Jones signs with Rams

6-6-01, 9:20 p.m.

Updated: 6-7-01, 4:00 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

With the Rams and Packers showing heavy interest in Rod Jones, the Bengals were keeping an eye on negotiations for their former left tackle. But on Thursday afternoon, Jones opted to take a one-year deal in St. Louis instead of return to Cincinnati for a two-year deal.

"We're monitoring the situation because Rod is still a guy who interests us," said scout Duke Tobin Wednesday. "We know him and he knows us, so we'll keep watching."

On Tuesday Jones visited St. Louis, home of one of the few teams that can challenge the Bengals with room under the salary cap. St. Louis is in the market for a backup tackle even though

in the 2000 draft the Rams took Virginia's John St. Clair in the third round and Hawaii's Kaulana Noa in the fourth round.

But Noa's season washed out last year with a broken wrist and the club had four injured tackles at its most recent camp. Jones' experience with 34 career starts has the Rams keenly interested even though he's virtually never played right tackle.

But the Bengals worked him at right tackle and left guard during last month's voluntary camps before releasing him May 31. With the signings of Richmond Webb and John Jackson, there was no room for him as a starter. They wondered if he could be a utilityman in backing up all the line spots except center.

Mark Bartelstein, one of Jones' agents, confirmed the deal with St. Louis Thursday and said that Jones welcomed the change of scenery.

"I think it's tough to go back to a place where you were once the starter and be a backup," Bartelstein said.

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