chuck Knox said in prepared statement. “We wish him well.”

Everett said he experienced the low point of his career last season, when the Rams were 3-6 with him as their starter. Knox replaced Everett with his backup, Rubley, for seven of the final nine games of the season. The team considered cutting Everett in November to save money, but instead cut Mike Pagel, another backup quarterback.

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“When I was benched for T.J., and the reasons might not be as obvious as they seem, it was the most discouraging point of my career,” Everett said. “It wasn’t that I was hurt (physically); the coach wanted to go in a new direction.”

The Rams had been shopping Everett around the league since the trading period opened Feb. 17, but received little interest until the Saints began discussions earlier this week.

The Rams were seeking a second- or third-round draft pick for Everett, who finished last season ranked 29th among 30 NFL quarterbacks in passing efficiency.

But at a staff meeting Thursday, the Rams decided to no longer demand a high pick and to unload Everett’s big salary.

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The Rams were eager to unload Everett’s contract because they have been uncharacteristically aggressive in the free-agent market, having signed quarterback Chris Miller, defensive tackle Jimmie Jones and extending an offer sheet to Houston offensive lineman Kevin Donnalley.

They also are trying to re-sign some of their 17 restricted and unrestricted free agents, and are pursuing a free-agent wide receiver.

Everett had two years left on his contract, and in 1993 was designated as the team’s transition player for the 1996 season, after his contract expired.

By trading Everett, the Rams retained the transition designation, which allows them to maintain right of first refusal on a free agent if the player receives an offer from another club.

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Everett flew to New Orleans Thursday night and was introduced to reporters there Friday by Coach Jim Mora.

Everett had one his best games as a pro against the Saints in 1989, when he completed 29 of 51 passes for 454 yards in a 20-17 overtime victory at New Orleans.

“We have seen some exhibitions where he has blistered us, and now we hope he can blister some other teams for the Saints,” Mora said.

Everett’s toughness was questioned throughout his career with the Rams.

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There was the “phantom sack,” which occurred during a 30-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the 1990 NFC championship game. Everett was widely criticized after he dropped back to pass and fell to the ground without being touched.

And reports from New York last season quoted Ram players referring to Everett’s alleged lack of courage.

“That was the low point of my career,” Everett said. “I don’t think I was able to play to the best of my ability. I didn’t have the confidence in myself, and I didn’t feel the people around me had the confidence in me to play.”

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The Rams also traded a fourth-round pick in the 1995 draft to the Chargers to acquire wide receiver Nate Lewis. Lewis, 27, who will earn $600,000 this season, becomes the team’s leading candidate to return punts and kickoffs. The Rams were interested in Phoenix return specialist Johnny Bailey and Detroit’s Mel Gray, but found their salary demands prohibitive.

Times staff writer T.J. Simers contributed to this story.

Jim Everett’s Career Statistics

Year Games Att. Comp. Yards Pct. TD Int. LG 1986 6 147 73 1,018 49.6 8 8 60 1987 11 302 162 2,064 53.6 10 13 81 1988 16 517 308 3,964 59.6 31 18 69 1989 16 518 304 4,310 58.7 29 17 78 1990 16 554 307 3,989 55.4 23 17 55 1991 16 490 277 3,438 56.5 11 20 78 1992 16 475 281 3,323 59.2 22 18 67 1993 9 274 135 1,652 49.3 8 12 60 Totals 106 3,277 1,847 23,758 56.4 142 123 81

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