Rams sign Dahl to help protect Bradford

ST. LOUIS (AP) — One day before training camp opened, the St. Louis Rams made another major investment in their offensive line. All the better to protect their No. 1 investment, quarterback Sam Bradford.

The Rams agreed to terms Friday on a four-year contract with guard Harvey Dahl, who had been a fixture in Atlanta and had been considered one of the top free agents at his position.

Center Jason Brown and guard Jacob Bell have contracts worth at least $30 million and tackle Jason Smith has a five-year deal worth as much as $62 million after getting taken with the second pick of the 2009 draft.

The other starter, tackle Rodger Saffold, was the first pick of the second round last year.

All that spending should help keep Bradford on his feet, although the Rams have yet to devote big dollars for wide receivers. Bradford was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year last year even with an anonymous cast of pass catchers.

The Rams, who made a six-victory improvement to 7-9 last year under coach Steve Spagnuolo, addressed defense earlier in free agency with safety Quintin Mikell agreeing to a four-year deal. Mikell steps in for Oshiomoghe Atogwe, who signed with the Redskins.

On Friday, they agreed to terms on a one-year contract with 245-pound outside linebacker Zac Diles, who made 10 starts last year for the Texans, stepping in after middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans was sidelined with an Achilles’ injury, and was third on the team in tackles. Diles was a seventh-round pick out of Kansas State in 2007.

Tight end Lance Kendricks, a second-round pick this year, also agreed to terms according to a team source. That left only first-rounder Robert Quinn, a defensive end who changed agents recently, unsigned among the team’s eight selections.

The Rams hold their first practice this afternoon in what’s expected to be withering heat. It was 95 degrees at 2 p.m. at practice time Friday and forecasts call for temperatures in the low 90s for Day 1.

Unlike previous training camp schedules, there’s no finishing time listed for any of the practices. Spagnuolo said earlier in the week he didn’t anticipate any players being limited by injuries at the start of camp.

The first day of camp will begin with a walkthrough at 9:05 a.m.

Dozens of players have been working out at Rams Park since Tuesday to get ready for camp and the first preseason game, Aug. 13 against the Indianapolis Colts.

“It’s just going to be how fast can you get up to speed?” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “You can run all you want but there’s not a way to simulate hitting a 300-pound guard and trying to run down Steven (Jackson) on a toss.

“But I’m ready to go, I’m in great shape. I’ve been working out hard and just looking forward to getting the football stuff going now.”

The 30-year-old Dahl helped the Falcons win the NFC South last year, starting all 16 games, and made 43 starts the last three seasons. He replaces Adam Goldberg, who started 16 games last season and is an unrestricted free agent.

The Rams said they have agreed to terms with 24 college free agents, including Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts and two Illinois players, cornerback Travon Bellamy and offensive tackle Randall Hunt.

General manager Billy Devaney expects the Rams to open training camp today with close to 90 players. He said the roster likely would undergo constant revision.

Five defensive linemen are on the list — ends Damario Ambrose of Arkansas and Kenneth Charles of Stephen F. Austin and tackles John Henderson of Southern Mississippi, Arthur Thomas of Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Teryl White of North Carolina Central. In addition to Bellamy, there are four other defensive backs along with six offensive linemen.

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