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Rams Expected to Release Jones, Four Others Today

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Rams, who are negotiating to add wide receiver Jessie Hester and cornerback Terry Taylor to their roster, will release five players today and inform another five that they have no interest in maintaining exclusive contract rights in exchange for a 10% pay increase.

The planned personnel moves, expected to include wide receiver Ernie Jones’ release, will be made in response to today’s NFL deadline requiring teams to offer unrestricted and restricted free agents minimum contract offers or give up long-range negotiating rights.

The team will relinquish such rights to linebacker Chris Martin, tight end Travis McNeal, center Blair Bush and cornerbacks Darryl Henley and Wymon Henderson. The Rams still will be allowed to negotiate with these players, and is presently doing so with Martin, but instead of belonging exclusively to the Rams if still unsigned as of July 15, they will be free to sign elsewhere at any time.

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The Rams have offered linebacker Roman Phifer and cornerbacks Dexter Davis and Robert Bailey 10% pay increases, thereby maintaining their exclusive rights.

Today’s moves, which also are being made to help stay under the salary cap, will include the announcement that defensive end Gerald Robinson has agreed to take a pay cut. Robinson, who earned $1 million a year ago, will earn a base salary of $560,000 this season.

The Rams will announce the players to be cut later today, and though club officials indicated the list will not include any “big name” players, Jones is expected to be released.

Jones was acquired from the Cardinals last season for a fifth-round pick and caught five passes for 56 yards, including two for touchdowns. He is due to earn $500,000 this season, but becomes expendable because of his large salary, the acquisition of New England wide receiver Greg McMurtry and the anticipated signing of Hester, who caught 64 passes for 835 yards for Indianapolis.

The Rams also have extended a contract offer to Taylor, a former Seahawk who played previously for Coach Chuck Knox. Taylor played for Cleveland last season.

The Rams have 71 players under contract, and a total of 86, including unsigned players, who will count against the salary cap. The team must still come to terms with eight drafted players, Phifer, Bailey, Davis and four veterans (tackle Darryl Ashmore, quarterback T.J. Rubley, and running backs Tim Lester and Howard Griffith), who failed to have the time in service to qualify as restricted or unrestricted free agents.

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The team must report to training camp July 22 at UC Irvine with no more than 80 players under contract.

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