RAM NOTES : With Terrell Leaving, Wright Agrees to Terms

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Rams' transition at strong safety continued Wednesday when they agreed to terms on a three-year contract with rookie Toby Wright, and backup safety Pat Terrell came to terms with the New York Jets.

Wright, the Rams' second-round pick (49th overall) from Nebraska, agreed to a three-year, $1.1-million deal that includes a $400,000 signing bonus, said his agents, Steve Feldman and Jim Wand.

Terrell was in New York on Tuesday preparing to sign with the Jets after agreeing to terms on a two-year deal that includes a $100,000 signing bonus. Terrell will earn $375,000 this season and $525,000 next year.

The Rams view Wright, 6 feet and 203 pounds, as their future starter at strong safety with the departure of Terrell to the Jets and free-agent Michael Stewart, last year's starter, to the Dolphins.

Terrell figures to back up Brian Washington and Ronnie Lott.

Linebacker Joe Kelly, a starter with the Raiders last season, has signed a one-year $500,000 contract, Feldman said. Kelly agreed to the deal last week.

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Dollars and sense: The Rams' rookie salary pool for this season will be $3,015,850, the fifth-largest in the league. But some of that money could go to veteran free agents.

Rookie pool money counts under the league's $34.6-million salary cap, but money unused on rookies can be spent to sign veteran players. The Rams drafted 10 players last month, including four in the top two rounds, and seek a veteran wide receiver and a cornerback.

Indianapolis leads the league at $3.9 million, and much of it will go to signing two top-seven picks, running back Marshall Faulk and linebacker Trev Alberts. Cincinnati is second ($3.25 million), followed by New England ($3.212 million) and San Francisco ($3.19 million).

The league pays rookies from a pool of revenue that is 3.5% of defined gross revenues, primarily income from broadcast revenues and ticket sales. The league rookie pool is about $66.5 million, an 18.7% increase from last year's inaugural pool.

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Back in the picture: By losing free-agent wide receiver Haywood Jeffires to Houston, the Rams are left with Flipper Anderson as their top veteran receiver.

Ram Coach Chuck Knox said Anderson, entering the final year of his contract, has "had the best off-season in the three years we've been here."

"He's shown some speed and he hasn't missed a (voluntary) workout," Knox said.

Anderson struggled last season, catching only one touchdown pass in one 10-game stretch.

Now that Jeffires is out of the picture, the pickings are slim for free-agent receivers still available--Ricky Sanders, Clarence Verdin, Reggie Langhorne and Webster Slaughter, who plans to re-sign with Houston. However, the Rams could wait until after June 1, when teams are expected to release several players for salary cap reasons.

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